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Who was Robert Durst? The bizarre true story behind Max's docuseries 'The Jinx'

The chilling story of real estate heir and convicted killer Robert Durst continues in Season Two of Max's "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst."
/ Source: TODAY

The bizarre life story of New York real estate heir and convicted murderer Robert Durst will continue to be told in Season Two of the Emmy-winning docuseries "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst," premiering April 21 on Max.

As viewers learned in Season One of the 2015 series, directed by Andrew Jarecki, the wealthy Manhattanite evaded justice for decades following a trio of gruesome events in his life —  the disappearance of his first wife, Kathie Durst, the execution-style killing of his close friend Susan Berman and the murder and dismemberment of his elderly Texas neighbor, Morris Black.

In the final episode of the show's first season, Durst mades a chilling off-camera confession while talking to himself, muttering under his breath that he "killed them all, of course," while unaware that his microphone was still recording him.

Season Two of "The Jinx" covers what happened to Durst following that confession, beginning with his 2015 arrest for killing Berman, his explosive trial in Beverly Hills that resulted in a conviction, and, after a near 40-year wait, an indictment for the murder of Kathie Durst.

The new season relies on footage from Durst's murder trial, audio recordings of his prison phone calls and interviews with key players and witnesses, some of whom have never come forward until now.

Read on to learn the true story about Robert Durst's life, his grisly crimes and his death, as detailed in "The Jinx."

Who was Robert Durst?

Robert Durst, Jinx
Robert Durst during one of his interviews for Season One of "The Jinx."MAX

Robert Durst born in April 1943, the oldest son of Seymour Durst, a wealthy real estate magnate in New York City whose Durst Organization owns some of the city's most iconic buildings.

When he was a child, Robert Durst's mother, Bernice, died by suicide when she jumped from the roof of the family's home in Scarsdale, New York, reported The New York Times.

Durst met close friend Susan Berman, the daughter of a well-known mob boss, in the 1960s while briefly enrolled in a graduate program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

The two became lifelong friends, with Durst walking Berman down the aisle at her 1984 wedding, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Disenchanted with his work at the Durst Organization, Durst relocated to Vermont in the early 1970s, where he ran a small health food store.

Durst became smitten with a young dental hygienist named Kathie McCormack, who was living in one of his father's buildings. After two dates, Durst invited McCormack to move into his Vermont home and help him run the store, he told the "The Jinx" filmmakers.

In 1973, under pressure from Durst's father, the couple returned to Manhattan. They married the same year. Kathie Durst later earned a nursing degree, according to The New York Times, and then enrolled in medical school at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx in the hopes of being a pediatrician.

January 1982: Kathie Durst disappears

Image: Kathleen Durst and Robert Durst
Kathie Durst and Robert Durst in an undated photo.courtesy of HBO

By the early 1980s, Robert and Kathie Durst's relationship had grown increasingly volatile, with Kathie reportedly hiring a divorce lawyer at one point, according to a 2008 episode of NBC's "Dateline." The couple frequently argued, which led to "fighting, slapping, pushing, wrestling," Durst admitted in Season One of "The Jinx."

On January 31, 1982, during a visit to the couple's country house in Westchester County, Kathie Durst, then 29, visited the home of her friend Gilberte Najamy. Following Robert Durst's repeated calls ordering her to come home, Kathie Durst left Najamy's home.

It was the last time Najamy ever saw her.

Najamy revealed to filmmakers that Kathie Durst, who was only months away from finishing medical school, told her that night: “If something happens to me, check it out. I’m afraid of what Bobby will do.”

Robert Durst told filmmakers that when Kathie returned home, they got into an argument. After cooling down, he dropped off her a train station so she could ride back to New York City, he said. Durst alleged that his wife and he later spoke on the phone before she disappeared.

Durst reported his wife missing in early February 1982.

Najamy revealed in "The Jinx" that after Kathie disappeared, she suspected Robert Durst of wrong doing. She and other friends began inspecting Durst's trash for clues. After they discovered Durst had thrown out Kathie's medical school textbooks and other belongings just weeks after she went missing, they turned to police.

Without evidence of a crime, police could not charge Robert Durst in his wife's disappearance.

Durst left the area and retreated from public life for several year while relying on his friend from college, Susan Berman, by then a published author and a journalist, to act as his spokesperson, the Los Angeles Times reported.

1988: Robert Durst begins dating Debrah Lee Charatan

Six years after his wife's disappearance, Robert Durst began dating real estate agent Debrah Lee Charatan, reported The New York Times.

1992: Robert Durst's younger brother Douglas is chosen to head the Durst Organization

After being passed over in favor of his younger brother Douglas Durst to head the Durst Organization in 1992, Robert Durst became estranged from his family. He choose to live a vagabond lifestyle, drifting around the United States, supporting himself on his family's wealth, per “Dateline.”

2000: Susan Berman agrees to speak with authorities about Kathie Durst's case

Susan Berman and Robert Durst in an undated photo.
Susan Berman and Robert Durst in an undated photo.Courtesy HBO

Prior to her murder on Dec. 23, 2000, Susan Berman agreed to speak with then-Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro about Kathie Durst's reopened case, which was now being treated as a homicide, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Berman was reportedly to speak with New York police about a fake alibi she allegedly provided for Durst when his wife disappeared.

Also in 2000, Susan Berman wrote Robert Durst a letter that detailed her financial woes, asking him to send her money. She received two checks totally $50,000 in return, according to New York magazine.

December 2000: Susan Berman is found murdered in her Los Angeles home

In December 2000, Berman was found murdered in her Los Angeles home, shot point-blank in the back of her head.

