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Title: Durst,Kathleen missing January 31,1982
Description: New York


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Kathleen Durst



Above Images: Kathleen, circa 1982


Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

Missing Since: January 31, 1982 from New York City, New York
Classification: Endangered Missing
Age: 29 years old
Distinguishing Characteristics: Blonde hair. Kathleen has pierced ears. Her nickname is Kathy (alternatively spelled "Kathie"). Kathleen's maiden name is McCormack.
Clothing/Jewelry Description: Sweatpants.


Details of Disappearance

Kathleen was last seen by friends at a dinner party in Connecticut on January 31, 1982. She arrived unexpectedly at the home of Gilberte Najamy, who was her closest friend at the time. Najamy stated that Kathleen was visibly upset and that she was wearing sweatpants; Kathleen normally wore dressier clothing. She received a phone call from her husband, former real estate heir Robert Alan Durst, at approximately 7:00 p.m. and they apparently had an argument. Kathleen had spoken about her failing marriage during the course of the evening with Najamy. She told Najamy that she was returning to the couple's cottage on Hoyt Street in South Salem, New York. Najamy stated that Kathleen also asked her to investigate in case anything happened to her. She was afraid that her husband would harm her. Photos of Robert, the Dursts' former cottage and Najamy are posted below this case summary.
Robert told authorities that he drove Kathleen to the Katonah station to catch the 9:15 p.m. train to the New York City borough of Manhattan later that same evening. The couple owned two apartments in Manhattan at the time. He said they had argued and Kathleen had drunk an entire bottle of wine. If Kathleen did catch the 9:15 train, she would have had only forty minutes in between to consume the wine. Robert also claimed that he never saw his wife again, but he did speak to her over the phone after she supposedly arrived in Manhattan at approximately 11:00 p.m. Robert stated that the couple often lived apart and this arrangement was not unusual for their lifestyles.

Robert's version of events apparently changed when speaking with law enforcement officials shortly after his initial statement. He told investigators that he actually called Kathleen from a pay phone near their South Salem cottage while walking their dog that evening. The nearest phone is three miles away on a dirt road and a snowstorm hit the area that night. Robert also claimed that he stopped at a neighbor's home for a drink afterwards. The residents said they never saw him that evening, but they did observe a blue light shining through the basement windows of the Dursts' cottage the following night.

Najamy became concerned when Kathleen failed to meet her at The Lion's Gate in downtown New York City shortly after her disappearance. Najamy called authorities for several days in a row when she was unable to locate Kathleen. Robert filed a missing person's report on February 5. He claimed that he did not know Kathleen was missing until one of the deans from Albert Einstein College Of Medicine in the borough of the Bronx called him to report that Kathleen had not attended classes all week. She was enrolled in the school and only had three more months before her graduation. The dean stated that a woman identifying herself as Kathleen called the college on February 1 and said she was ill and could not attend class. No one is certain of the caller's true identity.

A doorman at the Dursts' Manhattan apartment on Riverside Drive claimed that he saw Kathleen at the residence on February 1, one day after her last confirmed sighting. The doorman later admitted that he only saw the woman from behind and could positively identify the person. The building's superintendent claimed that Robert threw out the majority of Kathleen's belongings shortly after she vanished. Robert also began searching for a new tenant for the couple's apartment. Robert denied the accusations.

Najamy broke into the South Salem cottage with her sister during the week Kathleen vanished. She called authorities from the home and told them that she entered the residence illegally, then requested an officer arrive at the scene. Investigators refused to dispatch anyone to the location. Najamy and her sister discovered that Kathleen's unopened mail was tossed into the garbage. Robert told Najamy that Kathleen was wearing brown suede boots and a cable-knit sweater when he dropped her off at the train station, but Najamy found the clothing inside Kathleen's closet. She and her sister also discovered trash bags stuffed into a floor-to-ceiling closet in the cottage's dining room. She said that they became frightened afterwards and left the residence.

