"48 Hours" Presents: The bizarre saga of Robert Durst

A millionaire surrounded by wealth and death is charged with killing a friend 15 years ago -- in an exclusive interview with "48 Hours", his attorney vows to fight back

"48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty has been reporting on the Robert Durst case for more than 10 years and speaks exclusively with the man who will be defending Durst in court, top criminal defense attorney Dick DeGuerin. "48 Hours has startling new information about the case that exploded into the news this week after Durst's arrest in New Orleans for the December 2000 murder of his friend Susan Berman, following a controversial documentary on HBO.

Produced by Chuck Stevenson, Judy Rybak, Liza Finley, Greg Fisher and Lisa Freed

In New York City, there's rich and then there's really rich. The Durst family is in that category. They control a billion dollar real estate empire, crowned by the new World Trade Center.

Robert Durst is the black sheep son of the man who built that empire. And now he's at the center of one of the sensational serial killing cases in recent years.

Robert Durst transported following arraignment
Robert Durst is transported from Orleans Parish Criminal District Court to the Orleans Parish Prison after his arraignment in New Orleans on March 15, 2015. AP

At 71, Durst has become a bonafide true-crime celebrity.

The director of the HBO documentary even made a Hollywood movie about him named "All Good Things," a thinly-disguised crime biography starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst.

The movie suggests that the Durst-like character murdered his wife. Incredibly, Robert Durst loved the movie.

The true story behind that movie begins back in April 1973.

Kathie and Robert Durst
Kathie and Robert Durst Family photo

It was then that the much younger Robert married the love of his life, Kathie. He was heir to a real estate fortune; she was a dental hygienist.

"She was quick to smile ... quick to make you and whoever you were with happy," Kathie's brother, Jim McCormack, told Moriarty in November 2003.

Ellen Strauss was one of Kathie's best friends.

"She was vivacious, she was smart, she was funny," she said in 2003. "She was full of life and she had spunk."

Kathie was just 19 when she left home in suburban Long Island for the bright lights of New York City.

"The apartment that she was living in was owned by the Durst Organization and Bob was apparently some collector of rents," McCormack explained.

Kathie and Robert got along instantly. "...spontaneous attraction ... spontaneous love. You know ... Cinderella and Prince Charming and away they went," said McCormack.

Within two years they married.

Asked if Kathie loved Robert Durst, Strauss told Moriarty, "She did in the beginning. She was crazy about him.

"What was she crazy about?" Moriarty asked.

"I think there was probably ... he was quiet," Strauss said. "He was always dark and brooding and some women find that attractive."

And there was his lifestyle. Durst's world-class fortune could buy nights at famous discos like Studio 54, star-studded parties and exotic travel.

"They went to Europe, they went to South America, they went to Bangkok ... I mean in the 1970s. Wow," said McCormack.

In the movie, as in real life, Durst had a tortured relationship with his dad. He wasn't happy in the family business, so for a time he and Kathie left New York. But things didn't work out and Durst came home with his tail between his legs to work for his father.

In the meantime, Kathie began medical school -- a career path that seemed to bother Durst.

"He was using his economic power to not just control her, but almost to terrorize her," said McCormack.

"I mean he was very tight with the money, in terms of going to school. She had to come up with ways to do things on her own. In spite of the fact of being married to Bob Durst, he was not generous," Strauss explained.

Eventually, the marriage grew strained -- especially when Kathie became pregnant.

"... and he asked her to have an abortion?" Moriarty asked McCormack.

"Yeah, pretty much asked or forced her," he said. "His contention was that there was a sort of pre-existing understanding that in their marriage she'd be childless."

What's worse, Durst did have violent tendencies. He once kicked a man in the face who he believed was involved with his wife. And at least once, Kathie went to a New York hospital with bruises.

Jim McCormack said he witnessed Durst's violence at his own home.

"The one time I saw physical violence was when he was impatient to leave my mom's house in New Hyde Park. He came in and asked to leave. She didn't jump up. He turned around walked over and grabbed her by the hair pretty much yanked her off the couch," he told Moriarty.

"He grabbed her by the hair?"

