Robert watched his mother die jumping off the roof when he was seven.
He did a degree in business and economics at Lehigh University, and studied post-graduate economics at University of California, Los Angeles where he befriended Susan Berman, who was also a grandchild of an east-European Jewish immigrant. Her father was David Berman, a colleague of Bugsy Siegal in developing casinos in Las Vegas. Susan moved to New York to further her career as a writer, where she continued to see Robert.
In 1973 Robert married Kathie McCormack, until then a dental hygienist, who had been a tenant in one of the Durst-owned buildings. For a while they ran a health food store, All Good Things. Then Kathie did a nursing degree at Western Connecticut State College, and then a medical degree at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
In 1981 Berman published Easy Street, about being a Mafia princess.
By 1982 the Durst marriage was under stress: Kathie was struggling to complete her degree, while Robert was having an affair with Prudence Farrow (sister of Mia), and it was reported that Robert had beaten Katie.
Kathie mysteriously disappeared a few months before she was due to graduate, and Robert quickly threw out all Kathie’s things. Susan Berman stood by him while he was the prime suspect, however no body was found and there were no witnesses.
In 1994 when Seymour Durst decided that his successor would be his second son, Robert walked out of the offices of the family firm, and never returned, and never spoke to either of his brothers again. He traveled a lot within the States, and did a lot of pot. He was seen wearing wigs and false moustaches, and dressed as female.
He kept in touch with Susan Berman, and gave her several large cash gifts. In 2000, a New York State policeman re-opened the Kathie Durst murder case again with Robert as prime suspect. Before he contacted Berman to arrange an interview, she was shot in the back of the head, assassin style, by somebody she appeared to have let in.
In 2001 Durst was living as Dorothy Ciner in a cheap rooming house in Galveston, and sometimes as Diane Winn in New Orleans. Dorothy/Diane pretended to be a deaf mute so that her voice would not give her away.
Arrested and released on bail, Durst ran. Sometimes he was male, and sometimes female. He was caught when he stole a sandwich and a newspaper in Pennsylvania although he had $500 cash in his pocket, and $37,000 in his car.
He hired a good lawyer, admitted killing and dismembering Black, but pleaded self-defense and was acquitted. He was convicted of bail jumping and evidence tampering, and sentenced to five years, and of carrying a gun across state lines while a fugitive, for an extra five and a half months.
He was paroled in 2005. He made an unauthorized trip to his and Black’s previous residence, and to a nearby mall where he encountered the judge from his murder trial. This was a violation of his terms of parole and he was returned to jail for another year.
The Robert Durst story was turned into the film, All Good Things.
- Bill Hewitt. “Resuming the Search: Police Reopen the Case of Kathie Durst, Who Vanished 18 Years Ago”. People, Dec 04, 2000. www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20133152,00.html
- ‘Blood and Money’. Maxim for Men. April 2002.
- Cathy Scott. Murder of a Mafia Daughter: The Life and Tragic Death of Susan Berman. Fort Lee, N.J.: Barricade Books, 2002.
- Matt Birkbeck. A Deadly Secret: The Strange Disappearance of Kathie Durst. New York: Berkley Books, 2002.
- Lisa DePaulo. “Jail Bait: Awaiting trial for murder in a Texas prison, real-estate scion Bobby Durst reaches out for support”. New York, Apr 15, 2002. http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/crimelaw/features/5895/
- Marion Collins. Without a Trace: Inside the Robert Durst Case. New York: St. Martin's, 2003.
- Anthony Bruno. “Robert Durst – Millionaire Murderer”. TruTV Crime Library. www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/classics/robert_durst/1.html.
- “Death and the millionaire drifter”. Dateline NBC, Aug 1, 2008. Transcript at: http://sys12-today.msnbc.msn.com/id/25955003/ns/dateline_nbc-crime_reports/page/3/
- Andrew Jarecki (dir). All Good Things. Scr: Marcus Hinchey & Marc Smerling, with Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella. US 101 mins 2010.
- Charles V. Bagli & Kevin. “That’s Me on Screen, but I Still Didn’t Do It”. The New York Times, Nov 24, 2010. www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/movies/28durst.html.
- “Cross-dressing Convict Robert Durst Returns to New York”. New York, 2/4/11. http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/02/robert_durst_returns_to_new_yo.html.