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Robert Durst, real estate heir convicted of murder, dies at 78

Robert Durst, 78, in a Los Angeles courtroom

Robert Durst, 78, in a Los Angeles courtroom on Oct. 14, 2021. Credit: Los Angeles Times / Myung J. Chun

LOS ANGELES — Robert Durst, the wealthy New York real estate heir and failed fugitive who was dogged for decades with suspicion in the disappearance and deaths of those around him — including his first wife, a former Long Islander — before he was convicted of killing his best friend and sentenced to life in prison, has died. He was 78.

Durst died of natural causes Monday in a hospital outside the California prison where he was serving a life sentence, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Durst had been held in a hospital lockup in Stockton due to a litany of ailments.

Durst was convicted in September of shooting Susan Berman at point-blank range at her Los Angeles home in 2000. He was sentenced Oct. 14 to life in prison without parole.

He was hospitalized two days later with COVID-19 and his trial attorney Dick DeGuerin said he was on a ventilator. But Durst apparently recovered and was transferred to state prison, where mug shots showed no sign of a ventilator.

Durst was also indicted Nov. 1 on a murder charge in the death of his first wife, Kathie Durst, a former Long Islander who disappeared nearly four decades ago, prosecutors said.

Robert Abrams, the attorney for the family of Kathie Durst, issued a statement Monday saying: "Although Robert Durst has died, the ongoing investigation into those who helped him coverup her murder continues. On January 31, 2022, the 40th anniversary of Kathie’s murder, we will provide a further update. In the interim, please say a prayer for Kathie and his other victims."

Kathie Durst was 29 and in her final months of medical school when she was last seen. She and Robert Durst, who was 38 at the time, had been married nearly nine years and were living in South Salem, a community in Westchester. Her body was never found. At the request of her family, she was declared legally dead in 2017.

Kathie Durst had grown up in New Hyde Park, the youngest of five children. She graduated from New Hyde Park Memorial High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society. After graduation, she moved to Manhattan, where she worked as a dental assistant. She met Durst, at a party in New York in 1971.

With Michael O'Keeffe

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