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Robert Durst Charged With Murder in 1982 Disappearance of His Wife

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.

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.

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