Real estate scion and accused murderer Robert Durst testified on Thursday that he was “very scared” when then-Westchester County, New York District Attorney Jeanine Pirro announced in October 2000 that she planned to reopen her investigation into the disappearance of his wife Kathie.
“I’m going to get Robert Durst one way or another,” Pirro said, recalled Durst.
Pirro, who later became a die-hard Trump supporter and Fox News personality, “was making a big political fuss about reopening the investigation into the missing person known as Kathie Durst,” according to Durst.
Durst said he panicked and flew to Dallas, where he still had an apartment. He then bought a wig in Dallas and drove to Galveston, where he “rented out a cheap apartment, and planned on hiding out there.”
“I was hiding from Jeanine Pirro,” Durst replied to a question from defense attorney Dick DeGuerin. He went online every few days to search for news about Pirro and see if his name was mentioned, Durst explained. He said he used a computer at a nearby public library so he couldn’t be tracked down.
It was Durst’s third day of testimony in his own defense, trying to convince a Los Angeles jury that he did not kill his longtime friend and unofficial publicist Susan Berman in 2000 with a gunshot to the back of the head.
Prosecutors believe Durst, now 78, killed Kathie in 1982, and that Berman helped Durst cover up the crime by pretending to be Kathie when she called out sick to the dean at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the days after her murder. Durst testified he told Berman on Feb. 6 about Kathie having gone missing, two days after he first met with police. Prosecutors allege Durst killed Berman, 55, so she couldn’t incriminate him to police about Kathie’s mysterious disappearance.
Earlier in his testimony, Durst denied killing Berman and said he didn’t know who did. Durst fled to Galveston, Texas, after Berman’s death. In 2001, Durst was accused of murdering his neighbor, 71-year-old Morris Black. Prosecutors said Durst killed Black when Black realized who Durst was.
Before Durst’s trial was temporarily postponed in July 2020 due to COVID-19 protocols, prosecutors played video for the jury of a 2015 jailhouse interview with Durst, during which Durst described in detail how he dismembered Black’s corpse: “I’ve been told, um, that a surgeon would cut up a body the same way you do a chicken. You go into the joint. And you, you cut around the joint. You get rid of all the ligaments. And then, the thing comes out. You’re not gonna try to cut through the goddamned bone.”
A jury in 2015 acquitted Durst in Black’s killing, which Durst never denied but claimed he’d done in self-defense. Kathie Durst’s body has never been found.
Laying out his side of the story in chronological order on Thursday, Durst testified about the weekend Kathie disappeared. He said Kathie had been using a lot of cocaine, and that she was angry with Durst because it was raining.
“I assured her I had nothing to do with the rain,” he said.
Durst says Kathie wanted to drive to the city that night. He didn't think she was in any condition to drive, and tried to get the car keys out of her coat pocket. Kathie dove for the coat at the same time, and the keys fell out onto the floor. Durst said he then went outside and disconnected one of the battery cables under the hood of their Mercedes, rendering it inoperable. When he went back inside, Kathie was just getting out of the shower, Durst testified.
“I made a lame effort to convince her to wait until morning,” said Durst. “I didn’t expect to win the argument. If she wanted to take the train I couldn’t think of any reason for her not to take the train.”
Kathie was no longer angry at Durst after she took a shower, and she was in “city clothes,” he said.
Durst drove Kathie to the train station, sat in the car and waited for the train, which arrived about 10 minutes later, he said.
“That’s the last time I saw Kathie,” Durst said.
After Kathie vanished, Durst’s developer father Seymour discouraged him from going to the police, Durst testified. Durst called the local precinct, but said the woman he spoke to said Kathie’s disappearance would have to be reported in person. Durst then picked up his and Kathie’s dog from the vet, and spent the night at his home in South Salem, New York, he said.