Witness said US property tycoon admitted murdering friend
NEW YORK: New York property tycoon Robert Durst confessed to carrying out the murder of close friend Susan Berman, a witness testified in a Los Angeles court Thursday.
Durst, 73, whose life was the focus of an HBO series that ultimately led to his arrest, stands accused of the December 2000 execution-style killing of longtime friend Berman.
Berman was killed just as she was set to be questioned about the disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen Durst, who vanished in 1982 from the couple’s New York cottage.
Nathan Chavin, a long-time friend of both Durst and Berman, testified 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.
Chavin testified that Susan Berman had earlier told him that Durst had confessed to murdering Kathleen, who was seeking a divorce.
“This was a best friend who admitted to killing my other best friend,” Chavin told the judge, noting that he had asked Durst about Kathleen, but received no response.
Chavin’s identity was kept secret up to Thursday out of fear that he would be harmed ahead of his testimony.
Durst, a real estate scion worth an estimated $100 million, has pleaded not guilty to Berman’s murder.
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 was sentenced to seven years in prison on a weapons charge following his arrest in New Orleans and, as part of a plea deal, was transferred to Los Angeles in November from a prison in Louisiana.