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Crime Judge expected to sentence real estate heir Robert Durst to life for California murder

18:16  14 october  2021
18:16  14 october  2021 Source:   reuters.com

'Soul-consuming': Victim's family reflects on Durst case

  'Soul-consuming': Victim's family reflects on Durst case LOS ANGELES (AP) — New York real estate heir Robert Durst was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without a chance of parole for the murder of his best friend more than two decades ago. Durst, 78, was convicted in Los Angeles Superior Court last month of first-degree murder for shooting Susan Berman point-blank in the back of the head at her home in December 2000. The killing had been a mystery that haunted family and friends for 15 years before Durst was arrested in 2015 following his unwise decision to participate in a documentary that unearthed new evidence and caught him in a stunning confession.

By Daniel Trotta

FILE PHOTO: Closing arguments in the Robert Durst murder trial © Reuters/POOL FILE PHOTO: Closing arguments in the Robert Durst murder trial

(Reuters) - A California judge on Thursday is expected to give a mandatory life prison sentence to multimillionaire real estate heir Robert Durst, who was convicted last month of murdering his best friend Susan Berman in 2000.

Durst, 78 and in poor health, had spent much of the past four decades evading the law, ever since his wife Kathleen McCormack Durst went missing in New York in 1982.

Los Angeles County prosecutors alleged he killed Berman because she helped provide a false alibi for Durst in 1982 and he feared she would reveal that to authorities.

Watch Live: Robert Durst Sentencing for Susan Berman Murder

  Watch Live: Robert Durst Sentencing for Susan Berman Murder After more than 20 years, an infamous real estate heir will be sentenced for murdering his loyal friend. There is no suspense for what punishment Robert Durst, 78, is going to get for killing Susan Berman, 55, execution-style at her Beverly Hills home in 2000. It is an automatic sentence of life without parole. He will die in prison, but Thursday's hearing happens amid escalating action across the country. Prosecutors in New York State, where Durst’s wife Kathleen McCormack Durst, 29, went missing in 1982, are reportedly working on empaneling a grand jury in connection to her going missing. You can watch the California sentencing hearing in the player above.

A Los Angeles County jury found him guilty of shooting Berman, 55, in the back of the head in her Beverly Hills home. The jury also found him guilty of the special circumstances of lying in wait and killing a witness, which carry a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Superior Court Judge Mark Windham, who presided over the trial, will pronounce the sentence from the bench.

The trial came six years after Durst's apparent confession was aired in the HBO television documentary series "The Jinx," in which Durst was caught on a live microphone in the bathroom saying to himself, "What the hell did I do? ... Killed them all, of course."

Lead prosecutor John Lewin, who had pursued Durst for years, credited "The Jinx" filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling for their revealing interviews, which helped make a case against Durst.

Grand jury hearing testimony in death of Robert Durst's wife

  Grand jury hearing testimony in death of Robert Durst's wife NEW YORK (AP) — New York prosecutors have gone to a grand jury as they seek to indict millionaire real estate scion Robert Durst for the death of his former wife, Kathie Durst, who vanished in 1982, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The grand jury in Westchester County was empaneled last week and has started hearing witness testimony, according to the person, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and did so on condition of anonymity. The grand jury process is expected to take several weeks.

Durst was only on trial for killing Berman in California, but prosecutors argued he murdered three people: his missing wife, Berman and a neighbor in Texas who discovered his identity when Durst was hiding from the law.

Despite long being a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, a 29-year-old medical student, Durst was never charged.

The McCormack family has urged prosecutors in Westchester County, New York, to prosecute Durst for her murder.

Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah reopened the case in May, shortly after taking office.

Durst, a cancer survivor who uses a wheelchair, testified over 15 days during the trial, nine of them under cross-examination. He claimed he discovered Berman's body when he went to visit her but did not call police.

The prosecution also delved into the 2001 death and dismemberment of Morris Black, who was Durst's neighbor in Galveston, Texas. A Galveston jury acquitted Durst of murder, even though Durst admitted he chopped up Black's body and dumped it in Galveston Bay.

Durst said Black pulled a gun on him and was shot accidentally when the two men wrestled over the firearm.

With Black, as with Berman, Durst testified he at first tried to call the 911 emergency number but later decided against it, fearing no one would believe he was not guilty.

Durst is the grandson of the founder of The Durst Organization, one of New York City's premier real estate companies. He long ago left the company, which has developed some of Manhattan's signature skyscrapers.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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