Trial ordered for US multimillionaire Durst over murder of friend

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Robert Durst, the New York property heir who was the subject of a major TV documentary series, has been ordered to stand trial for the murder of a close friend in Los Angeles 18 years ago.

A judge ruled there is enough evidence to try the eccentric 75-year-old multimillionaire for the point-blank shooting of Susan Berman at her home. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say Durst killed Ms Berman, a friend from college and the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, to keep her from telling police what she knew about his wife’s 1982 disappearance in New York. Kathleen Durst has been missing for more than 35 years and is presumed dead.

Durst, who has never been charged with a crime related to his wife’s disappearance, has denied killing either woman.

He remains jailed without bail and was ordered back to court on November 8 for arraignment.

The murder charge against him includes the special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and killing a witness to a crime. There is also an allegation that he personally used a handgun to carry out the murder.

At the end of the preliminary proceedings that were continued over several months, Durst’s lawyer, David Chesnoff, argued there was no hard evidence — such as DNA, fingerprints or witnesses — linking him to Ms Berman’s killing.

Durst was arrested in New Orleans in March 2015, hours before the airing of the final episode of HBO’s The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst.

The documentary examined the disappearance of his wife, and the killings of Ms Berman and a Texas neighbour, Morris Black, in 2001.

A jury acquitted him of Mr Black’s murder after finding the killing was in self-defence.

The HBO series created a sensation after Durst was heard during the finale muttering to himself on a live microphone: “You’re caught! What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

Prosecutors will try to make the connection between Ms Berman’s death and the mystery around Ms Durst’s disappearance, which they want to show as the foundation for the motive for Ms Berman’s murder.

After Ms Durst vanished, Ms Berman served as Durst’s unofficial spokeswoman, but prosecutors and witnesses in a series of earlier hearings said she did much more.

She told friends over the years that Durst acknowledged killing his wife and said she helped him cover his tracks. Prosecutors hope to use those hearsay statements at trial, which defence lawyers have vigorously challenged.

Ms Berman told one friend who gave evidence at an earlier hearing that if anything happened to her, Durst would be the culprit.

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