Real estate heir Robert Durst sentenced to life imprisonment …

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By Daniel Trotta

Oct. 14 (Reuters) – A California judge on Thursday sentenced real estate heir Robert Durst to life in prison without parole for the 2000 murder of his best friend Susan Berman, in a long-delayed punishment for a man who has for the most part escaped the law over 39 years.

Durst, 78, in poor health, appeared dejected and slumped in his wheelchair during the hearing, unshaven and disheveled in his Los Angeles County jail uniform.

A much more confident and robust Durst had challenged the filmmakers in a 2015 documentary series when he appeared to inadvertently confess to murder on the microphone.

Durst, a multimillionaire whose grandfather founded one of New York’s leading real estate companies, has long been suspected but never charged in the disappearance of his wife Kathleen McCormack, who went missing in New York in 1982.

Berman survivors who spoke at the hearing begged Durst to reveal where he hid his wife’s body, saying it could give him a chance to redeem himself.

“He should let us know the whereabouts of Kathie’s body so her family can secure a shutdown,” said David Berman, the victim’s cousin.

Those close to Susan Berman have expressed remorse on her behalf, as evidence from the trial indicated that Berman had helped provide Durst with a false alibi on McCormack’s disappearance. Prosecutors alleged Durst killed Berman because he feared she would finally reveal what she knew to authorities.

Last month, a jury found Durst guilty of shooting 55-year-old Berman in the back of the head in his Beverly Hills home. The jury also found him guilty of the special circumstances of waiting and murdering a witness, which results in a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Sentencing Superior Court Judge Mark Windham also dismissed a defense request for a new trial, saying there was “overwhelming evidence of guilt” that has been proven repeatedly.

The trial took place six years after Durst’s apparent confession aired in the HBO television documentary series “The Jinx,” in which Durst, who still wore a live microphone after an interview, went into a bathroom and thought, “What the hell did I do? … Killed them all, of course.”

Durst was only on trial for Berman’s murder in California, but prosecutors argued he murdered three people: his missing wife, Berman and a neighbor in Texas who discovered his identity when Durst was in hiding from the law. Durst had previously been acquitted of the Texas case although he admitted to dismembering the man’s body.

The McCormack family urged prosecutors in Westchester County, New York, to prosecute Durst for his murder.

Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah reopened the case in May, shortly after taking office. His office declined to comment on Thursday. (Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Aurora Ellis and Cynthia Osterman)

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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