As investigators delved into the case, they learned more about the Dursts' marriage than they realized. Kathleen was a former dental hygenist and nurse. She and Robert met in 1970, when Kathleen lived in an apartment building owned by Robert's family. They were married in 1972 and moved to Vermont, where they owned a health food store. Kathleen graduated from the nursing program at Western Connecticut State University in 1978, then enrolled in the Einstein College Of Medicine. She wanted to become a pediatrician.

Kathleen's friends told investigators that she wanted to have children, but Robert did not. They also claimed that Robert pressured Kathleen into having an abortion in the late 1970's. Robert was having an affair with Prudence Farrow, a producer and the sister of the actress Mia Farrow, when Kathleen disappeared. According to her friends and family, Kathleen decided to prepare the paperwork necessary for a divorce. Najamy stated that she believed Robert felt he was losing control of Kathleen at the time, since she was close to graduating from medical school and was able to support herself. He also claimed that she had affairs as well and that he did not believe the child she aborted was his baby.

Kathleen's loved ones said that she was treated at an emergency room in New York City in January 1982 after Robert allegedly abused her. Kathleen suffered head injuries and facial bruising, but refused to file charges against her husband. The incident occurred several weeks before she vanished.

Investigators discovered that Robert had placed several phone calls to the Durst Organization from Ship Bottom, New Jersey the week Kathleen disappeared. Some have speculated that Robert may have disposed of his wife's remains near the city. Najamy drove to the Dursts' cottage once a week to search through the trash and found some of Kathleen's belongings had been discarded, along with several of Robert's handwritten notes. Authorities asked Najamy not to discuss what was written on the notes, but she insinuated that it may have revolved around Kathleen's case.

Authorities did not conduct a thorough search of the Dursts' South Salem cottage during the 1982 investigation into Kathleen's disappearance. Detectives initially believed that Kathleen had simply disappeared in order to escape a bad marriage and no foul play was involved. That manner of thinking changed as the years progressed with no sign of Kathleen. In 1999, an informant announced that Kathleen was killed on the night of her disappearance in South Salem -- the location of the couple's cottage. An extensive search of the property was launched at that time and evidence was removed from the house. Authorities have not publicly announced their findings. Robert sold the cottage in 1990.

Najamy's home and the home of another of Kathleen's friends were broken into and ransacked sometime after Kathleen's disappearance. The two women had kept files relating to Kathleen's case and the files were among the items stolen from their residences. The burglaries remain unsolved and the stolen items were never recovered.

Another strange twist in Kathleen's disappearance emerged in December 2000, when author Susan Berman was murdered by a .22 caliber gunshot to the back of the head in Los Angeles, California. Berman had been a friend of both Kathleen and Robert in New York and the three frequently socialized together. Berman and Robert remained close friends throughout the years and she served as his unofficial public spokesperson during the 1982 investigation into Kathleen's case. New York authorities had planned to question Berman about any knowledge she may have had regarding Kathleen's disappearance at the time Berman was murdered. Her slaying remains unsolved. Berman was an extremely cautious, even paranoid person who nailed her windows shut and always locked her house. Authorities stated that there was no indication of forced entry at Berman's home and it is assumed she was murdered by someone she knew.

Writer Julie Baumgold, a friend to both Robert and Berman, said that Berman planned to support Robert's version of Kathleen's disappearance when she was questioned by authorities. Baumgold claimed that Robert referred to Berman as his "witness." California authorities stated that Robert has not been ruled out as a suspect in Berman's murder. Berman was an author who penned the books Lady Las Vegas and Easy Street, which detailed her family's experiences in the Las Vegas organized crime scene. She is the daughter of Davie Bugman, who was the partner of the gangster Bugsy Seigel and an associate of the Jewish Mafia boss Meyer Lansky. At the time of her murder, she was making a television documentary about Las Vegas. A photograph of Berman are posted below this case summary. Some people believe that Berman, who was protective of Robert, may have placed the phone call to the medical school dean and disguised herself as Kathleen in 1982.

The suggestion has been raised that Berman was murdered by organized crime figures as a result of her family connections, but investigators believe this possibility is remote.

Investigators are probing into the possibility that Robert may have been involved in Kathleen's case. He has always maintained his innocence. Kathleen was declared legally deceased in December 2001. Robert agreed to spilt Kathleen's $130,000 estate with her mother. A judge ordered that Robert's share of the estate be held in escrow in New York City until the outcome of the criminal investigation into Kathleen's disappearance was closed. The ruling does not affect law enforcement's continuing effort to resolve her case.

