Robert Durst: 5 Shocking Facts You Didn't Know

November 03, 2017
By: Mike McPadden
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Photo by: Robert Durst [CBS News screenshot]

Robert Durst [CBS News screenshot]

In the wake of the HBO documentary series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, the real estate heir turned suspected serial killer of the title has become a notorious figure in popular culture.

At present, Durst is awaiting trial in Los Angeles for the 2000 murder of his longtime friend, Susan Berman.

Durst is also the primary suspect in the 1982 disappearance in New York of Kathleen McCormack Durst, his first wife, and the 2001 Texas slaying of Morris Black, his neighbor. In 2003, a court convicted Durst of dismembering Black’s body and dumping in Galveston Bay, but he beat the murder rap, claiming self-defense.

As drama continues to unfold around this highly unusual man and his highly unusual cases, it seems as though no new revelations can be as bizarre as what the public, in general, already knows. Here, then, are five below-the-radar eye-openers.

1. ROBERT DURST IS LINKED TO THE 1971 DISAPPEARANCE OF LYNN SCHULZE, 18

In 1971, Robert Durst owned and operated All Good Things, a health food store in Middlebury, Vermont. The shop also happened to be the last place 18-year-old Middlebury College student Lynne Schulze stopped before she disappeared that year on December 10.

Durst has long been a “person of interest” in the Schulze case. In 2015, the Middlebury Police Department officially stated:

“We are aware of the connection between Robert Durst and the disappearance of Lynne Schulze. We have been aware of this connection for several years and have been working with various outside agencies as we follow this lead.”

Durst’s attorneys deny his involvement in any way with the disappearance. [Los Angeles Times]

2. DURST IS BEING INVESTIGATED FOR THE 1997 DISAPPEARANCE OF KAREN MITCHELL, 16

On November 25, 1997, 16-year-old Karen Mitchell vanished from Eureka, California. At the time, Robert Durst lived in Northern California. Perhaps coincidentally — yet again — on the last day Karen was seen alive, a plane ticket and credit-card receipts placed Robert Durst in the immediate area.

Police questioned Durst at the time and always kept him in mind, even as the case went cold. In 2015, following The Jinx, authorities reopened the investigation, focusing on Durst. [The Guardian]

3. A $100M LAWSUIT CLAIMS DURST’S SECOND WIFE HELPED COVER UP THE MURDER OF HIS FIRST WIFE

In May 2017, the sisters of Kathleen Durst, Robert’s wife who has been missing for 35 years and was recently declared dead by a judge, filed a lawsuit against the embattled real estate scion.

The suit alleges that not only did Durst kill Kathleen, but that Debrah Charatan, his second wife, assisted him in covering up both that murder and the killing of Susan Berman.

Court documents claim that Charatan’s main function was to run Durst’s finances, and the pair married in 2000 in order to legally shield their communications. Allegedly, Charatan is said to have gotten to keep a sizable chunk of Durst’s estimated $100 million fortune in exchange for sending money and enabling him to “lay low” once authorities took a new interest in the Kathleen’s case around 1999.

The suit seeks every one of those $100 million in damages. [AP]

4. DURST DOES A DVD COMMENTARY ON A DRAMATIC FILM BASED ON HIS WIFE’S DISAPPEARANCE

All Good Things (2010) is a fictionalized telling of the 1982 Kathleen Durst disappearance directed by Andrew Jarecki, who would later make The Jinx. Ryan Gosling stars as David Marks, a role based on Robert, and Kirsten Dunst plays Katie McCarthy Marks, a stand-in for Kathleen.

The movie depicts David Marks as a violent, physically and emotionally abusive madman, and largely indicates he murdered his wife. Durst, by his own declaration, loves every minute of it.

After shunning the press for years, Durst sat down with Jarecki for a 20-hour interview and even recorded a commentary track for the DVD release of All Good Things. Repeatedly, while watching the film unfold, Durst praises its realism. [Vulture]

5. DURST HAS A “COUNTRY PORN” CONNECTION

Photo by: Country Porn by Chinga Chavez [front cover image]

Country Porn by Chinga Chavez [front cover image]

In February 2017, Nathan “Nick” Chavin testified in Los Angeles Court against Robert Durst. The state provided distance from the suspect and extra security to insure Chavin’s safety.

Chavin and Durst had been close for decades, with the former even describing the latter as his one-time “best friend.” Chavin, in fact, had been co-best-man at Durst’s 1988 wedding, along with mutual buddy Kinky Friedman, the renowned bawdy songwriter and crime novelist from Texas.

It turned out that Chavin, too, came a “smutty song” background. As Chinga Chavin, he issued the Penthouse-magazine-financed LP Country Porn, a cult hit loaded with X-rated down-home sing-alongs.

After testifying, Chavin told Rolling Stone that he and Durst used to tear up New York, regularly partying at the punk landmark the Mudd Club and the legendary sex club, Plato’s Retreat. Even then, though, Chavin pointed out, “I was a lot more conservative than [Durst] was. When you’ve got the money to buy your way out of stuff, you can do a lot of sh-t.” [Rolling Stone]