Los Angeles (AFP) – A real estate tycoon and accused murderer whose life story inspired an HBO documentary series appeared in a Los Angeles court at a hearing that will decide whether he will stand trial.
Flashing autopsy photos and calling witnesses and experts to the stand, prosecutors argued that Robert Durst, 75, murdered his friend Susan Berman in 2000 because she was set to be questioned by New York police over the disappearance of his wife Kathleen in 1982.
Durst remained expressionless through the proceedings on Monday as Karen Minutello, a prosecution witness who managed a building Durst lived in with his late wife, testified Kathleen “was afraid of him” and wanted to move out.
The prosecution also presented testimony from Mark Fajardo, a former Los Angeles County coroner, who said he reviewed Berman’s autopsy and believed she was shot in the back of the head from no more than an inch away, despite the original report stating the distance could not be determined.
Nathan Chavin, a long-time friend of both Durst and Berman, testified in February 2017 that he discussed the latter’s death at a 2014 dinner with Durst.
Durst invited Chavin to eat because, according to Chavin, he wanted to discuss Berman as well as the fate of his first wife.
Durst said he “had no choice” but to kill Berman, Chavin told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Windham.
“‘I had to. It was her or me. I had no choice,’” Chavin told the judge, quoting Durst.
Durst was arrested in March 2015 in a New Orleans hotel room hours before the final episode of the six-part HBO documentary “The Jinx: The life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”
The series delved into the disappearance of his wife as well as the killing of Berman and the 2001 death of a neighbor in Texas who was found dismembered.
At the time, Durst was living under an assumed name in Texas and pretended to be a mute woman, prosecutors said. He claimed self-defense and was acquitted after a high-profile trial.
In the HBO documentary’s explosive finale, Durst is heard muttering to himself, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course,” apparently unaware that a wireless microphone remained switched on while he used the bathroom.
“You’re caught,” he said at another point. “What a disaster.”
Durst’s preliminary hearing is set to resume Tuesday.