Robert was charged with the murder of Morris Black in October 2001. A photo of Black is posted below this case summary. Black's dismembered remains, all but the head, were discovered in late Septmember 2001. He lived in the same apartment complex as Robert in Galveston, Texas. Neighbors told investigators the two men frequently argued about noise levels in the building. Authorities discovered blood-covered boots, a drop cloth and a paring knife inside of Robert's efficiency. Blood splatters were also located on the floors, walls and in the kitchen sink. A .22 caliber pistol was discovered outside the apartment building in a garbage area, along with a spent shell casing. Neighbors stated that Robert was spotted loading trash bags into his vehicle immediately following Black's disappearance. Robert was arrested while driving in Texas and charged with the murder, along with marijuana possession. Investigators have been unable to determine a motive for the crime.

Authorities are working to see if Black and Berman's murders are connected to Kathleen's disappearance. No charges have been filed against anyone in either Kathleen or Berman's cases, although Berman was murdered with the same caliber handgun that was found in Robert's apartment's trash bin. One of the attorneys associated with Robert's trust fund told the media the bullets from his client's gun did not match the slugs recovered at Berman's murder scene, but authorities have refused to release their ballistics report on the weapon.

Several of Berman's friends claimed that she told them Robert confessed to Kathleen's murder. The reports began to surface in January 2002. Berman allegedly told a friend that she had vital information related to Kathleen's disappearance in December 2000; Berman was killed five days later. Additional friends substantiated the reports at Berman's memorial service in January 2001, claiming that Berman told them Robert was aware of her knowledge. Berman allegedly said that nothing could change Kathleen's fate, but that did not mean she did not care for Robert. Several of Berman's friends stated that her relationship with Robert began to deteriorate in late 2000 after he gave her $50,000 to pay off some of Berman's mounting debts. Authorities have not commented on the new information, but Najamy speculates that Berman was blackmailing Robert with information she may have had on Kathleen's disappearance.

Robert has been estranged from his family since the early 1990s, when his younger brother was handed control of the real estate properties. His relatives issued public pleas for Robert to turn himself into authorities in late 2001. It is not clear why Robert was living in a small apartment in Texas, as he still possesses considerable assets. Many of Robert's associates and family members said that he is mentally ill.

Robert married Debrah Lee Charatan in a secret ceremony in January 2001. The couple apparently did not tell any of their loved ones about the nupitals, as law enforcement officials discovered the marriage while attempting to track Robert's whereabouts later in the year. Charatan is the owner of New York-based Debrah Lee Charatan Realty Inc. She and Robert have reportedly dated since 1989 and once resided together in New York City. Officials do not know if the marriage is legal, as Kathleen was not declared legally deceased until December 2001, eleven months after Robert's marriage. Robert claimed he divorced Kathleen on his marriage license application with Charatan. There is no record of a divorce in public records.

Robert failed to appear at a Texas court hearing for Black's murder on October 17, 2001 and proceeded to evade authorities for nearly seven weeks until his capture in Pennsylvania on November 30, 2001. Robert was apprehended at a store in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania after attempting to steal a sandwich and bandages. He was held in a Pennsylvania jail under suicide watch after his capture. Robert was located only 80 miles from the New York City borough of Manhattan, the site of Kathleen's 1982 disappearance. He shaved his head and eyebrows while living life as a fugitive.

Investigators believe that Robert traveled from Texas to Louisiana in October 2001, where he rented an apartment for a brief period of time as a fugitive. Robert left his landlord a note and a videotape related to Kathleen's case when he vacated the apartment later in the month. Authorities also found a silver medallion inscribed with Berman's father's name inside Robert's Louisiana residence. Robert's friend Baumgold stated that Berman left the jewelry to Robert in her will.

