Updated at 11:20 a.m., March 23, 2015
New York real estate scion Robert Durst was ordered to remain jailed without bail in New Orleans, where he has been booked on suspicion of weapon and drug violations, leaving it unclear when he might be returned to Los Angeles to face a murder charge.
Durst’s attorney, Richard DeGuerin, questioned the validity of the warrants used to arrest Durst on March 14 and search his hotel room in New Orleans. A New Orleans judge, however, ruled him a flight risk.
Durst is charged with the execution-style shooting death of his close friend, Susan Berman, 55, whose body was found on Christmas Eve of 2000 in her Benedict Canyon home. According to prosecutors, the actual killing occurred on or between Dec. 22-23.
Authorities suspect Durst killed Berman because prosecutors in New York’s Westchester County were about to interview her about the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen “Kathie” McCormack Durst, who was in the process of divorcing him.
Following his arrest on the Los Angeles arrest warrant, officials in Louisiana booked him on suspicion of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of a weapon with a controlled substance — marijuana.
According to a search warrant affidavit, investigators found a .38- caliber revolver and marijuana in his hotel room.
DeGuerin, Durst’s Houston-based attorney, alleged over the weekend that a Los Angeles prosecutor met with his client in Louisiana without his permission before he arrived to represent him.
The attorney said he arrived in New Orleans the day after Durst’s March 14 arrest and ensured that Orleans Parish sheriff’s officials who had Durst in custody cleared all of his visitors with the defense team first. But he said a Los Angeles prosecutor had already met with Durst for about three hours.
Durst previously waived his right to an extradition hearing, and DeGuerin said he was anxious to return to Los Angeles to face the murder charge. But the possibility of local charges in New Orleans has made it unclear when Durst might be moved.
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.
Durst’s 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 killing of Black.
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 could face the death penalty if he is found guilty of the Berman slaying. According to court papers, Los Angeles police detectives claim two handwriting experts have linked Durst to an anonymous letter alerting authorities to a “cadaver” at Berman’s home.
—City News Service
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