"By the hair -- he kind of pulled her in front of me," McCormack explained. "In retrospect, I wish I had reacted and ripped his face off."

By 1981, most of her friends knew there were serious problems.

"I knew she was planning on separating herself from Bob Durst," said McCormack.

Susan Berman and Robert Durst
Susan Berman and Robert Durst Dave Berman

More and more, Robert Durst found himself turning to another woman, someone he trusted deeply. It was an old college friend named Susan Berman. It wasn't a romantic relationship as far as we know, but the two were very close.

"For Susan's entire life, it was Bobby, Bobby, wonderful Bobby," said Lisa DePaulo.

DePaulo, a political correspondent for Bloomberg, has also reported on Susan Berman's life.

"Susan could write about anything," DePaulo told "48 Hours" of the magazine writer. "She actually wrote this amazing story about being a mob daughter."

Susan Berman on video: "My dad was Davie Berman, he was one of the pioneers, gangsters, mobsters, whatever you wanna basically say. They founded Las Vegas."

"Susan Berman and Bobby Durst met at UCLA when they were both students and there was an instant connection. They became best friends," DePaulo said. "They both had these two larger-than-life fathers ... and two mentally ill mothers. Bobby Durst's mother killed herself by jumping off the room of their house in Scarsdale. Susan Berman's mother, as the story goes, killed herself in a mental hospital."

So when things got tough in Durst's life, he turned to her.

"The dynamic between them was always brother and sister and also -- really do anything for each other," said DePaulo. "I think they considered themselves two extraordinary people who found each other."

Susan Berman would become an important figure in this story, but not until after the drama between Durst and his wife escalated.

"She had always said that if anything ever happens to me, look to Bob, Bob did it" said Strauss.

And then in January 1982, Kathie Durst suddenly disappeared. Her friends say it was after a confrontation with her husband at their suburban New York weekend home, but Robert Durst tells a very different story. He says he dropped her off to catch a train back to New York City and that's the last time he ever saw her.

"How did you find out that Kathie was missing?" Moriarty asked McCormack.

"February 4th, between 8 and 9 o'clock ... the phone rings," he replied. "'Jim, this is Bob,' you know with that raspy kind of voice. I say, 'Yeah, Bob what's up.' 'Have you seen Kathie.' I said , 'No.'"

Asked if he sounded worried, McCormack said, "No, it was almost casual ... and almost rushed to get the phone call out of the way."

Kathie Durst Missing - Daily News front page
Daily News

Durst called New York police to report her missing, and as the media picked up on the story, he turned to his confidant, Susan Berman.

"She became his spokesperson when the media started calling, and asking him questions about his wife's disappearance...and she basically promulgated his story that he had a fight with his wife, put her on the train, she went into the city, he talked to her that night by telephone and never heard from her again. And what that did was put her in the city," said DePaulo.

Berman also put out the story that Kathie had called in sick to her medical school.

"Soon after Kathy went missing, there was a call to the dean of her medical school. The dean believed it was Kathie calling saying, 'Hi... it's Kathie Durst... I can't come in today. I have a stomach ache,'" DePaulo continued.

Kathie's family didn't buy it. They suspected foul play.

"Devious, deceptive, criminally cunning, contemptuous of civility. This is, you know, the person who doesn't believe any of the rules apply to him," said McCormack.

Ellen Strauss says Durst behaved very suspiciously.

"He was tossing out all her things and trying to rent her apartment. Immediately after disappearing," she said.

"Just threw it away," McCormack told Moriarty. "Literally jammed up the chute at East 86th Street where the custodian, the superintendent of the building, actually had to complain and say, 'Sir, you're clogging the chute.'"

In spite of efforts by police, Kathie's family and friends, investigators never found her body and the case went nowhere for almost 20 years.

"It is a cold, cold, cold case. Bobby has already gotten a divorce, and she has been legally declared dead, when in 2000, the then-Westchester County district attorney, acting on a tip and an open file from another cop, reopens the Kathie Durst investigation," said DePaulo.

That fiery new district attorney was Jeanine Pirro, and she re-energized the case.