Robert then returned to Texas, renting an apartment in Plano in early November 2001. Authorities think that he dressed as a woman while residing in Plano. Investigators received a tip that Robert was in Texas during this time, but they arrived at the location after his departure. It is theorized that Robert traveled to Maryland afterwards, where he allegedly stole a license plate from a car, and then to Hanover Township, Pennsylvania. In the 1960s Robert attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which is close to the site of his capture. He went to graduate school at the University of California at Los Angeles but left there without a degree.

Robert changed his plea in Black's murder from not guilty to self-defense/accident in March 2002 in Texas. The decision eliminated the need for DNA testing at the apartment crime scene. Robert claims that Black broke into his apartment and menaced him with a target pistol, and was accidentally shot while the two of them were struggling over the same. Robert's attorneys claim that he suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism, which they say caused his bizarre behavior after Black's death, i.e. dismembering the body. Robert was acquitted of murdering Black in November 2003. If he had been convicted, he could have gotten 99 years in prison. Jurors cited a lack of evidence as the reason for their verdict.

Robert pleaded guilty to two counts of bail-jumping and one count of abuse of a corpse after his acquittal. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but was released after only two weeks. Robert was arrested again in October 2004 for gun charges and was sentenced to nine months in prison, but was paroled in July 2005. His lawyer states that he is innocent of any wrongdoing in his wife's case and was so devastated by her disappearance that he still carries a photograph of her with him at all times.

Authorities have looked into the possibility that Robert was in the Eureka, California area in November 1997. Karen Mitchell disappeared during that time and her case remains unsolved. Robert has never been charged in connection with Mitchell's case and investigators are not certain if he was in the vicinity at the time.

Kathleen's case remains unsolved and foul play is suspected.



Above Images: Robert Durst, circa 2001

Left: Najamy; Center: Berman; Right: Black


Left: Kathleen and Robert, circa 1982;
Center: Robert's 1982 reward poster for Kathleen's disappearance;
Right: The Dursts' former cottage in South Salem, New York



Investigating Agency
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
New York City Police Department
646-610-6914



Source Information
New York City Police Department
The New York Journal News
The Los Angeles Times
America's Most Wanted
The New York Post
The New York Daily News
CrimeNews 2000
The Galveston Daily News
The New York Times
Talk Magazine
** The Web site and magazine are now defunct **
ABC News
The Houston Chronicle
The Crime Library
The Eureka Times-Standard
Court TV
The Advocate



Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004.

Last updated July 23, 2005.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2001/03/06/nyregion...g-after-19.html

REOPENED MYSTERY: A special report.; A Woman's Disappearance Is Still Baffling After 19 Years
By KEVIN FLYNN and CHARLES V. BAGLI
Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2001
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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink.Kathleen Durst, the wife of a wealthy Manhattan real estate executive, had been missing for 16 years, and her disappearance had already moved from headline news to history, when an unlikely turn of events in 1998 revived interest in her case.

It began with the arrest of a Connecticut man in a series of lewd acts in northern Westchester County. Several women and a girl of 14 had been accosted by a man who exposed himself in a car as they jogged, walked or rode horseback along isolated back roads.

The suspect was remorseful, according to court records. Later, in a bid for leniency, he said he had information that might help solve one of New York's enduring mysteries.

He had heard, he said, something about what had happened to Mrs. Durst in winter 1982.

That tip, by an improbable source in an unrelated case, promised more than it delivered, but it set off an expansive new look at a disappearance that has frustrated detectives for 19 years.

For months, the police, forensic experts, prosecutors and friends and relatives have been working again to try to figure out what happened to Mrs. Durst, a 29-year-old medical student known as Kathie who vanished just a few months short of earning her degree.

She had been reported missing by her husband, Robert Durst, now 57, a scion of a family that, like the Trumps and Rudins, has long held royal stature in New York's real estate world.

Mr. Durst told the police that he last saw his wife on a Sunday night boarding a train in Westchester, bound for their penthouse apartment in Manhattan. They had spent the weekend at their cottage in South Salem, he said, but his wife had headed back to the city, where medical school appointments awaited.

Mrs. Durst never made those appointments, and the mystery of the medical student with a gleaming smile who either abandoned or was denied a life of wealth and accomplishment captivated New York. Headlines trumpeted developments. Friends tried to retrace her steps. The police found three witnesses who said they thought they had seen or heard from Mrs. Durst in the 24 hours after she boarded the train.

