Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Durst: Millionaire Murderer

On the Run

Robert Durst did not show up for his scheduled arraignment in Galveston. The slippery billionaire was long gone, and investigators had to pick up his trail and find him before he killed again. The autopsy performed on Morris Black revealed a particularly brutal murder. Black had died of a heart attack brought on by a vicious beating as evidenced by the extensive bruising on his chest, shoulders, back, left leg, and elbows. X-rays showed four breaks in his upper right arm. Cuts in his right and left index fingers indicated that the killer had tried to cut them off, most likely to eliminate fingerprint evidence. The killer had apparently changed his mind and opted for cutting off both arms as well as Black's legs and head. The head has yet to be recovered.

If Robert Durst was the murderer, as all the evidence seemed to indicate, then the police had a violent fugitive on their hands. Unlike shootings that can be done from a distance, Black's murder showed a cold-blooded killer who had no problem getting his hands dirty. Durst's history of erratic behavior and sudden rages made him a danger to the public. If he had killed Susan Berman nine months earlier, Durst's pattern of violence was escalating. He had to be found and apprehended before he lashed out again.

With all his wealth, Durst was not the average fugitive from justice. Durst maintained residences all across the country. A private investigator hired by the Galveston County Daily News discovered addresses for Durst, who sometimes used the alias "Robert Deal Jezowski," in Los Angeles and Pasadena, California; New York City and Maldenbridge, New York; and Coral Gables, Florida. Later investigations uncovered an apartment in San Francisco and a house in Trinidad, California, 300 miles north of San Francisco.

Phone records from yet another Durst residence in Dallas showed a series of calls received from an apartment in New Orleans. Investigators interviewed the landlord of that apartment building who said he had rented the unit to a man who dressed as a woman, who called himself "Diane Winn," and claimed to be mute. In the apartment the police found a wig, a video tape of a news program about Kathleen Durst's disappearance, and a silver medallion that had once belonged to Susan Berman's father Davie Berman. Susan had bequeathed it to Durst in her will. The investigators also found a set of keys to the Honda CRV that Durst had been driving when he was arrested in Galveston. The police had found a 9 mm handgun in the car at the time of his arrest. Susan Berman had been shot with a 9 mm.

Further investigation revealed that Durst had traveled to Mobile, Alabama, after he skipped bail in Galveston and rented a red Chevrolet Corsica under the name of Morris Black, using Black's driver's license and Medicare card. Durst had shaved his head and eyebrows by this time to look more like a 71-year-old. Now dressed as a woman, he went from Mobile to Plano, Texas, to visit a friend. Seven weeks passed before he was spotted again, this time in Pennsylvania.

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