Two forensic handwriting experts working with Los Angeles police concluded that New York City real estate heir Robert Durst wrote an anonymous letter tipping authorities about the killing of his friend and confidant, Susan Berman, according to a search warrant released Wednesday.
The opinions of the experts could be the key to the murder charge filed Monday against Durst, 71, who is accused of killing the 55-year-old Berman on Dec. 22 or 23, 2000.
In December 2000, the Beverly Hills Police Department received an anonymous letter, postmarked Dec. 23, 2000, in Marina del Rey. The letter was addressed to “Beverley Hills Police” and the note inside said “1527 Benedict Canyon,” along with the word “cadaver.”
According to an affidavit in support of a search warrant filed in Houston — where authorities on Tuesday searched Durst’s home — initial exams of the anonymous note at the time indicated alternatively it may have been penned by Durst or Nyle Brenner, who was Berman’s manager and friend.
In November, however, LAPD cold-case detectives met with forensic document examiner Lloyd Cunningham, who “identified Robert Durst as the author of the questioned documents and eliminated Nyle Brenner as the author of the cadaver letter and note,” according to the affidavit.
Detectives then presented the documents and Cunningham’s report to another expert, Linton Mohammed, who “agreed with Cunningham’s conclusions and also identified Robert Durst and eliminated Nyle Brenner … as the author of the cadaver letter and envelope.”
Police suspect Durst killed Berman because she was about to be interviewed by New York authorities who were taking a fresh look at the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s wife Kathleen “Kathie” McCormack Durst.
Durst was arrested Saturday at a JW Marriott hotel in New Orleans’ French Quarter. According to the Houston affidavit, Durst had about $42,630 in cash, mostly in “$100 bills that were packed in small envelopes.” They also found a piece of paper labeled “UPS” and a series of numbers that Durst said “was a tracking number for a shipment of a large sum of cash monies.”
Durst also had a .38-caliber revolver, marijuana, a phony Texas ID in the name “Everette Ward” and a “rubber/latex mask — which would cover an individual’s head and neck,” according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also notes that LAPD detectives believe Durst has a net worth of about $100 million, and that he had the “means to flee outside of the United States.” Detectives also said Durst had made almost daily withdrawals of $9,000 from his accounts beginning in October of 2014 and continuing for about 35 days.
During the search of Durst’s Houston property, detectives seized numerous CDs, bank statements, credit cards, checks, cell phones, boxes of court documents and three books, including hard-cover and paperback copies of “A Deadly Secret,” which chronicles the disappearance of Kathie Durst.
Durst’s Saturday arrest came hours before the airing of the final episode of HBO’s documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” which examined the disappearance of his wife in 1982, Berman’s execution-style killing and the slaying and dismemberment of Durst’s neighbor in Galveston, Texas.
On the documentary series finale, which aired Sunday, Durst was caught on microphone saying to himself, “Killed them all, of course.”
He also was caught saying, “There it is, you’re caught,” and “What a disaster.”
Durst was also confronted in the episode with the anonymous letter to police, and another letter he wrote to Berman that also contained the misspelling “Beverley.”
Durst’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, insisted Tuesday that his client did not kill 55-year-old Susan Berman in late December 2000.
“Bob Durst didn’t kill Susan Berman and he doesn’t know who did,” he said.
He said the warrant for Durst’s arrest in connection with the murder was issued “because of a television show and not because of facts.”
Meanwhile, Durst was transferred to an Orleans Parish jail for mentally ill inmates, with sheriff’s officials saying he is suicidal.
Durst’s name also surfaced Wednesday in connection with the 1997 disappearance of a teenage girl in Eureka. Eureka police Capt. Steve Watson told the Los Angeles Times that investigators want to know what information Durst might have regarding Karen Mitchell’s disappearance, although Durst has not been named a suspect or a person of interest.
In addition to being a suspect in Kathie McCormack’s disappearance and the death of Berman, Durst has admitted to killing and dismembering Morris Black, a man who lived across from him in Galveston, Texas, where Durst fled while authorities were trying to make a case against him in both cases.
Durst went on trial in Black’s death in 2003 — after a nationwide manhunt located him in Pennsylvania — but he was acquitted by a jury that deemed Black’s killing was an act of self-defense.
Robert Durst has been long estranged from his real-estate-rich family, which is best known for a series of New York City skyscrapers — including an investment in the World Trade Center. Durst split with the family when his younger brother was placed in charge of the family business, leading to a drawn- out legal battle.
According to various media reports, Robert Durst ultimately reached a settlement under which the family paid him $60 million to $65 million.
— City News Service
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