But leads dwindled. Detectives retired. And though a photograph of Mrs. Durst remained on file with the New York Police Department Missing Persons Squad, the case languished.

Until Timothy Martin appeared.

After his arrest in the series of lewd acts, he told investigators a tale he said he had heard from others. Mrs. Durst, he said, never made it to Manhattan, according to people with direct knowledge of the investigation. She had been murdered, he said, and buried in Westchester.

Much of Mr. Martin's story did not check out. But the state police investigator who interviewed him, Joseph C. Becerra, and the Westchester district attorney, Jeanine F. Pirro, nonetheless decided that his story warranted a review of the Durst case.

''And when we had a look back at the file,'' Ms. Pirro recalled, ''we said: 'My, my. Isn't this interesting.' ''

Beginning with the odd facts and nagging questions found in the old case notes, investigators have explored gaps and discrepancies in the accounts of witnesses, and they have focused new scrutiny on whether Mr. Durst played a role in his wife's disappearance, law enforcement officials said.

Investigators have traveled coast to coast, talking to doormen in Manhattan and housekeepers in South Salem, and tracking leads not fully explored in 1982.

The last sightings of Mrs. Durst in Manhattan, which once served as the bedrock for police theories of her disappearance, now seem anything but ironclad, the officials said, and one of those eyewitnesses now says he was mistaken.

Investigators have also encountered intrigue and peculiarities. Two friends who had been given confidential financial records by Mrs. Durst for safekeeping, shortly before she vanished, have said the paperwork was stolen in burglaries.

And a close friend of Mr. Durst's, who had served as his spokeswoman after the disappearance, was found dead in a homicide in Los Angeles on Dec. 24, 2000, just as the police made plans to interview her.
But after more than a year of study, investigators still appear to have more questions than answers, conflicting evidence endures, and the city police still list the disappearance as a missing persons case.

''The fact that we are actively involved in this case means we are looking for some resolution,'' Ms. Pirro said. ''What that resolution is we still don't know.'

Mr. Durst has declined to be interviewed by investigators on the advice of his lawyer, according to people involved in the case. Neither he nor his lawyer, Joel Cohen, would comment for this article. But he has repeatedly said he had no role in his wife's disappearance.

Ms. Pirro does not call him a suspect. ''I am not ruling him in or ruling him out,'' she said. But people involved in the case said her office was intrigued by his official accounts and by evidence of turmoil in the Durst marriage.

The Hippie Life in Vermont

Robert and Kathie Durst met when she lived in a Durst-owned building in Manhattan. She was a bright and ambitious dental hygienist from Long Island, who went on to nursing and medical school. He was the athletic, droll, faintly reclusive oldest son of Seymour Durst, the patriarch of the Durst real estate empire. They married in 1972, moved to Vermont and opened a health food store called All Good Things.

''They started out as two people who really cared for each other, living a hippie life in Vermont,'' said Eleanor Schwank, a friend of Mrs. Durst's.

Seymour Durst, however, did not like the idea of his son as a shopkeeper, relatives say, and persuaded him to return to New York to help expand a portfolio that included some of the city's best-known skyscrapers.

By 1980, though, the marriage was dissolving, and Mrs. Durst hired a lawyer in 1981 and considered divorce. Court records in a subsequent proceeding over control of her estate show that she told friends and family that Robert Durst had beat her, and three weeks before she disappeared, she said he had punched her, forcing her to seek treatment.

Mr. Durst denied hitting his wife, asserting that she invented the assaults to increase a possible settlement. Longtime friends of the couple also said in interviews that they never saw Mrs. Durst with injuries.

But friends said it was clear that Mrs. Durst distrusted her husband. Two friends told investigators that she had given them confidential information about Durst holdings for safekeeping during her estrangement. Those files were later stolen from their homes in burglaries that occurred within a year of the disappearance.

One friend, Kathy Traystman, said the file was taken from her dresser drawer at the same time that a stereo and jewelry were stolen.

The other, Gilberta Najamy, said her file was stolen when two boxes of items relating to the disappearance were taken from her home in Newtown, Conn.

