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Mar 15, 2015 3:32 PM

Rich NY eccentric's family 'grateful' for his murder arrest

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Robert Durst, a wealthy eccentric linked to two killings and his wife's disappearance, was arrested on a murder warrant just before Sunday's finale in a serial documentary about his life.

FBI agents arrested Durst Saturday at a New Orleans hotel, on a warrant from Los Angeles for the murder of Susan Berman in Hollywood 15 years ago, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

Durst ordered held without bond during a brief appearance Sunday pending another hearing set for Monday morning. His lawyer, Chip Lewis, said Durst will waive extradition and be transported to Los Angeles.

"He's maintained his innocence for years," Lewis said. "Nothing has changed."

But Durst's estranged family thanked authorities for tracking him down.

"We are relieved and also grateful to everyone who assisted in the arrest of Robert Durst. We hope he will finally be held accountable for all he has done," said his brother, Douglas Durst, in a statement.

Durst, 71, has never been charged in connection with the unsolved 2000 murder of Berman, a journalist and author who had become his spokeswoman. She was killed at her home, with a bullet to the back of her head, as New York authorities prepared to question her in the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathie.

After Berman's death, Durst moved to Texas, where he lived as a woman before Lewis helped win his acquittal in the 2001 dismemberment death of his Galveston neighbor, Morris Black. Durst said that killing was in self-defense.

Durst became a fugitive while awaiting that trial, until he was bizarrely caught shoplifting in Pennsylvania, despite carrying thousands of dollars, and returned to Texas.

Durst, whose father made billions in New York real estate, has always denied involvement in his wife's disappearance or Berman's murder.

The arrest came on the eve of Sunday's broadcast on HBO of the final episode of "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst."

The documentary's filmmaker Andrew Jarecki told The Associated Press that Durst is a strange but smart man who has long feuded with his wealthy family.

"The story is so operatic," Jarecki said. "That's what's so fascinating to me seeing someone who is born to such privilege and years later is living in a $300-a-month rooming house in Galveston, Texas, disguised as a mute woman."

Lewis, the attorney, said the arrest was orchestrated by Hollywood to come before the final episode.

"No doubt," he said. "It's all about Hollywood now."

Lewis said he was familiar with the Berman killing and wasn't surprised by the arrest because of the number of emails and calls he got after last week's episode aired. He said new evidence touted by producers, however, was something he was already familiar with.

"I know all about this case," Lewis said. "I have no doubt we will present a most compelling defense."

Jarecki told a Hollywood version of Durst's story in the 2010 film that starred Ryan Gosling, "All Good Things."

A week before the release of that film, Durst called Jarecki saying he wanted to see it, and eventually agreed to be interviewed by Jarecki. That footage led to the documentary series.

Jarecki said he has come to a "firm conclusion" about Durst's guilt or innocence.

HBO distributed the first two episodes in advance, making news with Durst's admission that he lied to investigators about what he did on the night of his wife's disappearance. The other episodes were kept under wraps to maintain suspense as they aired each week.


Melley contributed from Los Angeles. Associated Press Writer Dave Bauder contributed from New York.


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