Slain friend of Robert Durst once posed as his missing wife: testimony

New York real estate scion Robert Durst appears in the Los Angeles Superior Court Airport Branch for a pre-trial motions hearing in Los Angeles, California, January 6, 2017 REUTERS/Mark Boster /Los Angeles Times/Pool/File Photo (Reuters)

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Real estate scion Robert Durst, whose ties to three slayings were portrayed in HBO series "The Jinx," had his close friend Susan Berman make a phone call pretending to be his missing wife, a former acquaintance of Berman testified on Wednesday.

Durst, 74, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with Berman's 2000 death in Los Angeles.

Prosecutors allege Durst killed Berman, a writer and the daughter of an organized crime figure, because of what she knew about his wife's unsolved disappearance.

Hollywood producer Lynda Obst, who worked with Berman to develop a film about her life story, testified that decades ago Berman made a confession to her while explaining the lengths a person would go to protect a loved one.

"She said she once called Albert Einstein medical center for him and said she was (his wife) Kathie," Obst testified, referring to Durst's former wife, Kathleen.

Under cross-examination, Obst acknowledged that when she was interviewed for "The Jinx" in 2011 she never mentioned what Berman shared with her about the phone call.

"I didn't remember it then," Obst said.


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Police found Berman, 55, shot to death in her home, shortly after it was revealed police in New York had reopened an investigation into the disappearance and presumed slaying of Kathleen Durst.

HBO's "The Jinx" in 2015 chronicled Durst's ties to his wife's unsolved disappearance, Berman's slaying and Durst's 2003 acquittal in the killing and dismemberment of a Texas neighbor.

Prosecutors formally charged Durst with killing Berman a day after HBO aired the final episode, in which Durst was recorded muttering to himself off-camera, "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."

In February, Dr. Albert Kuperman, retired dean of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, testified that in 1982 he received a phone call from a woman identifying herself as Kathleen, a day after she was last seen alive, saying she would have to miss an appointment due to illness.

Durst's trial is not expected to begin before next year but a judge is allowing some witnesses to testify early in the case, preserving their statements in the event they die before he is tried. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors have argued Durst, whose wealth they estimate at $100 million, could have witnesses eliminated. Durst's attorneys have ridiculed that suggestion.


(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Bill Trott)