The long-unsolved murder of Susan Berman, Mob daughter and author, may finally be thawing out from the Las Vegas cold case files. In a strange twist of events, the man long suspected of her brutal killing 15 years ago is now in custody.
Robert Durst has become something of a household name in recent weeks, thanks to an HBO documentary series called The Jinx that detailed several “mysterious” disappearances and deaths surrounding the 71-year-old man.
Now, perhaps thanks, at least in part, to evidence uncovered during that documentary, Durst may finally have to face charges for at least one of those deaths.
Durst was arrested on Saturday night in New Orleans for the 2000 murder of Susan Berman, a crime writer and long-time friend of the arrestee. While he was always a suspect in the case because of his propensity for being surrounded with unsolved homicides, there was uncertainty in the Berman case because of what she had often written about: the history of Las Vegas and her family’s ties to the Mafia, herself being the daughter Mobster Davie Berman.
Additional Evidence Prompts Arrest
That was enough for some people to suspect that she was killed for something she had researched or written about. But now, police are saying they have more fodder pointing to the possibility that it was Durst behind the killing all along.
“As a result of investigative leads and additional evidence that has come to light in the past year, investigators have identified Robert Durst as the person responsible for Ms. Berman’s death,” the Los Angeles Police said in a statement released over the weekend.
Durst was picked up on Saturday, staying under a fake name at the JW Marriott hotel in New Orleans. Authorities say they believe that Durst was planning to leave the country and head to Cuba.
“Jinx” May Have Uncovered New Evidence
Given the publicity surrounding Durst because of The Jinx, many have speculated that the makers of the documentary uncovered evidence that led to his arrest. While there may be some merit to that, police have tried to downplay the connection between the program and the decision to arrest him.
“We based our actions based on the investigation and the evidence,” said LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese. “We didn’t base anything we did on the HBO series. The arrest was made as a result of the investigative efforts and at a time that we believe it was needed.”
For his part, Jinx director Andrew Jarecki has denied that there was any deal to have the police make the arrest just before the series finale, which aired Sunday night. However, he did admit that it was difficult to determine when and how to share information that was uncovered with the police.
“We talked a lot about it with our legal advisors and we said, look, if we go to the authorities now, we’re missing the opportunity for us to actually get the real story from him, and it may take years for them to do that because the truth is, as filmmakers, we have the freedom to do things that maybe the law enforcement authorities wouldn’t have,” Jarecki said in an interview on Good Morning America.
Durst Also Suspected in Disappearance of Wife
Durst has been suspected, but not implicated, in other cases as well.
In 1982, his former wife Kathie Durst went missing; her family has believed he was involved, but it has never been proven. Berman was set to be interviewed by a Westchester County District Attorney about that disappearance when she was killed, which provided a link between Durst and Berman’s death.
And in 2003, Durst admitted to dismembering neighbor Morris Black, but was acquitted after arguing the killing was done in self-defense.
The Jinx may have brought Durst’s questionable involvement in these cases back into the limelight. In the penultimate episode, the filmmakers showed Durst a letter he wrote that was strikingly similar to an anonymous note to police that led them to Susan Berman’s body in 2000.
In the final episode, Durst was heard (perhaps unaware that his microphone was still live) muttering what some have interpreted as a confession to his crimes.
Berman herself couldn’t have written a more intriguing crime thriller, and no doubt there are more chapters yet to come.