NEW YORK (AP/CBSLA) — Just one week after being sentenced to life in prison for the Los Angeles slaying of his longtime friend Susan Berman, authorities confirmed Friday that millionaire real estate heir Robert Durst has been charged in New York City with the death of his former wife, Kathie Durst, who vanished in 1982.
A state police investigator filed a criminal complaint on Tuesday at a town court in Lewisboro, New York, accusing the 78-year-old Durst of second-degree murder.
The action wasn’t announced at the time by any law enforcement officials or Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah, who recently convened a grand jury to consider charges.
The grand was empaneled last week and has started hearing witness testimony, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press this week. The person was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and did so on condition of anonymity.
Kathie Durst was 29 when she vanished on Jan. 31, 1982. Her body was never found. At the request of her family, she was declared legally dead in 2017. Robert Durst divorced Kathie Durst in 1990 citing abandonment.
He was not charged in her disappearance until this week despite several efforts over the years to close the case. Authorities reopened the case in 1999, searching a lake and the couple’s home.
Meanwhile, after a trial which lasted four months, Durst was convicted Sept. 17 by an L.A. County jury of first-degree murder in the Dec. 23, 2000, shooting death of Susan Berman in her Benedict Canyon home. On Oct. 14, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Durst, who has numerous medical issues, sat in a wheelchair during much of the sentencing hearing and in the days since has been hospitalized on a ventilator after testing positive for COVID-19, one of his lawyers said.
Prosecutors argued that Durst shot Berman and then his neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas, nine months later — in the head because each of them had damaging information against him and feared they would speak to authorities after a re-investigation was launched into Kathy Durst’s disappearance.
Durst has denied any involvement in his first wife’s disappearance, and he was acquitted in Texas of Black’s murder after testifying that the gun went off during a struggle over the weapon.
Durst has long been estranged from his real estate-rich family, which is known for ownership of a series of New York City skyscrapers including an investment in the World Trade Center. He split with the family when his younger brother was placed in charge of the family business, leading to a drawn-out legal battle and ultimately reached a settlement in which the family reportedly paid him $60 million to $65 million.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.)