The tale of Robert Durst, 71, the murder suspect and subject of the HBO docu-series “The Jinx” and its shocking finale on Sunday, is so bizarre and unbelievable that it sounds like the storyline to a movie. In fact, it inspired the 2010 drama “All Good Things,” starring Ryan Gosling as Durst and directed by “Jinx” creator Andrew Jarecki. Durst, a fan of the film, approached Jarecki with an offer he couldn’t refuse – the interviews that make up “The Jinx,” and which culminate in Durst’s ostensible “confession” in the bathroom to himself while still wired up that he “killed them all.” That statement aired on Sunday’s finale, just one day after Durst was arrested in New Orleans. But who is Robert Durst?
The heir to a Manhattan real estate fortune, Durst has been connected to but not convicted in a string of disappearances and deaths for the past 30 years. In 1982, his wife Kathleen went missing. She had told friends, including Mary Watlington, “If anything happens to me, don’t let him get away with it,” reported the New York Times in 2003. Her body was never found.
On Christmas Eve 2000, Susan Berman, a journalist, author and “confidante” of Durst, according to the New York Times, was found killed, shot once in the head execution-style in her home, with no signs of a struggle. The LAPD received a note alerting them that there was a “cadaver” in the home. The writer of the note misspelled the “Beverley” in Hills, adding an “e,” and another note found among Durst's possessions, unearthed by Jarecki with the same handwriting and misspelling, was shown to Durst in the finale of “The Jinx.” Many speculate he killed his friend Berman because she knew too much and was going to be interviewed by the police in his wife’s murder case.
In 2003, Durst, improbably, was acquitted in the death and dismemberment of an elderly neighbor – claiming self-defense. Body parts of 71-year-old Morris Black washed up in Galveston Bay, Texas, without his head. In 2004, Durst pleaded guilty to two counts of jumping bond and one count of tampering with evidence. He was sentenced to five years in prison, and served three years.
Strange tales circulated around Durst, and he returned to court several times over the years. While he was on the run from police in the Black case, he returned briefly to New Orleans, where, it is alleged, he lived disguised as a mute woman, according to the New York Times. In 2001, he was caught in Pennsylvania, at a Bethlehem Wegman's after stealing a sandwich. Many wondered why a multimillionaire who, at the time, had more than $500 in his pocket, would need to shoplift.
And in 2014, he received a criminal mischief misdemeanor charge for exposing himself and urinating at a Houston CVS. "He got his prescription, paid for it, exposed himself, urinated on the register and walked out of the business," Houston Police Department spokeswoman Jodi Silva told the Daily News. "Reports that there may have been an argument were incorrect," said Silva. "There was no argument. ... He just casually walked out of the business."
His own brother Douglas, who, instead of oldest brother Robert, was appointed to run the family business in the 1990s, took out a restraining order against him for allegedly stalking and harassing him.
Gosling, who played Durst in the Jarecki-directed 2010 film "All Good Things," loosely based on his life, tried to explain to Vanity Fair why a suspected murderer would approach a documentary filmmaker with an offer to be interviewed. “At that time I don’t think anyone knew he would be as agreeable to this as he is. I think seeing the film, seeing the perspective on him, that it wasn’t trying to judge him, it was trying to understand him. Maybe that helped sort of pave the way."
It remains to be seen whether Durst's "killed them all" statement to himself, caught on a microphone he didn't realize was still on, is in fact a confession, and if it is, whether it's admissible in court. If "The Jinx" succeeds in providing evidence that convicts Durst of crimes, it will join documentary filmmaker Errol Morris's "Thin Blue Line." Thanks to the 1988 documentary, Randall Adams, who was serving time for the murder of a Texas police officer, was eventually acquitted when interviews with the real killer, David Harris, revealed the truth.