Los Angeles homicide detectives say they have developed new evidence in the murder of writer Susan Berman on Christmas Eve 2000. Based on the new information, the LAPD is looking to track down cross-dressing millionaire Robert Durst. “We would like to question him, we would love nothing more than to sit down with Durst and talk to him about this,” said LAPD homicide detective Paul Coulter, the lead investigator in the Berman case. “There’s nobody else we’re looking at.”
Berman, a close friend of Durst and a contributor to New York Magazine, was found on the floor of her rented Benedict Canyon home with a single 9mm gunshot wound to the back of her head. Investigators speculated from the outset that Berman was killed by somebody she knew, because there was no sign of forced entry or burglary. Coulter declined to specify the new evidence and said the LAPD has yet to obtain a warrant in the murder.
Friends of Berman suspect she was killed because she knew details about the disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Katherine McCormack Durst, an attractive blonde who vanished in 1982 without a trace from the couple’s Westchester home. (Their story inspired the 2010 thriller All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst.) Berman was the daughter of a known mobster, and other theories of the crime — so far dismissed by cops — relate to her father’s activities.
A Westchester County district attorney source — who declined to be identified to speak about an ongoing investigation — said Durst is also still the only suspect in Katherine’s disappearance. Authorities have declared her deceased, although her body has not been found.
Durst has denied involvement in both cases.
Coulter first questioned Durst after he was arrested in the 2001 Galveston, Texas, murder and dismemberment of his elderly neighbor Morris Black. Durst admitted to shooting Black in the head with a small caliber handgun after an argument turned violent. He also copped to dismembering the body and dumping the trash-bagged remains into Galveston Bay, but during the trial he claimed it was self-defense. He was acquitted but later served time for jumping bail.
Durst’s family owns the billion-dollar Durst Organization, which manages and owns some of New York’s most prestigious real estate, including the under-construction One World Trade Center. Durst is estranged from the family, who keep the troubled eccentric under surveillance. In the fall, he was spotted up in Harlem, but the LAPD is having trouble connecting with him. “He’s like the silver fox,” Coulter said. “He knows what’s going on.”
Related: Who Killed the Gangster’s Daughter? [NYM]