HBO's The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst is a documentary made by Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling that aims to unveil the dark secrets behind its subject. Durst made his fortune as the heir to a New York real estate empire but found notoriety in 1982 when people began questioning what happened to his first wife, Kathie Durst.
Her disappearance became even more confounding when Susan Berman, an alleged witness to Kathie's disappearance and a close friend of the Dursts, was killed in 2000. The purported proof of Durst's guilt in these crimes was compounded when his neighbor, Morris Black, was slain in 2001.
The 2019 Robert Durst trial, which focuses on his potential involvement in Berman's death, has brought the 2015 documentary back into the limelight and reignited questions about the involvement of the accused. Did Robert Durst confess to his crimes, which were caught by the documentary's microphones? Was he responsible for three deaths over the course of less than 20 years? And what happened to Kathie Durst?
Robert Durst's First Wife, Kathie, Disappeared In 1982 After Filing For Divorce
Robert and Kathie Durst's marriage allegedly began going downhill after Durst forced his wife to undergo an abortion in 1976. Family and friends claimed the marriage had deteriorated to nothing but yelling and physical abuse by 1981.
Witnesses saw Durst pull Kathie out of a Christmas family gathering by her hair, and records show that early the next year, she visited the hospital with injuries.
On the road to graduating from nursing school in June 1982, Kathie prepared to file for divorce before she went missing on January 31, 1982. Durst waited five days to report her disappearance, and Kathie's family maintains their belief that he ended her life.
Durst’s Brother Hired Bodyguards After Gaining Control Of The Family Company
Durst and his younger brother, Douglas, were never close, but the latter took special precautions when dealing with his sibling. In 1994, Douglas took over the family's real estate business, which infuriated Durst. At one point, Durst even urinated in his brother's wastebaskets in a passive-aggressive act of vengeance.
In depositions obtained by The Jinx filmmakers, Douglas also admitted he hired bodyguards to protect him from his estranged sibling after being named the successor of the business. The transcripts also detail negotiations that would result in a settlement of millions for Robert Durst if he removed himself from the rest of the family.
Susan Berman, Durst’s Close Friend, Was Slain After Durst Lent Her $50,000
Susan Berman and Durst met and became friends in college. Both came from privileged backgrounds - she was an underworld princess, and he was the son of a real estate magnate. Over the years, the two remained close, and Durst confided all of his deepest secrets to Berman.
After divorcing multiple husbands and exhausting her trust fund, Berman requested two payments of $25,000 from Durst to assist her sometime around November 2000.
After receiving the money, Berman allegedly told Durst that investigators contacted her about the disappearance of his wife, Kathie, in 1982. A mutual friend told Durst that Berman was only attempting to get more money from him. Shortly before Christmas of 2000, Berman was killed in her home by a shot to the head.
Durst Was Acquitted For Killing His Neighbor In Self-Defense
On September 28, 2001, Durst allegedly arrived at his apartment to find his neighbor, Morris Black, waiting for him and watching television. Believing Black had sinister intentions, Durst inquired about the whereabouts of the gun he kept in his oven.
Allegedly, Black then pointed the gun at Durst, prompting a struggle between the two men that culminated in Black's demise.
Although Durst admitted to then dismembering Black and spreading his remains across multiple locations, the jury determined Black's killing was a result of self-defense, and Durst was acquitted.