NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Wealthy eccentric Robert Durst waived extradition Monday and will return to Los Angeles to face a murder charge in the 15-year-old death of a writer and friend who acted as his spokeswoman.
Durst, who was acquitted of one murder and long suspected in two others over three decades in three states, muttered that he “killed them all, of course” in the finale of a six-part documentary that authorities hope will finally lead to a conviction.
Durst, 71, appeared before a judge in New Orleans on Monday after FBI agents arrested him before HBO’s broadcast of Sunday’s final episode. He had been laying low in a Marriott hotel to avoid the growing attention at his Houston home, his lawyer said.
He shuffled into the courtroom with his hands shackled at his waist, wearing sandals and an orange jumpsuit. He appeared to fall asleep just before the hearing started and later answered “yes” to questions from the judge about whether he was waiving extradition.
A former prosecutor who reopened one of the cold cases against Durst years ago, Jeanine Pirro, said Monday that his own words, recorded during and after a lengthy interview he gave to the filmmaker, are enough to convict him.
In the finale of “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” Durst acknowledges similarities in the handwriting of a letter he wrote and another one sent anonymously to Beverly Hills Police alerting them to his friend’s “cadaver.” Then he went to the bathroom, still wearing his live microphone.
What followed was bizarre rambling in which Durst said, apparently to himself, “There it is. You’re caught” and “What the hell did I do? Killed them all of course.”
Sunday’s show ended with plenty of questions unanswered.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether filmmaker Andrew Jarecki ever confronted Durst about the words recorded in the bathroom, what exactly Durst meant by them, and to what extent the filmmakers cooperated with authorities.
Durst’s lawyer, Chip Lewis, smelled a setup, telling The Associated Press that Jarecki was “duplicitous” for not making it clear to Durst that he would be sharing information with police. Lewis also suspected that the timing of Durst’s arrest on Saturday was coordinated between the authorities and HBO for maximum impact.
“It’s all about Hollywood now,” Lewis said.
But Los Angeles Police said Sunday that the arrest came as the result of new information developed over the last year. And Jarecki told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday that he had no idea the arrest was coming.
And Pirro, the former Westchester County District Attorney and current Fox-TV personality who had been gathering evidence against Durst in the 1982 disappearance of his wife Kathleen when Berman was killed in 2000, dismissed the idea that federal agents would time an arrest for HBO.
“The FBI picked him up because he was in New Orleans under an assumed name about to go to Cuba where there’s no extradition,” she said on Fox-TV’s “Good Day New York,” Monday morning. “There’s no way the FBI or LAPD could care about Andrew Jarecki’s program. They care about this guy getting away.”
Durst, who was acquitted of murdering his neighbor Morris Black in Texas and long suspected in the deaths of his wife and Berman, willingly talked with Jarecki on camera after the filmmaker told a fictionalized account of his story in “All Good Things,” a 2010 film starring Ryan Gosling.
Jarecki told “Good Morning America” that he didn’t even know about the bathroom audio until much later, when an editor happened to hear it.
“It was so chilling to hear it,” Jarecki said. “It was disturbing to hear it. It makes you very uncomfortable to hear it.”
But Pirro said the words can clearly be used against Durst in court.
“It was a spontaneous statement, a classical exception to the hearsay rule,” Pirro said. “I don’t hear it as a muttering. I hear it as a clear, unequivocal ‘I killed them.’ That means he killed his wife, he killed Susan Berman and he killed Morris Black.”
The Durst family is worth at least $4 billion, according to the Forbes list of richest Americans, and Robert Durst has been estranged from his relatives since their father chose his brother Douglas to run the family company, which runs the World Trade Center 1 building as part of a New York real estate empire.
“We hope he will finally be held accountable for all he has done,” Douglas Durst said in a statement Sunday.
Berman was the daughter of an associate of Las Vegas mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky who spoke out on Durst’s behalf after his wife disappeared. She was killed at her home near Beverly Hills with a bullet to the back of her head.
Durst then lived as a mute woman in a Texas boarding house until 2001, when dismembered parts of Black’s body were found floating in Galveston Bay. He fled while awaiting trial, then turned up shoplifting a chicken sandwich with Pennsylvania with $37,000 and a pair of guns in his rental car.
Lewis told that jury that Durst shot Black in self-defense and suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, and he was acquitted of murder, despite admitting that he used a paring knife, two saws and an ax to dismember Black’s body before dumping the remains.
With time served, Durst became a free man after serving a single year for bond jumping and evidence tampering. He later had to serve four more months when he violated parole by returning to the scene of the crime.
Lewis defended Durst again, calling it an “unfortunate medical mishap” when he inexplicably urinated on the cash register candy display in a CVS pharmacy in Houston last year. Durst paid a fine and compensated the store.
“The story is so operatic,” Jarecki told the AP before his documentary aired. “That’s what’s so fascinating to me.”
Melley contributed from Los Angeles. Associated Press Writers David Bauder and Verena Dobnik contributed from New York and Emiily Schmall contributed from Fort Worth, Texas.
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