Robert Durst's Galveston Memoir to Feature in Murder CaseBy
New Yorker’s ‘BD Story’ recounts life as a mute woman in Texas
Prosecutors seize on document to establish his state of mind
Robert Durst’s first-person account of killing and dismembering a neighbor he first met while disguised as a mute woman in Texas may come back to haunt him as he fights charges he murdered a close friend in Los Angeles around the same time.
In the 29-page document Durst wrote while awaiting trial for the 2001 slaying in Galveston, Texas, in which he won acquittal, he recounts how he decided to flee there the year before, when he learned that the district attorney in Westchester County, New York, had reopened the investigation into the disappearance of his first wife 18 years earlier.
The Los Angeles murder trial wouldn’t take place until 2018 at the earliest. It may be prosecutors’ last chance to hold the eccentric millionaire accountable for events of the last 35 years -- beyond the seven-year prison sentence imposed on him last year after he pleaded guilty in New Orleans to possessing a firearm as a felon.
Los Angeles prosecutors will try to use the document to build their largely circumstantial case that Durst fatally shot his confidant, Susan Berman, because she knew too much about how his wife went missing.
“Fly to Dallas. Buy lipstick, blouse, jacket and purse. Write on 3 x 5 card ‘I am mute.’" Durst, who goes by Bob, wrote in the memoir, which is titled “BD Story.”
Burning His Wig
Under the name Dorothy Ciner, the New York real estate heir rented a $300-a-month apartment in Galveston, a coastal resort city. Durst recalled how he struggled to stay in persona, burning his wig while lighting a cigarette in a bar, inadvertently walking into the men’s room at the library, and talking to a librarian who believed he was mute.
The Galveston memoir was in a box of documents Durst sent to friends in New York, who in turn provided it to the makers of "The Jinx: the Life and Deaths of Robert Durst." That 2015 HBO documentary series covered the disappearance of Kathie Durst in 1982, the execution-style killing of Berman in 2000, and the fatal encounter with his neighbor Morris Black in Galveston.
Durst, 74, was arrested the day before the last episode of "The Jinx" aired in March 2015 and charged with the murder of Berman. In the final episode, while in the bathroom and unaware his microphone is still on, Durst is heard muttering to himself: “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
Los Angeles prosecutors on Monday are set to continue questioning witnesses who they are concerned may not be available to testify when the case goes to trial. Among those expected to take the stand are Stewart and Emily Altman, old friends of Durst who’d been given the box of documents for safekeeping.
Durst’s notes could help prosecutors place him in California around the time of Berman’s murder. The documents also may also help them establish that Durst’s motive for silencing Berman was fear he’d be charged for killing Kathie Durst.
‘Shocked and Scared’
He wrote that he "was shocked and scared" when he found out about the prospect of arrest.
"I knew I would rather die than face possibility of jail!" Durst wrote.
Durst’s narrative paints a benign picture of how he and Morris "call me Mo" Black hung out in his apartment watching PBS, drinking Jack Daniels whiskey from plastic cups, and periodically going to Dairy Queen or for a walk, with Durst frequently smoking marijuana. Durst, who was also spending time in New York, Connecticut and California, had dropped his disguise by March 2001. He told Morris he was a friend of the mute woman and using her apartment while she was gone.
"We had very similar interests, business, real estate, stock market, politics," Durst wrote, noting that they went to a Jewish temple together on Fridays. "We were also in a similar situation: no family, difficulty making friends, loners, retired."
Durst also remembers his neighbor’s argumentative side, noting that Black sometimes accosted homeowners about barking dogs, loud music and unsupervised children and once was removed from a restaurant by two security guards after making a scene.
"Manager says sorry about friend, lunch is free,” Durst wrote. "I can prepare take out for your friend but he cannot come in restaurant now or in future."
In his recollection of Black’s death, Durst said he found his neighbor in his apartment watching TV and that Black had Durst’s gun.
"Brief struggle, shot," Durst writes.
Durst recalled that after consuming Jack Daniels and marijuana, he cut up Black’s body, put the parts in 12 trash bags with the torso stuffed into his biggest suitcase, drove to a secluded spot and threw the bags in the sea. Then, unable to sleep and worried that he had left a garbage bag at the end of the road, he returned the following morning to find the bags floating in the water.
He left and later came back, first at noon and then at 3 p.m.
"I saw several bags floating but not one with torso or suitcase until I looked straight down, the torso out of the garbage bag was floating chest up, the leg stumps were grey and the testicles and penis were bobbing in the water."
In 2003 a Texas jury acquitted Durst of Black’s murder. He testified that he acted in self-defense while struggling for his gun. His lawyer at the trial, Dick DeGuerin, is now representing him in the Berman case.
The first witness at Monday’s hearing was Peter Schwartz, who recalled that at a party at Robert and Kathie Durst’s Manhattan apartment in 1981, Durst kicked him in the face, breaking his eye socket.
Schwartz recalled how, at Durst’s urging, all the people at the party had left the apartment in two groups to go to a nightclub. Schwartz said that he was in the group with Kathie Durst and that this group, after going downstairs, returned to the apartment rather than proceed to the nightclub.
Durst returned to the apartment 20 minutes later and was enraged to the find the group with his wife sitting in a room, according to Schwartz.
"You’re the only guy here," Durst said to Schwartz, who was sitting on the floor and then kicked him in the face with his cowboy boot, according to the witness.
The California case is People v. Durst, SA089983, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County.