"I have no reason to believe that she isn't dead and that this wasn't a homicide," Pirro told Moriarty in 2004.

"What do you need to bring charges in the disappearance of Kathleen Durst? Do you need a body?" Moriarty asked.

"You don't need a body in a criminal case," she said.

"But isn't it a lot harder without a body," Moriarty asked Pirro.

"Oh, it certainly is. It's a lot harder without a body and it's lot harder 22 years later," she replied. "But that's not gonna stop us."

When District Attorney Pirro went public with news she was going to track him down, Durst disappeared.

"Has Bob Durst been cooperative in this investigation," Moriarty asked Pirro.

"Absolutely not," she replied. "We want to talk to Bob Durst. He won't talk to us. There's no one who knows more about what happened to Kathleen, about what her last actions were than Robert Durst and he won't talk to us," she said.

Robert Durst was about to turn up in the most remarkable circumstances - as a suspect in a series of grisly murders.

"You know, I've heard, 'the devil made me do it.' But I never heard, 'the D.A. made me do it,'" Pirro said smiling.


In November 2000, Robert Durst fled a dogged Jeanine Pirro and the media maelstrom of New York City to go hide out in Galveston, Texas -- in the process, taking on a bizarre new identity: a mute woman.

Galveston Detective Sergeant Cody Cazalas says that Durst rented an apartment in a modest complex under the alias Dorothy Ciner.

"Is it fair to call Bob Durst a cross-dresser? Or do you think that was simply a disguise?" Moriarty asked Det. Sgt. Cazalas in February 2004.

"Simply a disguise," he replied. "After he set the place up as Dorothy Ciner, he never returned as Dorothy Ciner. He returned as a friend of hers ... Robert Durst."

Longtime close friends of Robert Durst, Emily and Stewart Altman, defended his strange behavior in a 2003 interview.

"He was so afraid that he picked up, and he ran off to Galveston, dressed like a woman. Now, can you imagine the fear that must have been in his mind, because of this?" said Stewart Altman.

"He really thought Jeanine Pirro was trying to make her political life on Bob's back," Emily Altman said. "

"And ... he actually believed an indictment was imminent, for something he didn't do," added Stewart.

While Durst was under the radar in Galveston, investigators in New York were re-interviewing witnesses in his wife Kathie's disappearance -- a task that led them to Durst's close friend, Susan Berman, now living in Los Angeles.

Retired Los Angeles Detective Paul Coulter says the life of the one-time mafia princess now played more like "Down and Out in Beverly Hills."

"She was drivin' an old clunker car. She was behind in some of the bills," he explained. "She was -- behind in her rent payment ... She'd had run-ins with her landlady over ... the conditions of the ... residence. She was pretty much livin' destitute. She was embarrassed by those living conditions."

Investigators believed Berman could provide valuable insight into Kathie Durst's murder, but before they could get to her, someone else did. On Dec. 24, 2000, police discovered the body of Susan Berman murdered in her home.

"Susan Berman was shot in the back of the head. Susan would not have just let anybody into her house. It was someone she knew," said Kathie's friend, Ellen Strauss.

Strauss thinks Robert Durst killed Susan Berman because she helped him cover up his wife's murder back in 1982.

"She knew too much," she said.

Paul Coulter, who was in charge of Berman's case, has always believed that Susan Berman knew her killer. First, because of the way Berman's body was left.

"Somebody rolled her over or -- or placed her in that position," said Coulter.

"Why would you do something like that?" Moriarty asked.

"Because you care for that person. Because you care for that person, you maybe kneeled down with them. You're not just leavin' 'em slumped like that," he replied.

And then there was a letter postmarked the day before Berman's body was discovered.

"And it's ... addressed Beverly Hills Police Department with her address and -- the word cadaver. And again, to me that means it's somebody that knows her, cares for her, doesn't want her laying there and -- rotting away or decomposing. They want her body found in a timely manner," said Coulter.

Why kill someone you care so much about? Remember that call Kathie Durst supposedly made to her medical school saying she was sick the morning after she disappeared?

"I think it was Susan Berman that made that call. And that's why I think that's why Susan Berman was eventually killed. Once that story broke about the case re-opening, I think Bob was just trying to mop up all the loose ends," said Strauss.