Beverly Hills police discovered Berman's body after receiving an anonymous hand-written note that informed them there was a "cadaver" at Berman's address, as detailed in the first season of "The Jinx."

Police noted that there were no signs of forced entry at Berman's home, and nothing had been stolen, according to The New York Times.

Filmmakers revealed in Season One of "The Jinx" that Robert Durst had flown from New York to San Francisco in the days before Berman's death, and didn't leave the state until after Berman had been killed.

2001: Durst relocates to Galveston, Texas, where he conceals his identity by dressing as a woman

In 2001, Robert Durst relocated to a $300-a-month room boarding house in Galveston, Texas, where he wore a wig and women's clothing to disguise himself as a mute woman, he told filmmakers.

While there, he called himself Dorothy Ciner, using the name of a former high school classmate.

One of Durst's neighbors at the boarding house was an elderly man named Morris Black.

September 2001: The dismembered body of Durst's neighbor Morris Black is discovered

After a fisherman discovered dismembered body parts of man in garbage bags in Galveston Bay, police searched the area and discovered a hardware store receipt for a saw and items.

They also discovered a piece of junk mail with Durst's boarding house address, per "Dateline."

October 2001: Durst is arrested for the murder of Morris Black

During a search of the boarding house, police discovered a trail of Black's blood coming out of Robert Durst's room. After they found a bloody knife in Durst's room, they arrested Durst and charged him with Black's murder.

After calling Debrah Charatan, who was now his wife, to request money, Durst posts $300,000 bail and disappeared.

The following month, Durst was apprehended in Pennsylvania after attempting to shoplift a $5.49 chicken salad sandwich from a grocery store. Police found $500 in cash on Durst and an additional $37,000 in cash in his car, which was parked in the store's lot, The New York Times reported.

November 2003: Durst is acquitted of Morris Black's murder — despite admitting he dismembered his body

During the trial, Durst gave a harrowing account of chopping up Black's body in his boarding house room, but denied that he intentionally killed Black, per Dateline.

Instead, Durst said his gun accidentally went off, striking Black in the face, while the two wrestled for it. Then he panicked and began dismembering Black's body to toss in Galveston Bay.

The jury acquitted Durst in November 2003.

April 2012: Durst says during Season One finale of 'The Jinx' that he 'killed them all'

In what proved to be a damning moment for him, Robert Durst seemingly confessed to Berman's murder in April 2012 while filming the final episode of Season One of "The Jinx."

During the episode, Jarecki showed Durst a copy of the anonymous note the Beverly Hills police received about a "cadaver" at Berman's house. He then presented Durst another letter he had written to illustrate how closely the handwriting matched.

When the two finished their tense exchange. Durst excused himself to use the bathroom, presumably unaware the his microphone was still recording him.

The microphone recorded Durst whispering to himself in the bathroom, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

March 2015: Durst is arrested for Susan Berman’s murder

Season Two of "The Jinx" opens with a jailhouse phone call from Durst to one of his lawyers after FBI agents arrested him in New Orleans in connection with the murder of his close friend Susan Berman.

The arrest happened in March 2015 one day before the shocking finale of the first season "The Jinx" aired, according to The New York Times.

At the time of his arrest, Durst, a convicted felon from previous charges, was in possession of a 38-caliber Smith & Wesson.

In February 2016, Durst plead guilty to new federal weapons charges and was sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

March 2020: Durst goes to trial for Susan Berman's murder

Robert Durst, Jinx
Robert Durst speaks on the phone in prison in a scene from the second season of Max's docuseries "The Jinx."MAX

The six new episodes of “The Jinx” show prosecutors working hard to bring Durst to justice for Berman’s murder, eventually convincing those loyal to the millionaire killer to reveal what they knew about his crimes.

The series weaves its story using interviews with key players in the case, audio recordings of Durst's prison phone calls and actual courtroom footage from the trial, which began in March 2020 in Beverly Hills.

It also includes interviews with witnesses, many of whom have never come forward before, including Durst's best friend, Nick Chavin, who reluctantly testified against Durst at his trial.

Chavin, who was also close friends with Berman, revealed in court that Durst confessed to him one night in 2014 that he'd killed Berman.

Chavin recalled Durst telling him, “I had to. It was her or me. I had no choice."

One of Berman's friends, Hollywood producer Lynda Obst, testified that Berman told her she'd pretended to be Kathie Durst on the phone to call in sick to the Albert Einstein Medical Center the day after Robert Durst allegedly dropped Kathie off at a train station on Jan. 31, 1982.

Obst said Berman told her she made the call at Robert Durst's request in order to establish that Kathie arrived safely back in New York City.

September 2021: Durst is convicted of murder

Durst during his trial for the murder of longtime friend Susan Berman on May 18, 2021.
Durst during his trial for the murder of longtime friend Susan Berman on May 18, 2021.Al Seib / Pool via Reuters file

In September 2021, after a long trial filled with bizarre twists and turns — including a 14-month delay in the proceedings caused by the COVID-19 pandemic — Durst was convicted of first-degree murder for killing his friend Susan Berman.

October 2021: Durst is sentenced to life in prison

In October 2021, Durst was sentenced to life in prison for Berman's murder. The same week, Durst tested positive for Covid-19 and was placed on a ventilator.

November 2021: Durst is charged in the murder of first wife Kathie Durst

In November 2021, Robert Durst, already in prison, was indicted for the murder of his first wife, Kathie Durst.

The charge came nearly 40 years after Kathie Durst disappeared.

January 2022: Durst dies in prison at age 78

Just two months after he was charged with Kathie Durst's murder, Robert Durst died on Jan. 10, 2022, after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was 78.

At the time of his death, Durst was reportedly worth more than $100 million.