A Sudden Disappearance

On the evening of Sunday, Jan. 31, 1982, Mrs. Durst attended a party at Ms. Najamy's home. Ms. Najamy says she remembers that Mr. and Mrs. Durst argued on the phone that day, and then Mrs. Durst said something chilling before heading home in her Mercedes-Benz: ''Promise me, Gilberta, if something happens you will check it out. I am afraid of what Bobby will do.''

Mr. Durst told the police in 1982 that when his wife arrived that night at their stone cottage overlooking Lake Truesdale, they shared a meal. Then he drove her to the 9:15 p.m. train at the Katonah station. After returning, he said, he had a drink with neighbors, and later called his Riverside Drive apartment, and said he spoke to his wife while she was watching the late news on television.

Law enforcement officials say that investigators, then and now, developed serious questions about Mr. Durst's account. In 1982, when the police interviewed Mr. Durst, a state trooper noted that any calls to Manhattan would be reflected in phone records for the South Salem house. But Mr. Durst said he had actually called from a pay phone while walking his dog. Investigators were skeptical because, they said, the nearest pay phone was several miles away, and the night was rainy and cold.

Mrs. Durst's family said at the time that Mr. Durst gave them a different account. He told them, the family said, that he had placed the call to Manhattan from a restaurant in South Salem.
In a second discrepancy noted by investigators in 1982, the neighbors in South Salem did not remember having had a drink with Mr. Durst. They remembered, though, seeing a blue light they had never seen before emanating from an earthen crawl space under his house the next night.

But in 1982 there were indications that Mrs. Durst had made it to Manhattan. Eddie Lopez, her building's elevator operator, told the police that he saw Mrs. Durst that night when he escorted a man to her apartment. She opened the door in her nightgown to let the man in, he said. The building superintendent also told the police he thought he had seen Mrs. Durst walking along West 76th Street the next morning.

''At the time, one or two of them were believable that they had seen her,'' said Michael Struk, the detective, now retired, who led the 1982 investigation.

Also, Albert Kuperman, a dean at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, which Mrs. Durst attended, told the police in 1982 that he had spoken to her on the phone that Monday when she called in sick.

Consequently, detectives said they were confident Mrs. Durst had disappeared from Manhattan, not Westchester. So they never searched the South Salem house, a decision that some of Mrs. Durst's friends and relatives now view as a glaring oversight. ''There were always a lot of unanswered questions, but we had to move on because I did not have the luxury of working one case,'' said Mr. Struk, who has helped in the current investigation.

Perhaps the most significant development in the current investigation is the erosion of confidence in those eyewitness identifications, law enforcement officials said. The elevator operator now says he does not think it was Mrs. Durst he saw. And the superintendent, law enforcement officials say, only saw Mrs. Durst from behind and largely based his identification on his recognition of her beige coat.

Dr. Kuperman, though, said in a recent interview that he still thought that the woman who called him was Mrs. Durst. ''It never occurred to me that it wasn't her,'' he said.

The Investigation Begins

Mr. Durst reported his wife missing at the 20th Precinct headquarters in Manhattan on Feb. 5, five days after he said he had seen her boarding the train. The case was assigned to Detective Struk, who had recently solved the murder of a violinist at the Metropolitan Opera.

Mr. Durst said he did not get in touch with the police earlier because occasionally the couple went days without contact. But investigators, both then and now, have tried to track how he spent that time.

Law enforcement officials said they were particularly interested in collect calls that were placed to Mr. Durst's office during this time from pay phones at the Jersey Shore, outside a self-service laundry and a motel. Mr. Durst was known to call his office collect, but investigators have not determined who placed those calls or whether Mr. Durst had gone to the shore.

In the days after his wife vanished, Mr. Durst posted a reward for help in finding her. Many friends recall him as anguished, and said they never considered that he might have had a role in her disappearance. ''Bobby didn't kill Kathie,'' said Nick Chavin, a close friend. ''He loved her.''

