The family of a dead former New Hyde Park woman once married to real estate heir Robert Durst was “angered” by publicity from an HBO documentary about him and filed a baseless $100 million wrongful death suit, his attorneys claim.
Kathleen Durst’s mother — Ann McCormack of New Hyde Park — and the dead woman’s three sisters filed the suit Nov. 30 in Nassau. They allege Durst hid his wife’s body and deprived them of the right to dispose of her remains, known in legal terms as the right of sepulcher.
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Though legally declared dead in 1988, the body of Kathleen Durst, 29, was never found. Robert Durst, imprisoned in Louisiana on unrelated federal firearms and drug charges, has not been charged in connection with his wife’s death.
In court papers filed Dec. 30, Durst said his wife’s family accused him of her death shortly after her disappearance but never took legal action. He has denied the allegation.
The plaintiffs “elected instead to do nothing for 30 years, choosing to piggyback upon the hype created by a fictionalized HBO docu-drama,” the court papers said.
Durst, 72, was the subject of the 2015 HBO documentary series about evidence allegedly linking him to the death of his wife as well as two others.
Robert Abrams, the Lake Success attorney for Kathleen Durst’s family, declined to comment. Robert Durst’s attorneys, David Friedman of New York, and Mitchell J. Devack of East Meadow, could not be reached Tuesday.
The statute of limitations for loss of sepulcher, like other personal injuries, is three years from when plaintiffs suffered mental anguish from the alleged interference of a loved one’s remains, according to court papers filed by Friedman and Devack.
In the documentary, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” the real estate heir, apparently unaware his microphone is on, mumbles: “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course,” during the series’ final episode, which aired in March.
Authorities believe he is referring to Kathleen Durst and the killings of his close friend, Susan Berman, in Los Angeles in 2000, and a neighbor in Texas, Morris Black, 71, in 2001.
Durst, grandson of the founder of Manhattan-based real estate development firm The Durst Organization, was acquitted of killing Black, though he admitted accidentally shooting and dismembering the man in a panic. Durst’s trial in Los Angeles for Berman’s killing is pending.
The McCormack family’s suit claims they “first heard of this confession” in March. But they “attempt to obfuscate the staleness of their claim by suggesting that the injury occurred” when they first heard the alleged confession, court papers say.
Lawyers for Durst say the claim for loss of “sepulcher” is usually brought against medical examiners, hospitals and prisons for failing to return remains intact to families, not “against a deceased’s husband, or her alleged killer.”
Damages are awarded in such cases “have only reached into the low six figures,” according to the court papers.