Many believe that Berman was so broke in 2000, she may have been blackmailing Durst.

"Within the months before she died, he had sent her $50,000?" Moriarty asked Coulter.

"50,000, yes," he replied.

"But previously there had -- been checks. So obviously the -- the big question was, you know, was she shaking him down for more?" said Lisa DePaulo.

DePaulo doesn't think Susan Berman was that kind of person, but wonders about Durst.

"I do think it's part of Bobby's character to perceive that she was shaking him down for more," she said.

"Did you get a chance to ask Bob Durst why he had sent her that kind of money?" Moriarty asked Coulter.

"We had never been able to interview -- Bobby Durst," he replied.

Durst attorney Chip Lewis says his client had nothing to do with Susan Berman's murder, that it was a clear and simple mob hit.

"The fact of the matter is Susan Berman had cried out soon before her murder that she was about to expose the mob, and really writing something, a tell-all book, of what she knew. That's why she was murdered. It was a hit-style murder," Lewis said in December 2003.

And, in fact, that's exactly what police first believed.

"But if you realistically look at it, what would be the motive for the mob to kill her? Plus, all the old mobsters from her dad's era were probably 100 years old or dead," said Det. Coulter.

Robert Durst seems to have been a person of interest in Berman's murder, but not a main suspect. That is until nine months later when something shocking happened back in Galveston, Texas, that made police in three cities believe that Robert Durst could be a serial killer.

"There's no doubt in my mind he's a serial killer," said Cazalas.


It was late 2001, nine months after Susan Berman's murder. While detectives in Los Angeles were still looking for her killer, and Jeanine Pirro was still trying to solve Kathleen Durst's disappearance in New York, Robert Durst was about to make headlines again -- in Galveston.

"I was the one that arrested him," Det. Cody Cazalas to Erin Moriarty in 2004.

Durst was accused of killing his neighbor, Morris Black. Cazalas, a Galveston major crimes detective at that time, told Moriarty that he had rarely seen a more clear-cut case of murder.

"He probably walked up behind him and shot him in the back of the head," said Cazalas.

But Durst said that's not how it happened at all. He claimed that on the night of the shooting, he arrived home to find Morris Black sitting in his living room, with his gun.

Defendant Robert Durst sits in court Nov. 10, 2003, at the Galveston County Courthouse in Galveston, Texas.
Defendant Robert Durst sits in court Nov. 10, 2003, at the Galveston County Courthouse in Galveston, Texas. James Nielsen/ Getty Images

Durst was charged with first-degree murder. At his trial, he testifieat ad that he and Black had an argument, and according to defense animation used at trial, it was during a struggle that the gun went off, killing 71-year-old Black, accidentally. But Detective Cazalas was unconvinced.

"There was nothing to suggest self-defense. He never said self-defense until after the defense attorneys got the case," he told Moriarty.

Morris Black

Durst's claim of self-defense was even harder to believe because of what he did after the shooting. Instead of calling 911, he carved up Black's body -- shoved the parts into plastic bags -- and dumped them into Galveston Bay.

"What kind of person, would you say, be capable of cutting up another person's body? Someone he says was a friend of his?" Moriarty asked Cazalas.

"A psychopath. Someone with no conscience," the detective replied.

Cazalas believed that Durst used a bow saw to cut off Morris black's arms, legs and head.

"We're talking about a very bloody process here," Moriarty commented to Cazalas.

"Extremely bloody. There was body parts in different bags. There was, like, a leg in one bag, another leg in another bag," he explained. "I think he assumed that the tide would take the bags on out to the sea, but instead the tide was coming in, and so the bags just stayed right there by the pier."

But Black's head -- where he had been shot -- was never found, so the police could not determine forensically how he died.

"According to Durst's lawyers, the reason why he cut up this body was just to try to hide it, that he panicked," said Moriarty.

"He didn't panic. ...Everything he did was cold and calculating," Cazalas said. "I have him on videotape, four to five hours after the murder, calmly buying a money order to pay Morris Black's rent so that it would appear that Morris Black just paid his October rent, and sometime within October moved away. ...And this guy is in the video is just as calm as a cucumber."