At times, friends recalled, Mr. Durst speculated that his wife, an occasional cocaine user, might have been killed by a drug dealer. At one point, his lawyer took cocaine to detectives, saying it had been found in the apartment. At other times, as in a 1982 newspaper interview, Mr. Durst said his wife, unhappy with her life, might have just run away. ''I think Kathie's alive,'' he said.

But the Family Differs

Mrs. Durst's family and friends had a darker view. In 1983, during a surrogate proceeding, her sister, Mary Hughes, said in an affidavit, ''that the questionable circumstances surrounding my sister's disappearance and her husband's behavior and reactions following this event strongly suggest that my sister may have been murdered, and that Robert Durst is either directly responsible for her death or privy to information concerning her disappearance.''

She contended that Mr. Durst had refused to take a police lie detector test and had quickly disposed of some of his wife's possessions.

Mr. Durst's lawyer branded the allegations fiction. In his own affidavit, Mr. Durst said: ''I am not privy to any information concerning Kathie's disappearance which I have not disclosed to Kathie's family, to the Police Department and to those who, at my own expense, I have engaged to investigate her disappearance.''

A decade later, Mr. Durst abruptly left the family business when it became clear that his younger brother, Douglas, would become the head of the company. He then largely dropped out of sight, although he keeps homes in New York and California.

Kathie Durst's family was overjoyed last year when investigators began taking another look at the case. ''This whole issue has been just below the surface for 20 years,'' said her brother, James McCormack.

Investigators with dogs have now repeatedly searched the South Salem house, and they removed a piece of an interior wall for testing. The searches were prompted by Mr. Martin's account, but investigators have declined to discuss the results in detail. Mr. Martin, who officials said was related by marriage to a former Durst housekeeper, ultimately pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child. He could not be reached for comment. Mr. Becerra would not comment on the matter.

Investigators have also refused to discuss why they sought to question Susan Berman, the friend of Mr. Durst's who was found murdered in her Los Angeles home just as they made plans to interview her. The murder remains unsolved, but Los Angeles detectives have said they do not see a connection between the cases. New York investigators have gone there to seek leads in their case and have reviewed information obtained from Ms. Berman's computer.

After 19 years, Ms. Pirro said investigators are still determined to solve the mystery. ''This woman was a vibrant young medical student,'' she said. ''For her to disappear off the face of the earth just doesn't make any sense.''

Photos: Above, Kathleen McCormack Durst and her husband, Robert Durst, in 1975. Mrs. Durst had attended a party at the home of her friend Gilberta Najamy, right, on the night she disappeared. (Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times); Jeanine F. Pirro, the Westchester district attorney. (Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times)(pg. B5); Investigations into the 1982 disappearance of Kathleen Durst, the wife of a wealthy Manhattan executive, were reopened in 1998. Robert Durst said he last saw his wife boarding a train in Westchester after they spent the weekend at their South Salem house. (Richard L. Harbus for The New York Times)(pg. B1)

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monkalup - July 20, 2009 01:12 AM (GMT)
Others, however, are wondering about Berman's connection to a different crime based headline. At the time of her death, New York State police and the Westchester County district attorney's office had been intending to question Berman as part of their criminal investigation into the 1982 disappearance of Kathleen Durst, a 29 year old medical student and the wife of New York real estate heir Robert Durst. Berman and Robert Durst, whose father Seymour's Manhattan real estate company, the Durst Organization, has been valued at $600 million, were close friends; the skyscraper scion walked his acrophobic friend down the aisle at her wedding.

Robert Durst was never charged in his wife's disappearance, but suspicions swirled around him: According to a story in People this past December, Kathie Durst had been hospitalized at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx with bruises on her face -- suffered, she claimed, in an altercation with Durst -- three weeks before her disappearance. (At no time during the initial investigation was Robert Durst considered a serious suspect, according to the People report. In a sworn affidavit, he denied that he had ever threatened or assaulted his wife ''or caused her any physical harm or abuse.'')

Over the past 19 years, the case had turned cold. But acting on new leads, police reopened the file just over a year ago, and have since searched the lakeside house in South Salem (which Durst sold eight years after Kathie disappeared) and dragged the lake. Robert Durst declined to speak with EW about either the Berman or the Kathleen Durst cases. Durst's brother, Douglas, who runs the Durst Organization, also declined to comment; at the time of the case's reopening, Douglas offered only a simple statement to the press: ''Robert Durst continues to maintain his innocence.''

