Prosecutors in Los Angeles said that Ms. Berman, at Mr. Durst’s behest, made a crucial phone call pretending to be Ms. Durst that made it appear as if she was still alive and redirected the investigation away from Westchester.
At first, with no charges filed, Kathie Durst’s disappearance fell from the headlines.
But in 1999, Mr. Becerra got a tip. The tip did not pan out, but he became engrossed in the case and interviewed many witnesses, leading the Westchester district attorney to reopen the investigation in 2000.
Understand the Robert Durst Case
The verdict. The jury found that Mr. Durst shot Ms. Berman after he entered her home at the edge of Beverly Hills, acting out of fear that Ms. Berman would tell investigators what she knew about the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathie McCormack Durst.
“The Jinx” factor. Some of the most damaging evidence in the Berman case came from interviews that Mr. Durst had given to the producers of an HBO series, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.” The documentary, which aired in 2015, led to Mr. Durst’s arrest in the same year.
His wife’s disappearance. Kathie McCormack and Mr. Durst married in 1973, but their union was soon rocked by emotional and physical violence. Mrs. Durst vanished on Jan. 31, 1982. She was later declared legally dead. Prosecutors said that Ms. Berman had helped Mr. Durst cover up his wife’s disappearance and death.
Yet another murder. In 2003, Mr. Durst stood trial for the murder of Morris Black, a neighbor in Galveston, Texas. A jury acquitted him, despite his testimony that he had carved up Mr. Morris’s body. Mr. Durst fled to Texas, posing as a mute woman, after investigators reopened the case into his wife’s disappearance.
Mr. Durst fled New York after learning that the investigation was once again live.
Mr. Durst has since admitted that he lied to police about his whereabouts at the time his wife vanished. Evidence and testimony presented at trial in Los Angeles indicated that Mr. Durst had engaged in an escalating pattern of emotional and physical violence against Ms. Durst. He has insisted he did not kill her.
Ten months after Ms. Berman’s death, Mr. Durst was arrested in Galveston, Texas, in the murder and dismemberment of a man who lived across the hall from him in a rooming house where Mr. Durst was posing as a mute woman. At trial, Mr. Durst claimed that the man died as a result of an accident as they grappled over a gun. He was acquitted of murder.
Mr. Durst has proved to be a compelling figure since 1982, when the front- page headline of the New York Post announced: “Vanishes! Search for beautiful wife of developer.”
The mysteries surrounding him would fade from time to time, only to resurface again with new details. Mr. Durst’s flat affect, dry humor and penchant for skirting so close to the truth in interviews proved irresistible.
But the case was also plagued by a flawed investigation in New York and overconfident prosecutors in Texas. When he finally stood trial in Los Angeles, Mr. Durst was eager to engage with John Lewin, a prosecutor, on the first of 14 days on the stand. As his own lawyer prepared to begin his questioning, Mr. Durst signaled a sly confidence: “Why don’t you let John tell you what questions he wants me to answer,” Mr. Durst remarked.