New York real estate heir and convicted murderer Robert Durst has died at the age of 78 just months after being sent to prison for the rest of his life—an abrupt end for a man who spent the better part of his life steeped in controversy and intrigue.
“Mr. Durst passed away early this morning while in the custody of the California Department of Corrections,” his lawyer Chip Lewis confirmed to The Daily Beast. “We understand that his death was due to natural causes associated with the litany of medical issues we had repeatedly reported to the court over the last couple of years. We will issue no further statements and will not entertain any questions out of respect.”
Durst died of cardiac arrest at San Joaquin General Hospital in Stockton, Calif., The New York Times first reported. He was serving his life sentence at the California Health Care Facility.
“Bob lived a sad, painful, and tragic life. We hope his death brings some closure to those he hurt,” Douglas Durst, who testified against his brother during his murder trial, said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
The disgraced mogul began his life in 1943 with all the benefits and luxury of being born with a silver spoon. The eldest son of New York City real-estate tycoon Seymour Durst, he was at one point in line to take the throne at the Durst Organization. But he veered off on a very different course, one that would ultimately see him accused in three different murders.
By the time he reached 40, he was under scrutiny in the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen. Less than twenty years later, he was arrested in connection with the murder and dismemberment of a neighbor. And in 2015, investigators pointed the finger at him in the murder that would ultimately see him sent to the slammer for life: the killing of his best friend Susan Berman, who was found slain in her home in December 2000, just days before she was due to speak with New York investigators about the disappearance of Kathleen.
“Although Robert Durst has died, the ongoing investigation into those who helped him cover up her murder continues,” Robert Adams, an attorney for Kathie’s family, said in a statement. “On January 31, 2022, the 40th anniversary of Kathie’s murder, we will provide a further update.”
Durst’s death on Monday came just a couple of months after he received a life sentence after being convicted of Berman’s murder in mid-September. Berman was slated to admit to authorities that she had provided Durst a false alibi in the 1982 disappearance of his first wife Kathie. Durst shot Berman point-blank in the back of her head in her home in 2000. He later penned an anonymous letter to police with the word “cadaver” and Berman’s address on it. Kathie’s body has never been found, and her case remains open, though she has been declared legally dead.
In October, Durst was admitted to LAC+USC Medical Center and placed on a ventilator. He had tested positive for COVID-19, according to his lawyer, despite being fully vaccinated against the virus.
Durst had battled a number of health problems during his trial, which was already delayed more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and his lawyers repeatedly argued he was too sick to stand for the proceedings in the first place. A judge disagreed, and Durst himself ended up giving hours of testimony, including the remarkable admission that he would have lied if he had taken Berman’s life. He was in quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure when the jury reached its verdict, and he faced his sentencing hearing from a wheelchair.
“The doctor we had examine him twice said the trial would be very dangerous to his health, and now he’s got COVID,” his lawyer Dick DeGuerin said at the time of his client’s hospitalization.
Durst’s life, full of bizarre and dark turns, was the subject of the 2015 HBO documentary The Jinx. During filming, Durst said into a hot mic, “killed them all, of course.” He was serving a seven-year sentence on a firearms charge as he was arrested and tried for Berman’s murder. He was acquitted of murdering a neighbor, Morris Black, in 2003, whom Durst said he killed in self-defense. The heir had absconded from New York City to Texas after Kathie’s disappearance and was living in disguise when Black discovered his identity. Durst diced up Black’s body and dumped it into the sea.