When the New York State police and the office of Westchester district attorney Jeanine Pirro tried to contact Berman for questioning about the disappearance of Kathleen Durst -- neither they nor the LAPD will specify the dates -- they were surprised at the news of Berman's death. But her link to the Durst case remains a mystery. Pirro says only that New York police were in the process of reinterviewing every friend of the Dursts who might know something about Kathleen's disappearance. ''It certainly is disappointing that we weren't able to interview a witness who might be able to provide information to us,'' says Pirro, who says that a member of her staff traveled to L.A. after learning of Berman's murder. ''We are assisting L.A. authorities however we can.''

Meanwhile, L.A. police continue to work the Berman case on their own. ''We are not going to comment on who is or is not a suspect,'' says Lieut. Clay Farrell of LAPD's Robbery Homicide Division. ''The specifics of who we've interviewed and who is or is not an interviewee are part of the investigation. We're trying to catch a killer here, so I hope you'll understand that there are things I cannot talk about.'' But those who are laboring to crack the ending to this film noir thriller do so at a distinct disadvantage: The one screenwriter who could have most helped them is dead.
http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,98725,00.html

monkalup - July 20, 2009 01:19 AM (GMT)
http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/2..._of_missin.html
DURST TO SNAG PART OF MISSING WIFE'S ESTATE
By JOHN MARZULLI DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Tuesday, November 14th 2000, 2:15AM

Kathleen Durst's $130,000 estate is about to be distributed between her mother and her wealthy husband, who is under suspicion in her disappearance 18 years ago, the Daily News has learned.

The agreement, expected to be approved in Manhattan Surrogate's Court in several weeks, provides real estate scion Robert Durst with $25,000 off the top, and divides the remainder equally between Durst and Catherine McCormack, his mother-in-law, according to sources close to the case.

"There is no determination as to how [Kathleen Durst] died," said one source familiar with the agreement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Court documents reviewed by The News indicate that Kathleen Durst's mother and sister believe that Robert Durst was possibly responsible directly or indirectly for her death.

The News reported Saturday that state police investigators recently reopened the Durst case, focusing on the couple's cottage on a lake in Westchester County. Police have scoured the lake and removed a portion of a wall in a bedroom where a housekeeper recalled seeing a stain around the time Kathleen Durst disappeared.

At first, it was believed she was last seen at her upper West Side penthouse. Robert Durst reported her missing on Feb. 4, 1982, telling cops that he had dropped her off on the night of Jan. 31 at the Metro-North train station near their cottage.

Experts said that the civil court declaration of death, by which Kathleen Durst's estate will be distributed, will have no impact on a criminal probe. "For any criminal prosecution, death and cause of death has to be independently established," said Richard Uviller, a professor at Columbia University Law School.

An agreement was close in 1999, but Robert Durst backed out, claiming there might be additional assets of his wife that were not located.

His attorney in the civil matter, retired Appellate Court Judge Theodore Kupferman, said Durst is now satisfied with the agreement.

"All we wanted to do was have closure on this thing from the financial point of view," Kupferman said yesterday. "How [Robert Durst] feels on the personal relationship, I can't speak for."

In documents filed in 1982 in connection with the estate fight, Kathleen Durst's sister asserted: "My sister may have been murdered and . . . Robert Durst is either directly responsible for her death or privy to information concerning her disappearance which he has concealed from the police."

Catherine McCormack filed her own affidavit that year in support of a petition to be named temporary administrator of her daughter's estate.

McCormack said her daughter had told her that she [Kathleen Durst] suspected that Robert Durst had forged her signature on some stock transfers in order to sell them.

"I feel that there is a serious danger that [Kathleen Durst's] assets will be mismanaged or diverted if Mr. Durst is designated temporary administrator," McCormack charged in the affidavit.

Robert Durst's attorney in 1983, Millard Midonick, denied the allegations in court papers.

Both sides subsequently agreed to the appointment of a temporary administrator, pending settlement of the dispute.




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