Good Morning
Good Morning
Long IslandNassau

Robert Durst's arrest brings hope of justice to New Hyde Park family of his missing first wife

Jim McCormack stands in front of the New

Jim McCormack stands in front of the New Hyde Park house he and his missing sister Kathleen McCormack, who was Durst's first wife, once lived in on March 31, 2015. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

It was a stunning moment 33 years in the making.

Jim McCormack, the brother of real estate heir Robert Durst's first wife who has been missing since 1982, sat with family and friends in the Manhattan apartment of producer Andrew Jarecki on March 15 watching "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst."

In the documentary's last minutes, Durst, mumbling to himself in a bathroom with his microphone still on, said he "killed them all, of course."

Durst also was heard referring to new "evidence" revealed in the six-part HBO series, saying, "There it is. You're caught."

At that point, Jim McCormack said, he knew Durst had been outsmarted.

"There was a sigh of 'finally,' like the journey has reached the last stretch," McCormack said in an interview. McCormack's sister, Kathleen McCormack Durst, 29 when she disappeared, had lived with her brother and two sisters, Carol and Mary, in a Cape Cod-style house in New Hyde Park. Family members had suspected Durst killed her, Jim McCormack said, but he was never charged with her death. Her body hasn't been found.

"We always believed in our hearts he [Durst] had everything to do with Kathie's demise," said McCormack, 70, who lives in Sparta, New Jersey.

"I'm buoyed by his admission and basking in the moment," he said.

On March 14, the day before the airing of "The Jinx" finale, Durst was arrested in New Orleans in connection with the 2000 Beverly Hills slaying of Susan Berman, a friend of Durst's who investigators said had information about his alleged murder of Kathleen Durst, who was a fourth-year medical student at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

The documentary revealed that an envelope and letter Durst sent to Berman was written in what a forensic expert said was handwriting similar to that in a letter Berman's killer allegedly sent to police.

Durst could face the death penalty, if convicted. His extradition to California has been delayed while he faces weapons and drug charges in Louisiana after arresting officers found a .38 caliber revolver, a fake Texas ID, stacks of $100 bills, bags of marijuana, a map folded to show Louisiana and Cuba, and a latex mask with salt-and-pepper hair in his hotel room.


Held without bail

Durst was ordered held without bail when a magistrate found him to be a flight risk. He is in a Louisiana state prison mental health unit after jail officials determined him to be a suicide risk.

Calls to Durst attorneys were not returned. Durst's brother, Douglas Durst, who heads the family's real estate empire, said in a statement: "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."

In 2003, Durst was acquitted of killing his 71-year-old neighbor Morris Black, whom he admitted accidentally shooting and then dismembering before dumping the remains in Galveston Bay in a panic in 2001. At the time Durst, now 71, was disguising himself as a mute woman named Dorothy Ciner.

McCormack said the verdict was "a huge disappointment."

But with Durst's arrest, the McCormack family is finally "going to get closure," Jim McCormack said. "The story's been about Morris Black, then Susan Berman, now it's about Kathie McCormack."

Jim McCormack, who retired after a career in marketing, was on Long Island last week to visit his 101-year-old mother, Ann. She still lives in the New Hyde Park house the McCormack family purchased in 1962. Durst visited the home several times for family gatherings.


Met at a party in 1971

Kathleen McCormack met Durst at a party in New York City, where she lived, in 1971. They married in 1973.

"They appeared to be very much in love in the first few years," Jim McCormack said. "Then there were levels of abuse [from Durst] -- verbal, emotional, physical and intellectual -- Bob was very smart."

Durst had been quiet around the McCormack family and made it clear he did not like visiting the New Hyde Park home, McCormack said.

And there were violent episodes. McCormack said during one visit, when Kathleen wanted to stay but Durst wanted to leave, he pulled her by the hair to his car in front of shocked family members. Kathleen's sisters had tried to talk her into leaving Durst.

The documentary and Durst's arrest give McCormack hope that the investigation into his sister's death will get a new look and lead to Durst being charged.

"For years they kept calling it a missing person case in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary," McCormack said. "Incredibly, they accepted the word of Bob Durst as to Kathie's last day with him and the investigation focused in New York City.

"Westchester County is the last place Kathie was acknowledged to have been alive" and the investigation should now focus there, he said. The couple lived in a stone cottage on Lake Truesdale in South Salem.

Durst told police he had put Kathleen on a train to Manhattan on New Year's Eve, had a drink with a neighbor, and later spoke to Kathleen by phone. But he said on "The Jinx" that he lied to make detectives think she went missing in New York City.


Phone call from Durst

Durst called Jim McCormack a month later.

"I got a call the evening of Feb. 4, 1982, from Bob," McCormack recalled. "He asked, 'Have you seen Kathie?' " McCormack and his wife, Sharon, had just had their first child.

"Such a call took us from a mountaintop of joy to the depths of a canyon of shock, pain and depression," McCormack said. "My first thoughts were she was purposely hiding to sort out her situation with Bob and would soon re-emerge to complete a divorce process she had initiated in 1981. Within a few short weeks we realized . . . Bob was hiding something."

McCormack said "red flags" began popping up when Durst offered a $100,000 reward for his wife's return then reduced it to $15,000. McCormack said Durst was seen throwing away her clothing, and tried renting out her East Side apartment. And he hired a criminal defense attorney.

"Our family held onto hope and prayed a lot for the return of Kathie," McCormack said. "We didn't have the resources to hire a private investigator or anything, but we were in daily contact with the NYPD, who assured us they were doing everything possible to find Kathie."

But when they found out Durst also had thrown out his wife's books three weeks after reporting her missing, they "knew that was the end of Kathie," McCormack said. "You don't give up hope but you kind of come to a realization that Kathie's not coming back."

He wants the final chapter of her story to be about justice.

"My focus is closure and justice for Kathie and our family," said McCormack, who has three daughters. "The pain, suffering, depression, loss and anguish over Kathie's death have gone on too long."





1982: Kathleen McCormack Durst, his 29-year-old first wife from New Hyde Park, disappears. She is presumed to be dead but her body has not been found. Investigators are looking anew into the case after new evidence is reported in a documentary broadcast last month.

2000: Susan Berman, a friend of Durst's who investigators said had information about his alleged murder of Kathleen Durst, was killed in Beverly Hills, California. Durst was arrested in New Orleans on March 14 in connection with Berman's death and awaits extradition to Los Angeles.

2001: Durst admitted accidentally shooting his Galveston, Texas, neighbor, Morris Black, dismembering him and dumping his remains in Galveston Bay. In 2003, he was acquitted of murder charges.

Nassau top stories