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Westchester DA: Police Could Have Done More Early On To Link Robert Durst To Wife Kathleen's Disappearance

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- The prosecutor in Westchester County says red flags were ignored and leads were not pursued in the 1982 disappearance of Kathleen McCormack Durst.

On Wednesday, District Attorney Mimi Rocah outlined the evidence against notorious killer Robert Durst, who died in prison nine days ago, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported.

"The initial investigation of this case demonstrates the danger of what's known as 'tunnel vision,'" Rocah said.

She detailed why it took almost 40 years to charge real estate millionaire Durst with murdering his wife, Kathleen.

The case is at the center of the HBO documentary "The Jinx."

robert durst trial
Robert Durst in 2021. (credit: CBS2)

While Kathleen's 1982 disappearance made headlines, Rocah said it's clear cops could have done more early on to link Durst to the crime.

"The focus of the investigation remained guided by Durst's version of events, that he had driven her to the train to New York City on the night she disappeared," Rocah said.

Rocah said the Manhattan-centric probe meant the Durst home in South Salem was not searched thoroughly. Her office released a summary, revealing the cleaning woman found blood in the kitchen after Kathleen disappeared.

The summary said evidence that Durst abused Kathleen, including threatening her with a gun, was discounted when he denied it, and a mysterious phone call giving the impression Kathleen was still alive was not carefully scrutinized.

"Many years later, evidence was developed that shows that this call was in fact a ruse that Durst had orchestrated, using his friend Susan Berman," Rocah said.

Last year in California, Durst was convicted of the 2000 killing of Berman, after learning she planned to speak with cold case investigators.

"I guess the biggest disappointment is not knowing where Kathie is, just so we can give her family final closure," retired New York State Police Investigator Joe Becerra said.

The report said Durst's "wealth (and) status" may have contributed to the deference shown him.

It leaves little doubt the evidence was there to convict Durst, had he lived to go to trial.

After the report was released, a lawyer for Kathleen Durst's surviving sibling again claimed a massive cover-up protected Durst. Attorney Robert Abrams said the family will speak on Jan. 31, the 40-year anniversary of Kathleen's disappearance.

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