Murder Trial Underway in Killing of Las Vegas Mobster’s Daughter

Posted on: May 24, 2021, 04:15h. 

Last updated on: July 19, 2021, 02:25h.

The murder trial of multimillionaire Robert Durst continued this week in Los Angeles. He is charged in the December 2000 killing of Susan Berman, daughter of Las Vegas mobster and casino operator David Berman.

Susan Berman, Robert Durst
Susan Berman and Robert Durst pose during their younger years in this undated photograph. He has been charged with shooting her to death in 2000. (Image: CBS News)

A New York real estate heir, Durst is accused of shooting his friend Susan Berman in the back of her head at her home in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles. 

Durst, 78, has pleaded not guilty. The trial was recessed in March 2020 at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. It resumed last week after a 14-month delay. Durst’s attorneys recently sought to delay the trial indefinitely, saying he has bladder cancer.

Prosecutors have said Durst killed Berman, a 55-year-old writer, because she was going to tell police she helped cover up the 1982 disappearance in New York of Durst’s wife Kathie, according to news accounts. He is charged with one count of murder.

Berman had let Durst into her home two days before Christmas in 2000 and turned her back on him “because she trusted him,” Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said in court last week.

She turned around, she took a few steps and he basically blew her brains out,” Lewin said. 

Durst’s attorneys said he doesn’t know who killed Berman. After finding her body, he panicked and ran, his attorney said.

‘Mob Visionary’

David Berman moved to Las Vegas in 1944 and invested in downtown casinos such as the El Cortez, according to the UNLV University Libraries. The El Cortez is still in operation.

Susan Berman’s career as a writer included her 1981 memoir, Easy Street: The True Story of a Gangsters Daughter. In it, she recalls her childhood in Las Vegas during an era when her father was involved in the ownership of casinos downtown and on the Las Vegas Strip.

She wrote that David Berman “was just my father to me,” but was involved with the East Coast crime syndicate and a partner of mobsters such as New Yorker Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.

“He was the Mob visionary who helped convince his Eastern associates that there was money to be made in that honky-tonk town called Las Vegas, and went on to forge a gambling silver mine out of a desert full of sagebrush,” she wrote in an excerpt quoted on the Mob Museum website.

Author and former Las Vegas Sun reporter Cathy Scott said David Berman oversaw the illegal skimming of untaxed gambling revenue at Las Vegas casinos for mobster Meyer Lansky. Scott wrote the 2002 book Murder of a Mafia Daughter: The Life and Tragic Death of Susan Berman.

He ran the Flamingo. He ran the skim,” Scott said on the museum website.

Berman died in June 1957 at age 54 of a heart attack during an operation.

Siegel Gunned to Death

Siegel opened the Flamingo Casino in December 1946 on what then was a desert highway to Los Angeles. That road now is known as the Las Vegas Strip.

 In June 1947, Siegel was shot to death while in his girlfriend Virginia Hill’s rented Beverly Hills mansion. The assailant fired from outside the house. No one has ever been held criminally responsible for the killing.

The Flamingo is still at the same location on the east side of the Strip, though none of the original buildings remain.