Monday, January 14, 2013

Infamous 'Person of Interest' in Unsolved Murder Case Spotted in Las Vegas

By Cathy Scott

New York real estate baron Robert Durst, who has long been a person of interest in the 2000 murder of Mob daughter Susan Berman and in the 1982 disappearance of his wife first Kathleen Durst, has been seen in Las Vegas on three occasions.

Sin City is where Durst's one-time best friend, Susan Berman, grew up Mob royalty as the spoiled daughter of Jewish mobster Davie Berman.

Durst was spotted by a patron just before Christmas at a Chinese restaurant on Paradise Road near the Las Vegas Strip, at a supermarket on the east side of the valley by a fellow shopper, and at another restaurant in the same vicinity, according to the restaurant's host.

He's tough to miss. Images of Durst wearing wire-rimmed glasses, with salt-and-pepper hair, have been broadcast on TruTV, Nancy Grace, Jane Velez Mitchell, CNN, and on all the national networks.

In 2000, as New York police reopened their investigation into the disappearance of Kathleen Durst, investigators had scheduled an interview with Susan Berman. Durst had reportedly fled New York for Galveston, where he lived in disguise as a mute woman.

Before Berman's police interview was to take place, she was found in her Beverly Hills bungalow, dead from a gunshot wound to the back of her head. Her murder remains unsolved, but police have publicly said Durst, who had been visiting San Francisco where he owns a house, was in California at the time of Berman's murder. LAPD homicide-robbery division publicly said Durst was a person of interest in Berman's case.

Back in Texas, Durst was wanted for questioning when the remains of Durst's next-door neighbor, senior citizen Morris Black, were discovered by a fisherman and his young son floating in Galveston Bay -- except for poor Morris Black's head, which never surfaced. Durst was eventually arrested and charged with Black's murder. In court, he admitted to accidentally fatally shooting Black, and then chopping up the body, bagging the remains and dumping them in Galveston Bay.

Durst hired the best of the best when it came to his defense. Dick DeGuerin, who was named one of the top 100 criminal attorneys in the nation, used a self-defense strategy in court. Jurors bought it; they acquitted Durst of murder in 2003. He pleaded guilty the following year to jumping bond and evidence tampering. In a plea agreement, he received a sentence of five years in prison. With credit for time service, Durst was paroled in 2005.

He bought a high-end, five-family townhouse in Harlem, New York, in 2006. News reports indicated that nearby residents were unhappy with having Durst as a neighbor, especially after a real estate agent told a newspaper that Durst had mentioned renting out part of the property and moving himself into one of the family units.

So far, records at the Clark County Assessors' Office don't indicate that Durst has purchased property in the Las Vegas Valley -- which begs the question: What is Robert Durst doing in Las Vegas?

A second edition of Scott's book, Murder of a Mafia Daughter: The Life and Tragic Death of Susan Berman, is scheduled for re-release in May 2013.