Robert Durst. Photo by Courtesy of HBO
Robert Durst. Photo by Courtesy of HBO


Susan Berman, who was killed in Benedict Canyon in 2000, allegedly by Robert Durst, admitted that she once called Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York at Durst’s request and pretended to be the real estate heir’s presumed-dead wife, one of Berman’s close friends testified Wednesday.

The testimony from film producer Lynda Obst could be a critical piece of evidence for prosecutors, who contend Durst killed Berman because police in New York were about to interview her in a renewed investigation into the 1982 disappearance of Kathleen “Kathie” Durst, and Durst feared that Berman knew too much.

Obst, whose name had not been publicly released as a witness in the case until she was called to testify during a pretrial hearing Wednesday, said she and Berman worked closely together and were working to develop Berman’s memoir “Easy Street” into a movie.

Obst testified that Berman “once told me she called Albert Einstein medical center for (Durst) and said she was Kathie.”

Her testimony dove-tails with that given in February by a now-85-year- old doctor at the college who said he received a call on Feb. 1, 1982, from a woman claiming to be Kathie Durst, but he couldn’t say positively it was actually Durst on the line. The woman on the phone said she was suffering from “gastrointestinal distress” and would not show up at the school that day to begin a medical clerkship, Dr. Albert Kuperman said in February.

Kathie Durst went missing Jan. 31, 1982.

Obst said she never understood the significance Berman’s comment until 2015, when she watched an episode of the HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” that talked about the mysterious phone call to the medical school. She said her heart immediately began to race and she began feeling terrified, because she “assumed that everyone knew” Berman was the one who made the phone call.

“I was afraid I might have important information,” Obst said.

She consulted with an attorney and others who convinced her to contact Los Angeles County prosecutors, Obst said.

Obst testified that after learning of Berman’s murder by reading a newspaper, she immediately suspected Durst.

“I find the defendant a very scary person,” Obst said.

Asked why, she responded, “He kills witnesses.”

Under cross-examination, Obst concede that she and Berman had a falling out a few years before she died. Asked by defense attorney Dick DeGuerin if they ever reconciled, Obst said, “Sadly, no.”

She said there was some speculation among Berman’s friends that she was being paid “protection” money by Durst to keep her quiet about what she knew.

Obst was the latest witness called to testify early in the pending case against Durst, in case they are not available to appear at a preliminary hearing or trial.

The prosecution has raised concerns that some witnesses might be killed before they can testify.

Defense attorneys have objected to the idea that their 74-year-old client — who was in a wheelchair but is now up and walking — could be a threat to anyone, particularly since allegations of wrongdoing against him suggest he has always acted alone.

The murder charge against Durst includes the special circumstance allegation of murder of a witness and murder while lying in wait, along with gun use allegations. However, the District Attorney’s Office does not plan to seek the death penalty.

Durst has denied any involvement in Berman’s killing.

On Tuesday, another friend of Berman’s, Miriam Barnes, testified that Berman called her shortly after Kathie Durst’s disappearance and she went to meet with her.

“She said, `I’m going to tell you something but I need you not to ask me any questions,”‘ Barnes said of Berman.

“She said, `I did something today … I did it for Bobby.’ … She was very nervous,” Barnes testified.

Berman then told her, “If anything ever happens to me, Bobby did it,” Barnes said.

Durst was arrested March 14, 2015, in a New Orleans hotel room, hours before the airing of the final episode of the HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” which examined the disappearance of his wife in 1982 and the killings of Berman and the 2001 dismemberment murder of Durst’s Texas neighbor, Morris Black. Durst was tried but acquitted of Black’s murder.

On the documentary series finale, which aired the day after his arrest, Durst was caught on microphone saying to himself, “Killed them all, of course.” He also was caught on microphone saying, “There it is, you’re caught,” and “What a disaster.”

During a New Orleans jailhouse interview with Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, Durst said he was “on meth” while the documentary was being filmed and that he didn’t heed his attorneys’ advice not to be interviewed for the series.

He has been long estranged from his real-estate-rich family, known for ownership of 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, Durst ultimately reached a settlement under which the family paid him $60 million to $65 million.

— City News Service 

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