Louisiana sheriff: Durst a suicide risk
The latest twist in the saga of Robert Durst has the murder suspect confined to a Louisiana prison’s mental health unit after being deemed a danger to himself.
It’s been a whirlwind week in which the son of a multimillionaire developer — the subject of HBO’s true-crime documentary “The Jinx” — has gone from a man battling suspicions that he killed three people to a frail 71-year-old on suicide watch.
Durst is being held on drug and weapons charges in Louisiana as he awaits extradition to Los Angeles to face charges in connection with the killing, more than 14 years ago, of a woman who was a close friend.
An appeals court granted a request from the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office to move Durst to the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center’s mental health unit in St. Gabriel, about an hour’s drive from New Orleans. Lawyers for the sheriff’s office argued that the jail where Durst was being held until Tuesday night can’t accommodate inmates with acute mental health conditions. The appeals court agreed.
Durst’s lawyer Dick DeGuerin said he “did not believe” his client was mentally ill, and that he should remain in Orleans Parish to give the legal team better access to him before a evidentiary hearing scheduled for Monday.
On Tuesday, one day after he was charged with first-degree murder, police searched Durst’s home in Houston, DeGuerin confirmed.
It was not clear what investigators were looking for inside the 14th-floor condominium, where Durst has lived for many years, CNN affiliate KTRK-TV reported.
FBI agents arrested Durst in a New Orleans hotel late Saturday, the day before the final episode of “The Jinx” aired.
The episode included a recording of Durst apparently talking to himself in a bathroom: “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course,” he is heard saying.
The Los Angeles County district attorney filed a first-degree murder charge against him Monday, accusing Durst of shooting and killing Susan Berman in December 2000. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
“I think it’s ridiculous for them to be making a search 15 years after Susan Berman was killed, and they’re searching a place in Houston,” DeGuerin told CNN.
Durst is being held in a dormitory for pretrial mental health patients at the St. Gabriel facility, said Pam Laborde with the Louisiana Department of Corrections.
DeGuerin has said it’s no coincidence authorities arrested Durst the day before the HBO documentary’s final episode aired. He said he wasn’t surprised about the search of his Texas condo, either.
“They’re acting like a bunch of Keystone Kops, particularly after being embarrassed by the TV program,” he said. “And I’ll be even more surprised if they find anything of any evidentiary value whatsoever.”
A neighbor told KTRK she saw Durst leave the Houston condo with two suitcases last week — when he departed for New Orleans — and that his assistant came several days later and took most of his belongings.
Attorney: Trial would end ‘rumor and speculation’
Berman was shot in the head in her Beverly Hills, California, home in December 2000 shortly before investigators were set to speak with her about the disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, in 1982.
Prosecutors accuse Durst of “lying in wait” and killing Berman, a crime writer and his longtime confidante, because she had information about a crime.
Durst has long maintained he had nothing to do with Berman’s death or his wife’s disappearance, though some have questioned whether the comments he makes at the end of “The Jinx” — he apparently is oblivious to the “hot” wireless mic he was still wearing — could be interpreted as a confession.
In a 2003 murder trial, Durst admitted he’d killed neighbor Morris Black in Galveston, Texas, and chopped up the body. He was acquitted after his attorneys argued he had acted in self-defense, though he later served nine months in prison on felony weapons charges stemming from that case.
DeGuerin told reporters Monday that his client didn’t kill Berman.
“He’s ready to end all the rumor and speculation and have a trial,” DeGuerin said.
It’s not clear when a trial would take place.
Durst waived his right to fight extradition to Los Angeles, but because prosecutors in New Orleans are pursuing charges against him, he remains jailed there.
Investigators believe he planned to travel from New Orleans to Cuba, a law enforcement official told CNN.
Investigators found a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and about 147 grams (5.2 ounces) of marijuana in Durst’s hotel room in New Orleans, according to court documents. He was booked on charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled dangerous substance.
Court documents filed Tuesday say Durst will receive medications while imprisoned, “including but not limited to hydrocodone as needed for pain.”