Real estate heir Robert Durst is once again a hot topic, at least in the news, as his (most recent) murder trial dominates the legal scene out of California.
Durst, you might recall, lived in Galveston for a while and among his many “shenanigans” — aside from occasionally dressing in drag and presenting himself as a mute female — he murdered neighbor Morris Black and disposed of the dismembered body parts in Galveston Bay. It took five plastic bags to contain the severed body parts (he used a bow saw and an ax). However, a sixth and empty bag was also found. As the head of Morris Black has never been recovered, it is assumed the sixth bag once contained Black’s head. For years Galvestonians have speculated and discussed, usually in the form of some offbeat bar comment, about the location of Black’s head. Ideas range from “crab bait in the Gulf” to “buried under that house on the avenue.” Wherever Durst “hid” the head, it remains there to this day, undiscovered.
The Robert Durst story is a fascinating one and has drawn curiosity and armchair sleuth work for many years. Born the son of a wealthy New York real estate tycoon, Durst was destined to inherit a fortune from his family. Once a fairly handsome bon vivant around New York, Durst was well known in elite social circles of the time. His childhood was not an easy one and his mother committed suicide when he was young. The story is so fascinating that in 2015 HBO produced a well-received docudrama The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, revealing many facts and theories on what led little Robby to go bad.
Back to Galvetraz. While living on the Island, the wealthy heir lived in a low-rent Galveston apartment house where he met fellow resident Morris Black. Like Durst, Black was a gun enthusiast and the two became friends — good friends, according to Durst’s trial testimony. No one really knows the facts for sure, but it is assumed that during their conversations Durst admitted something or told too much about two previous questionable deaths in which he might have been involved. Regardless of who knew what and when Durst admitted that he came home one evening and found Black rummaging through his apartment. An argument ensued and Durst felt his life was threatened. The two fought and a gun discharged, killing Black. Durst claimed he panicked and in effort to “hide” things, sawed the body into pieces and placing the parts in plastic bags, tossed them into the bay. In his own words, Durst described the scene as a “bloody mess with blood everywhere.” To the shock and dismay of many following the case, famed Houston defense attorney Dick DeGuerin represented Durst and won an acquittal in 2003. Though banned from Galveston, Durst was seen a few times, in and out of drag, while shopping or dining on the Island.
Many people wondered if the “jinx” would ever pay for the things he had done and not been charged. It is alleged that he murdered his first wife Kathie while living in New York. Several years later he was living in California and involved with Susan Berman. During the relationship, it is alleged that Durst confided in Burman about the murder of his wife, Kathie. Later Berman agreed to testify against Durst in the murder trial, his having been finally charged with the murder of wife Kathie. However she, too, was murdered before the trial could begin. It is generally assumed that Robert Durst, in order to silence Berman, killed her, as well.
The latest trial now taking place in California once again finds Robert Durst is charged with murder (Susan Berman) and again being defended by esteemed attorney Dick DeGuerin. The current trial has garnered much attention and interest as the Robert Durst saga has been a curiosity for many years. Galvestonians love a good story and even more if it involves murder and mystery. Durst was not a Galvestonian; however, he has certainly left his mark on the little island.
Speaking of marks, as an interesting side note, in 2014 while free and living again in Houston, Durst exposed himself and urinated on a rack of candy at a Kirby Drive CVS. Admitting his guilt, the real estate heir after turning himself in to authorities was fined $500 for his actions. Alleged murderers with money sure do strange things.
It will be interesting to watch as the current trial unfolds and DeGuerin does his best to obtain another murder charge acquittal for Robert Durst. Island eyes, as well as the rest of the world’s, will be on the trial. Stay tuned.