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Robert Durst Charged With Murder In Calif., Also Hit With Weapons Charges In Louisiana

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New York real estate heir Robert Durst was officially charged with a friend's murder on Monday and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Durst was also hit with weapons charges in Louisiana, where he was awaiting extradition Monday night, CBS2's Jessica Schneider reported.

As CBS2's Alice Gainer reported, Durst, 71, was still in New Orleans late Monday, but was set to return to Los Angeles after waiving extradition. A murder charge was issued against him there in the shooting nearly 15 years ago of a mobster's daughter who vouched for him after his wife disappeared.

He has been charged in Los Angeles with first-degree murder, with the special circumstances of the murder of a witness, prosecutors said.

The capital murder charge makes Durst eligible for the death penalty in California, but prosecutors must decide whether to seek it.

Meanwhile, Louisiana State Police Trooper Melissa Matey told The Associated Press that an arrest warrant was issued for Durst and he was rebooked in the Orleans Parish Jail on Monday under two new charges. They are: convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of a weapon with a controlled dangerous substance. Matey said the controlled substance was a small amount of marijuana.

Matey said she does not know whether Louisiana prosecutors will try to keep him in the state on those charges before he is sent to Los Angeles.

Police said Durst had a revolver on him at the time of his arrest.

Durst shuffled into a New Orleans courtroom with his hands shackled at his waist, wearing sandals and an orange jumpsuit. He smiled at the gallery, then appeared to fall asleep and later answered "yes'' to a judge's questions about waiving extradition.

Robert Durst
Sketch of Robert Durst during court appearance in New Orleans on March 16, 2015 (Credit: Tony O. Champagne Sr.)

Magistrate Harry Cantrell said Durst could now be taken to California and that he could get pain medication meanwhile, after attorney Dick DeGuerin said Durst has had "neurosurgery.''

"We came here to waive jurisdiction and go back to California, and to get it on," DeGuerin said outside court. "Bob Durst didn't kill Susan Berman. He's ready to end all the rumor and speculation and have a trial. But we're frustrated because local authorities are considering filing charges on him and holding him here."

These consequences came only hours after Sunday's finale of an HBO documentary detailing his life of privilege and links to three deaths: his friend in Los Angeles, Susan Berman; his wife in New York, Kathleen Durst; and Morris Black, an elderly neighbor in Texas.

Durst is heard muttering, "killed them all, of course,'' at the end of "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.''

Authorities were hoping Monday that this and other evidence will finally lead to a conviction.

But as WCBS 880's Peter Haskell reported, a confession on TV does not necessarily translate into a guilty verdict in court.

High-profile defense attorney Ben Brafman, who is not involved in the case, said he feels this is not an end all be all.

"Well a lot of it really depends on what, if any, additional there is," he said.

Brafman told CBS2 that Durst could be dismissed by some as out of touch and unstable.

"Most people think he's not playing with a full deck, and to the extent that this could be viewed as the ramblings of an old, tired man who's been pursued for 10 or 20 or 30 years, it might be dismissed as something that is musings as opposed to an actual statement," he said.

He also questioned whether the audio confession will even be admissible in court.

"That tape has been around a long time and it just appeared. There are going to be questions as to whether that tape was tampered with, whether it's taken out of context; what does it relate to?" Brafman said. "I think the tape is alive and in play."

Robert Durst Waives Extradition, Will Return To California To Face Murder Charge

Durst was arrested without incident by FBI agents on Saturday at a Marriott hotel in New Orleans.

In the documentary, filmmaker Andrew Jarecki and Durst discuss an anonymous letter that alerted police to a "cadaver'' at Berman's address. Durst says only the killer could have sent it.

Then Jarecki shows him another letter that Durst had sent to Berman, which one of the slain woman's relatives had recovered and given to the filmmakers. Durst acknowledges the similar handwriting and misspellings in both letters.

Then he went to the bathroom, still wearing his live microphone.

"There it is. You're caught,'' he tells himself. "What the hell did I do? Killed them all of course.''

Robert Durst Says In HBO Finale He 'Killed Them All'

The recording was made more than two years ago, but was only recently discovered during the editing process.

"We always leave the microphone on. He knows that, and he went to the bathroom while it was recording," Jarecki said, "and it wasn't until months later that we had an editor listening to material we had sort of left behind."

Jarecki said they never confronted Durst about what he said in the bathroom, but that they did share what they found with authorities last year as they were preparing the film to be aired.

"Months later, we had an editor listening to the recording that we had just sort of left behind thinking, well now we've got to listen to everything we got, we're about to finish the series, and we discovered we had this shocking piece of audio," Jarecki told "CBS This Morning" on Monday.

Durst was arrested in a New Orleans hotel in connection with Berman's death before the episode aired.