"He's not a danger to anybody. The public doesn't know what we know," attorney Dick DeGuerin said in 2003.

Durst had the best defense team money could buy in Texas, including DeGuerin and Mike Ramsey. One of the first things they did was hire well-known Houston psychiatrist Milton Altschuler to help figure Durst out.

"I met with him almost on a weekly basis, over 70 hours," Dr. Altschuler said in 2003.

"Do you think Robert Durst is a dangerous man?" Moriarty asked.

"No ma'am," he replied.

Dr. Altschuler says that Durst suffers from a form of autism called Asperger's syndrome, a disorder that can limit a person's ability to interact socially.

"Emotion is very difficult to him. And he doesn't know what happy is," said Altschuler.

"Are you saying that Robert Durst can't feel any emotion?" Moriarty asked.

"He can feel it, but almost as if he were feeling it as we would feel fingers through a glove. It's very dulled, at best, to him," he explained.

Dr. Altschuler asserts that because Durst can't feel strong emotion, he can't get angry enough to kill.

"Some people, though, will listen to you and say, 'Oh, come on. This was just a diagnosis set up for trial to, you know, help him get off the hook of this murder case,'" said Moriarty.

"I understand that," Altschuler replied. "But his whole life's history is so compatible with a diagnosis of Asperger's disorder."

While Dr. Altschuler never testified about his findings, his diagnosis was used at trial.

"It would have been an explanation for some of the inappropriate -- and obviously it was inappropriate to dismember a corpse -- behavior that -- that Bob went through," Mike Ramsey said in December 2003.

"He's not a robot," Dr. Lawson Bernstein said. "There is no psychiatric disorder that's a 'get out of jail free' card."

Dr. Bernstein is a forensic psychiatrist who studied Robert Durst's trial testimony at "48 Hours"' request. He believes Durst suffers from only a very mild form of Asperger's syndrome.

"We're talking about someone with Asperger's who, nonetheless, forms close human relationships," he said.

In fact, Durst remarried. Just a month after Jeanine Pirro reopened the investigation into Kathie Durst's disappearance, Robert Durst wed real estate broker Debrah Charatan.

"If he's capable of normal interaction, he's capable of feeling emotions. And if he's capable of feeling emotions, he's capable of doing things that human beings do, including committing murder," said Dr. Bernstein.

Robert Durst reacts after he is acquitted of the murder of Morris Black. CBS News

But after a six-week trial and five days of deliberation, the verdict shocked everyone -- even the defendant himself -- when he was found not guilty.

"That was the most emotional three days of my life. We -- we cried. I broke down a couple of times," a male juror told Erin Moriarty.

The jurors were widely criticized for the acquittal, but say they felt they had no choice. While they knew Durst had cut up Black's body, they weren't convinced he was guilty of premeditated murder.

"I felt one way, but I knew I had to vote another. And I'll put it that way," said a female juror.

"So you thought he might be guilty, but you just hadn't been convinced by the prosecution?" Moriarty asked.

"No," the female replied, shaking her head.

"Robert Durst was on the stand himself for three or four days. The prosecution had an opportunity to trip him up and put holes in his story. They couldn't do it," the male juror explained. "He was on trial for the murder of Morris Black, and there was no evidence to prove that that happened."

For Detective Cazalas, the verdict is still a haunting disappointment.

"Do you think Bob Durst got away with murder?" Moriarty asked.

"There's not a doubt in my mind. There isn't a doubt in my mind," he replied.

"What do you say, though, to people who have accused you of just letting your common sense go out the window? That you knew that earlier his wife disappeared and now this guy disappears? I mean, what's the chance that one guy has two people disappear out of his life?" Moriarty asked the jurors.

"There's a possibility -- there is a possibility that Robert Durst is the most unlucky man in America," the male juror replied.

"You believe that?" Moriarty asked.

"I said there's a possibility," he replied.

But Durst's luck was about to run out, and he would have only himself to blame.

