Movie Producer Says Murdered Durst Friend Impersonated WifeBy
Lynda Obst confirms prosecution theory about 1982 phone call
Susan Berman quoted saying loyalty is ‘love’ in a mob family
An enduring mystery in the disappearance of Robert Durst’s first wife is the phone call she supposedly made the day after she was last seen 35 years ago.
Prosecutors presented evidence Wednesday to show that the call to a New York medical school was actually placed by Durst’s longtime friend Susan Berman, pretending to be Kathie Durst, to help the real estate heir cover up the slaying of his wife.
Hollywood producer Lynda Obst testified that Berman admitted to her that in 1982, she had impersonated Kathie in contacting Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.
"When Bobby asked her to, she made this phone call to Albert Einstein," Obst said at a hearing Wednesday in California state court in Los Angeles.
Durst is accused of killing Berman in 2000 because she knew too much about Kathie Durst’s disappearance. Obst was one of the witnesses whose identity prosecutors had kept secret out of concern that Durst, who’s serving an 85-month prison sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm, could still pose a threat to their safety. She was called to testify as part of a conditional examination of witnesses who may not be available when the case goes to trial.
Obst said she was working with Berman in the early 1980s on a screenplay about Berman’s memoir about growing up as the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, Davie “The Jew" Berman, who ran the Flamingo hotel in Las Vegas in the 1940s and 50s. Berman compared what she did for Durst, whom she adored, to her mother’s loyal devotion to her father.
“She told me that what’s love was," Obst said.
Berman was shot to death in her Los Angeles home shortly after New York state police had reopened the investigation into Kathie Durst’s disappearance. Durst has pleaded not guilty.
Los Angeles prosecutors claim Durst asked Berman to call a dean at Albert Einstein College, where Kathie Durst was a student, on Feb. 1, 1982, to pretend she was Kathie and say she was sick and unable to come in for her rotation that day.
The now-retired dean, Albert Kuperman, testified in February he had never spoken with Kathie Durst on the telephone before and that the only reason he thought the woman who called him that Monday morning was her was that she identified herself as Kathie.
After his wife’s disappearance, Durst told police he had put her on a train to New York City on Sunday night. The couple had been staying at their home upstate in South Salem and she was due back in the city to start her new hospital rotation the next day.
Under cross-examination Wednesday by Durst’s lawyer Dick DeGuerin, Obst admitted she didn’t mention what Berman told her about the phone call in an interview with the producer of the HBO documentary "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst."
“Well, I didn’t remember it then," Obst said.
Obst is a veteran movie and television producer whose credits include "Sleepless in Seattle" and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days."
The case is People v. Durst, SA089983, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County.