Durst has always maintained his innocence in the 2000 murder of Berman, whose father was an associate of Las Vegas mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky.

Berman, 55, a writer who became Durst's spokeswoman, was killed at her home near Beverly Hills with a bullet to the back of her head on Christmas Eve 2000.

Prior to her death, investigators were about to question Berman about the unsolved disappearance of Kathleen Durst, who was Robert Durst's first wife, back in 1982.

Robert Durst Says In HBO Finale He 'Killed Them All'

Durst was also tried in the 2001 murder of Texas neighbor Black, but claimed self-defense and was acquitted. By the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy, he cannot be charged or tried again in that case.

Still, the question now is whether the discovery of the new audio is admissible in court, and is enough to get a conviction in the Berman case.

Durst's longtime lawyer, Chip Lewis, smelled a setup, calling Jarecki "duplicitous'' for not making it clear to Durst that he would be sharing information heard in the audio with police.

"I never in a million years thought that what we were going to be left with were the mutterings of an elderly gentleman while he's in the restroom," Lewis told "48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty.

Lewis said nothing his client revealed changes his innocence. He also suspects the timing of Durst's arrest was coordinated between the authorities and HBO for maximum impact.

Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Kirk Albanese scoffed at that.

"The HBO series had nothing to do with his arrest. We do police work based on the facts and evidence, not based on the HBO series. I know there's lots of speculation about that. It had nothing to do with the show,'' Albanese told The AP on Monday.

Former prosecutor Jeanine Pirro believes it was her reopening of the cold case into Kathleen Durst's disappearance that provoked the murder of Berman. And she said Durst's own words can now be used against him.

"If I'm a prosecutor, I'm doing a dance at this point," she told WCBS 880.

Interview With Former Westchester DA Jeanine Pirro

After Berman's death, Durst moved to Texas, where he lived as a mute woman in a boarding house until his arrest in 2001 after dismembered parts of the body of his elderly neighbor, Morris Black, were found floating in Galveston Bay.

Durst then became a fugitive, until he turned up shoplifting a chicken sandwich, Band-Aids, and a newspaper in Pennsylvania, even though he had $500 cash in his pocket and $37,000 in his rental car along with two guns and marijuana.

Lewis told the jury that Durst shot Black in self-defense and suffered from Asperger's syndrome. Despite admitting that he used a paring knife, two saws and an ax to dismember Black's body before dumping the remains, Durst was acquitted of murder.

The judge who handled the Texas case spoke out Monday night, saying she was shocked that Durst was acquitted.

"The facts were so extreme; how could you lose that case as a prosecutor?" said former Galveston County, Texas Judge Susan Criss. "That body was cut up so perfectly. It was clean. It was not done by someone who, that was their first time to do it."

Durst still faced some consequences in Texas. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to bond jumping and evidence tampering, but with time served, he was paroled in 2005. Then, violating the terms of his parole, he returned to the boarding house where Black was killed, and had to serve another four months in jail.

Criss said Durst "has been incredibly lucky that so many people who've investigated him have dropped the ball, but I think that luck may be running out.''

Lewis defended Durst again in Texas after he inexplicably urinated on the candy display at the cash register of a CVS pharmacy in Houston last year. Durst paid a fine and compensated the store for what Lewis called an "unfortunate medical mishap.''

Durst left his Houston town house for New Orleans to escape unwanted attention since the documentary's second-to-last episode aired, Lewis said.

The Durst family is worth at least $4 billion, according to the Forbes list of richest Americans.

His brother, Douglas Durst, released a statement, saying, "We are relieved and also grateful to everyone who assisted in the arrest of Robert Durst. We hope he will finally be held accountable for all he has done."

The oldest son of the late real estate mogul Seymour Durst, Robert Durst became estranged from his family when his brother Douglas was chosen instead of him to run the family business.

Among the skyscrapers that the Durst Corporation manages are One World Trade Center, the 58-story Epic apartments, the Bank of America tower at One Bryant Park and the Conde Nast building at Four Times Square.

Robert Durst had known tragedy from an early age. He said that when he was seven, his mother committed suicide by jumping off a building.

In 1982, Robert Durst reported that his wife Kathie had suddenly disappeared from their cottage in South Salem, Westchester County. No one was ever charged, but investigators have long considered Robert Durst a suspect in the case.

"The story is so operatic,'' Jarecki told the AP before his documentary aired. "That's what's so fascinating to me -- seeing someone who is born to such privilege and years later is living in a $300-a-month rooming house in Galveston, Texas, disguised as a mute woman.''

Jarecki told a fictionalized version of Durst's story in "All Good Things,'' a 2010 film starring Ryan Gosling. Afterward, he got a call from Durst himself, who wanted to see it, and eventually agreed to talk on camera.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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