He agreed to be interviewed for a six -part documentary series about his life, and said things that would eventually help get him indicted for Susan Berman's murder.


Actor Ryan Gosling clearly got something right in his thinly-veiled portrayal of Robert Durst in Andrew Jarecki's "All Good Things." The movie caught the attention of Durst himself.

"He voluntarily called me around the time my film was coming out and said, 'I heard about this movie I'd like to see it' and then he volunteered to come and sit for an interview," Jarecki said during in an interview with "CBS This Morning" on March 16.

Sitting down with a filmmaker who directed a movie about you killing your wife may seem strange to us, but to Forensic Psychiatrist Alexander Sasha Barday -- who admits he has never spoken to Robert Durst -- it makes perfect sense.

"His motivation is, 'I want to be in front of the camera. I wanna tell it my way. I don't want the press to tell the story. ... I want to control the press. I wanna control this movie ...So I'm going to make you make this movie about me,'" he explained.

But Durst's lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin - who won an acquittal in the Morris Black case -- told Moriarty he has a different take on his client's motivation.

"Bob doesn't wanna be Bob. He's -- far too much in the -- the center of attention. He just wants to -- not be Bob Durst," DeGuerin said Thursday in his only network TV interview since Durst's arrest. "He's been hounded -- most of his adult life. And he just doesn't wanna be that person."

"But he could have just gone on with his life. He knew he was a suspect in a murder and a disappearance of his wife. And yet he chose to do a documentary. It's hard to understand why somebody would do this unless he wants the attention," Moriarty pointed out.

"Oh, he doesn't want the attention. And -- I'm sure he's regretful that he ever decided to put his trust in such a person," said DeGuerin.

Robert Durst and Andrew Jarecki HBO

Durst's interview with Jarecki became the foundation for the six-part HBO documentary series, "The Jinx: the Life and Deaths of Robert Durst."

"I will be able to tell it my way..." Durst says in the series' second episode. But that's not what happened, says DeGuerin.

"Do you feel these filmmakers took advantage of him?" Moriarty asked.

"Yes. No question," DeGuerin replied. "He's a smart guy. He's very naive. He's -- slightly autistic. ...And he trusted -- Jarecki. Jarecki broke that trust."

In Jarecki's documentary, Robert Durst incriminates himself several times over.

"We were surprised that he made a whole bunch of admissions and said things that were kind of shocking," Jarecki told "CBS This Morning."

Some of his admissions about the disappearance of his wife Kathie back in 1982 were especially shocking, says Lisa DePaulo, who has written extensively about the case.

"There were a lot of things that I went, 'Holy crap,'" she said. "He admitted in this docuseries that his story about the night Kathie disappeared was a lie.. His story was that he had walked three miles to a payphone to call her. ...That was his alibi all those years ago."

"The Jinx" (Episode 2):

Andrew Jarecki: Did you end up speaking to her that night?

Robert Durst: No.

"It vindicated everything we as a family and all of Kathie's friends have been saying to law enforcement," Kathie's brother, Jim McCormack, said. "She never got out of Westchester County, she never left that area that night."

Durst also admitted he never went for drinks at his neighbor's house that night as he had claimed:

The Jinx (Episode 2):

Robert Durst: That's what I told the police. I was hoping that would just make everything go away.

And that he did get violent with Kathie during the marriage after all:

The Jinx (Episode 2):

Robert Durst: By 1981 our life was half arguments, fighting, slapping, pushing, wrestling.

"Everyone now is asking, 'Why did he admit that all those things were lies?'" said DePaulo.

"There's speculation that -- that Robert Durst wanted to get caught. And that's why he did this documentary," Moriarty commented to DeGuerin.

"Well, that's speculation. That's not -- fact. No, I don't believe that," he replied.

"The psychology of Bobby Durst is, like, the eighth wonder of the world," DePaulo said. "He definitely, kind of gets a perverse pleasure out of getting away with stuff."

"His wealth, his intelligence ... his slyness has enabled him to maybe get away with murder," Dr. Barday said. "The look of surprise on his face -- when the verdict is reached in Galveston. ...I read that as, 'Oh, my God. I just got away with it.' Because I think that's the game that -- that he was playing."

