UPDATE at 4:30 p.m., Monday, March 16, 2015: Durst has been charged with murder in a case prosecutors say could bring the death penalty. See the latest at the bottom of the story. First posted at 7:03 a.m., Monday, March 16, 2015.
New York real estate scion Robert A. Durst might have sidestepped arrest had it not been for his desire to “tell it my way” when it came to long-simmering accusations that he had murdered three people.
Tell it his way he apparently did, mumbling off-camera and into a hot mic for the taping of the HBO's The Jinx, a sensational, 6-part documentary series on “The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” this doozy:
“What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
The Los Angeles Police Department on Sunday said in a statement that Durst, 71, had been arrested Saturday afternoon in New Orleans “for the December 2000 murder of Susan Berman,” a writer, friend and confidant who was found slain “execution style” in her Benedict Canyon home near Beverly Hills.
Reports stated that Durst had checked into a hotel under an assumed name and was mumbling near a Marriott elevator on Canal Street when authorities nabbed him.
Berman, a mafia daughter who befriended Durst, was scheduled to talk to police about the disappearance of Durst's wife, Kathie Durst, when she was found with a gunshot wound to the back of her head.
The 1982 disappearance of Kathie Durst had been unsolved, and Durst was never formally accused in the case. The real estate heir's family controls some of Manhattan's most iconic buildings.
But in 2001, after Durst was charged with murdering a Texas neighbor—cutting up his body and tossing body parts into Galveston Bay—he was acquitted based on a self-defense claim.
Authorities from coast to coast were more than frustrated. But it took a pair of Hollywood producers, Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling, to achieve what cops couldn't—tapping Durst's ego to get him to open up for The Jinx.
An alleged smoking gun was a previously unknown Durst letter obtained by the filmmakers that appears to match anonymous, handwritten correspondence sent to authorities to alert them of Berman's death.
In both cases the Beverly in Beverly Hills is misspelled as “Beverley.” In last night's episode, a forensic document examiner concluded that the writing came from the same hand. (Additionally, the address in question is actually in the city of Los Angeles).
Following The Jinx's airing, the L.A. District Attorney's office reopened its inquiry into Berman's murder. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Major Crimes Section “secured” an arrest warrant for the suspect, and now he'll face extradition to L.A.
Los Angeles police, which credited the FBI for helping with Saturday's arrest, had this to say on Sunday:
As a result of investigative leads and additional evidence that has come to light in the past year, investigators have identified Robert Durst as the person responsible for Ms. Berman's death.
UPDATE at 4:30 p.m., Monday, March 16, 2015: The L.A. County District Attorney's Office this afternoon announced that Durst has been charged with suspicion of “first-degree murder with the special circumstances of murder of a witness and lying in wait and gun use allegations,” according to a statement.
Authorities said he was being held without bail while he awaits extradition. It was widely reported that New Orleans authorities might want to hold Durst on smaller, local allegations, which would complicate the extradition.
Prosecutors say they've been working with the LAPD “for the past two years investigating the cold case murder.”
Durst would be eligible for the death penalty if successfully convicted. However, it would be up to prosecutors whether or not to seek a capital prosecution, a decision that had yet to be made.
UPDATE at 5:23 p.m., Monday, March 16, 2015: The District Attorney's criminal complaint alleges that Durst fatally wounded Berman by lying in wait and opening fire with a handgun.
The document says that “Susan Berman was a witness to a crime and was intentionally killed because of that fact.”
Prosecutors allege that he did it “on or between December 22, 2000 and December 23, 2000.”