Secret witness to testify for the prosecution in Durst murder case

Two men — one of whom is a secret witness yet to be publicly identified  — are expected to testify Tuesday morning at a hearing in the murder case of real estate heir Robert Durst. Prosecutors sought to question the witnesses...

Secret witness to testify for the prosecution in Durst murder case

Two men — one of whom is a secret witness yet to be publicly identified  — are expected to testify Tuesday morning at a hearing in the murder case of real estate heir Robert Durst. 

Prosecutors sought to question the witnesses ahead of the trial to preserve their testimony in case either of them dies or is killed. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for October, meaning the trial is unlikely to start until at least 2018.

At an earlier hearing, Superior Court Judge Mark E. Windham said prosecutors had presented evidence showing a “possible danger” to the unknown witness.

Durst, 73, is charged with murder in the execution-style slaying of his friend Susan Berman. Prosecutors say he fired a single shot through the back of her head inside her Benedict Canyon home in 2000, allegedly because she knew too much about the disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen. He has pleaded not guilty.

Berman, an author, became a frequent media spokeswoman for Durst in the years after the disappearance and, according to Durst, she once told him that detectives had reached out to her, asking questions about Kathleen. 

When Durst was arrested by FBI agents on March 14, 2015, at a hotel in New Orleans, officials found guns, stacks of cash, a fake ID and an old-man mask. He was charged with Berman’s murder two days later. He was transferred to Los Angeles in November 2016 after being sentenced on federal gun charges.

Berman’s death and Kathleen Durst’s 1982 disappearance were featured prominently in “The Jinx,” a six-part HBO documentary series about Robert Durst’s life, which aired in 2015. The series includes video from Durst’s 2003 trial in Galveston, Texas, where he was accused of killing a neighbor, Morris Black. Durst admitted killing Black, saying he’d shot him in self-defense before chopping up the man’s body and tossing the pieces into Galveston Bay. He was ultimately acquitted of murder in Black’s death. 

At a court hearing last month, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. John Lewin argued that the Galveston killing amounted to murder, not self-defense, and said the prosecution team in L.A. had evidence that could have been presented more effectively at the Texas trial.

Lewin didn’t elaborate on how, or whether, the evidence would be used in the Berman trial, and Durst’s lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, balked at the reference to the old case, saying use of the evidence would amount to “double jeopardy.”

Prosecutors in Ventura County once used a woman's distinctive signature — with its angular J and a D with a flowing tail — to help put her behind bars for the murder of her lover's wife.

The penmanship on a blood-stained, folded piece of paper led San Diego detectives to a serial-killing carpet...

Prosecutors in Ventura County once used a woman's distinctive signature — with its angular J and a D with a flowing tail — to help put her behind bars for the murder of her lover's wife.

The penmanship on a blood-stained, folded piece of paper led San Diego detectives to a serial-killing carpet...

During the final episode of the “The Jinx,” which aired a day after Durst’s arrest in New Orleans, the real estate tycoon muttered an offhanded comment to himself during a bathroom break while still wearing a microphone he used during filming.

“What the hell did I do?” he mumbled. “Killed them all, of course.”

Many interpreted the whispered remark as a confession to multiple murders. Prosecutors cited the documentary and fear that Durst was a flight risk, saying it made the arrest “all the more urgent.”

The second witness expected to testify Tuesday, Albert Kuperman, has told police that he received a call in the winter of 1982 when he was dean of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where Durst’s first wife had been enrolled. Prosecutors said the caller identified herself to Kuperman as Kathleen Durst despite evidence suggesting she was already dead.

Evidence points to Berman making the call, according to prosecutors. But Durst scoffed at that suggestion during a jailhouse interrogation after his 2015 arrest.

“She would not have risked her life for something like that,” Durst told Lewin.

During the interrogation — which the defense has argued was “improper and deceptive” — the prosecutor peppered Durst with pointed questions.

“If you had killed Susan, would you tell me?" Lewin asked.

“No,” Durst responded.

At one point the prosecutor said he had proof that Durst took a flight from New York to San Francisco a few days before Berman’s death, saying, “I think you drove down to Los Angeles—”

Durst cut him off, finishing the prosecutor’s thought: “and killed Susan and drove back?”

“I do,” the prosecutor said.

Adele's big night at the Grammys, an overflowing dam threatens homes in Northern California, Santa Monica is set to approve the nation’s most extensive seismic retrofit plan, and L.A. Metro officials continue to be vexed by falling ridership.

Adele's big night at the Grammys, an overflowing dam threatens homes in Northern California, Santa Monica is set to approve the nation’s most extensive seismic retrofit plan, and L.A. Metro officials continue to be vexed by falling ridership.

Adele's big night at the Grammys, an overflowing dam threatens homes in Northern California, Santa Monica is set to approve the nation’s most extensive seismic retrofit plan, and L.A. Metro officials continue to be vexed by falling ridership.

Adele's big night at the Grammys, an overflowing dam threatens homes in Northern California, Santa Monica is set to approve the nation’s most extensive seismic retrofit plan, and L.A. Metro officials continue to be vexed by falling ridership.

Highlights from the 2017 Grammy Awards at the Staples Center.

Highlights from the 2017 Grammy Awards at the Staples Center.

More than 100,000 people in communities downstream of Lake Oroville were told to evacuate Sunday evening after authorities grew concerned that dangerous flood waters would start surging out of the huge reservoir.

More than 100,000 people in communities downstream of Lake Oroville were told to evacuate Sunday evening after authorities grew concerned that dangerous flood waters would start surging out of the huge reservoir.

On Feb. 11, 1967, they held a large, public gay-rights demonstration that pre-dated the famous Stonewall riots in New York City by two years. On Saturday night, people celebrated the 50th anniversary of the demonstration. 

On Feb. 11, 1967, they held a large, public gay-rights demonstration that pre-dated the famous Stonewall riots in New York City by two years. On Saturday night, people celebrated the 50th anniversary of the demonstration. 

Electronic music superstar Steve Aoki was nominated for a Grammy for best music film for the documentary "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead."

Electronic music superstar Steve Aoki was nominated for a Grammy for best music film for the documentary "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead."

marisa.gerber@latimes.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

Yorum yapabilmek için üye girişi yapmanız gerekmektedir.

Üye değilseniz hemen üye olun veya giriş yapın.

NEXT NEWS