Some, like Detective Coulter, think Durst has left a trail of clues taunting the police -- like the so-called "cadaver note" -- that anonymous letter sent to the police at the time of the Susan Berman murder telling them there was a body in the house.

"The envelope was addressed to the Beverly Hills police. And inside is just a note with her address, 1527 Benedict Canyon, and the word cadaver," he said.

The envelope held an important clue the detective hoped would help solve the case: the word 'Beverly' was misspelled.

"Whoever wrote that had to be her killer, correct?" Moriarty asked Coulter.

"I would say so," he said.

Los Angeles police eventually concluded that Durst was "probably the author of the letter," but never acted on it. The filmmakers did.

"In the docuseries, they unearthed a letter that is identical," said DePaulo.

Susan Berman's stepson gave the filmmakers a letter written to Berman from Robert Durst -- just like in the so-called cadaver letter, the word "Beverley" is misspelled.

"The Jinx" (Episode 6):

Andrew Jarecki: Can you read me the spelling of "Beverly Hills"?

The filmmakers confronted Durst with the second letter in a second interview:

"The Jinx" (Episode 6):

Andrew Jarecki: Can you tell me which one you didn't write?

Robert Durst: No.

"He was unable to determine which of the two handwritings that we're showing him was his own, and in fact we think both of them were his own," Jarecki told "CBS This Morning."

In the documentary, Durst denies writing the note.

The handwriting on a letter to Susan Berman, [bottom], seems to match that of the "cadaver" letter [top], down to the misspelling of the word "Beverley."

"When you see Robert Durst's writing and it's up against the writing on the cadaver letter, it does look very similar," Moriarty noted to DeGuerin.

"There's no question," he said. "What Jarecki did was he, again, tried to trick Bob by showing him both of 'em, but isolated, and not telling him which one was which. And Bob very -- candidly said -- to the question 'Can you tell which is which?' He said, 'No.' So yeah, it looks similar."

"But doesn't that mean that he could be the writer of the cadaver letter?" Moriarty asked.

"Well, I'm not saying that he is or isn't -- the writer. I don't believe he is. There's no proof. There's no fingerprints. There's no DNA. There's no scientific stuff that they can rely on," said DeGuerin. "I think people are fascinated by wealth, by strangeness and by mystery. I think that this has all those things."

But filmmakers came up with something else -- something that put them and Robert Durst on every front page across America: a stunning statement many are calling a confession.


The most explosive moment in that HBO documentary wasn't the comparison of the curious handwriting on the letters. It was a controversial moment of audio recorded without Robert Durst's knowledge while he was in the bathroom.

Durst began muttering to himself, as he often does:

"The Jinx: (Episode 6)

Robert Durst: "There it is. You're caught. Killed them all, of course."

To many, it sounds like he just confessed: "killed them all." It was a moment that shocked everyone.

"When did you actually learn he had been taped in the restroom?" Moriarty asked attorney Dick DeGuerin.

"When the sixth segment played," he said.

"Along with the rest of America?"


"What was your reaction when you heard that?" Moriarty asked.

"My first reaction ... what in the world are these guys doing to send somebody into the bathroom ... there's not a more private place ... and they know Bob talks to himself. That's just one of his quirks," said DeGuerin.

Attorney Dick DeGuerin tells "48 Hours" Erin ... 01:35

"When you listen to that, didn't Bob Durst confess to murder?"


"How else could you interpret that?"

"There's one hundred ways of interpreting it ... one of 'em being very Shakespearean. The soliloquy," said DeGuerin.

DeGuerin is talking about scenes in Shakespeare's plays where characters like Hamlet--"To be or not to be" -- speak to themselves, trying out different thoughts.

"If you are a student of Shakespeare, as I am, you'll understand that what I'm talking about," he said.

"I mean you're aware that anyone watching that show now thinks he just confessed to murder," Moriarty said.

"I don't think that's a universal thought at all," he replied. "There are people who feel like he got set up. ...My daughter is a journalist, and she was outraged at what Jarecki and his producers pulled."

DeGuerin is also outraged that after Durst's arrest this week, he was interviewed by Los Angeles prosecutors without his lawyer present. That's a very touchy legal issue.

"You know ... knowing that Bob Durst was represented by counsel ... a prosecutor came out here ... and took him aside and questioned him for three hours," he said.

"What was your reaction when you heard that?" Moriarty asked.

"I was astonished," DeGuerin replied. "We don't know what happened ... they recorded him of course."

"Why did Robert talk to him? He's pretty sophisticated," Moriarty commented.

"You say he's sophisticated. Bob is not sophisticated, he is intelligent, he has Asperger's," DeGuerin replied.

"48 Hours" asked the Los Angeles District Attorney's office about this. They wouldn't comment.

What's more, DeGuerin sees an opening for his defense in a new government document.

It reveals that back in 2001, there were some L.A. police handwriting experts who believed that the cadaver letter was actually written by a friend of Susan Berman's named Nyle Brenner, who was a suspect at the time.

"Two of LAPD's finest, the supervisor of their handwriting section, said that the handwriting belonged to Nyles [sic] Brenner," said DeGuerin.

Years later, the LAPD crime lab experts changed their mind and decided once and for all that the letter was in Robert Durst's handwriting.

"What kind of science is that," DeGuerin continued. "As Brer Rabbit would say, 'Throw me in that briar patch.'"

DeGuerin believes that the change of handwriting analysis by the cops will help him undermine the government's case.

In the course of the interview with Moriarty, DeGuerin reveals Durst is in very poor health.

"He's taking painkillers ... he had ... hydrocephalus and has a shunt in his brain ... he had esophageal cancer. He's had cervical spine surgery," DeGuerin said. "I'm not a doctor, but there's some serious things."

Robert Durst is escorted into Orleans Parish Prison after his arraignment in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court in New Orleans, Tuesday, March 17, 2015.
Robert Durst is escorted into Orleans Parish Prison after his arraignment in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court in New Orleans, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Durst was rebooked on charges of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of a weapon with a controlled dangerous substance, a small amount of marijuana. AP

In spite of his poor health, officials believe that Durst was about to cut and run.

When police caught up with him at a New Orleans hotel, he was staying there under a false name. He had a .38 revolver and a latex mask, his real passport and birth certificate.

And Durst had been withdrawing $9,000-a-day in cash over a period of 35 days. He had over $42,000, mostly in hundreds, in his hotel room.

"There was speculation in the papers that that the reason why Robert had come here to New Orleans was because he was gonna flee to Cuba," Moriarty commented to DeGuerin.

"Can't talk about that," he replied.

"But -- were there plans to go to Cuba?"

"I'm not gonna talk about that," said DeGuerin.

"OK. Won't confirm or deny?"

"I think the -- well, I think the words 'Cuba' came out of the mouth of the prosecutor first," said DeGuerin.

"What's the chance, to be honest, that Robert Durst will get bail? I mean he has a history of running when he was out on bail."

"The chances are slim and none -- and slim just left town," said DeGuerin.

"While he's waiting for -"

"How can you beat that as an end line," DeGuerin quipped.

Whatever Durst's intention, the bottom line for DeGuerin is that he believes the prosecution case is woefully thin.

"You were successful ad the lead attorney in Galveston and he was acquitted of murder," Moriarty said. "It's going to be lot tougher in L.A., right?"

"I don't know. I think the evidence here is a lot more troubling for the prosecution," DeGuerin replied. "Not only is it a circumstantial case, it's a weak circumstantial evidence case, and it's based primarily on two things -- this junk science letter and the bathroom confession."

And finally, for the families of Susan Berman and Robert Durst's wife, Kathie, there is some hope that there is an end in sight after this long painful ordeal.

"It may not happen in 30 days for 30 weeks or 30 months, but it's really the beginning of another journey and I have renewed hope and energy that this time around it's gonna be a positive ending," Kathie's brother, Jim McCormack told Moriarty following Durst's arrest. "... justice for Kathie and also for the Berman family. ...that's a genuine ... expression of my own faith and belief."

  • Erin Moriarty
    Erin Moriarty

    Correspondent, "48 Hours"