New York City Real Estate Heir Charged With Murder

Robert Durst, 71, was arrested on a murder warrant Saturday night by FBI agents at the Marriott Hotel in New Orleans' French Quarter

New York City real estate heir Robert Durst was charged Monday with first-degree murder in the "cold-case" slaying of a friend in 2000, Los Angeles prosecutors said.

But when he will return to California is unclear, after he was charged late Monday in New Orleans with being a felon in possession of a gun because authorities say he had a revolver when he was arrested there.

In the murder charge against him, Durst also faces the special circumstances of murder of a witness and lying in wait and gun use allegations in connection with the death of Susan Berman on Dec. 23, 2000, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The special circumstances make him eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors will decide later whether to seek death.

Berman's stepson Sareb Kaufman offered a cryptic message to Durst's brother Douglas, who previously had said the real estate heir would kill him if he had the opportunity.

"Directed to Douglas - you're very welcome. Anything I can do to make your family safe, happy to do it," Kaufman said.

Durst was arrested Saturday in New Orleans. His arrest came just hours before the finale of a six-part HBO documentary investigating accusations he killed at least three people over a 20-year span.

At a brief hearing Monday morning in a New Orleans courtroom, he was ordered back to California to face charges.

Durst, 71, had his hands shackled at his waist when he appeared in court wearing an orange jumper with the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office initials on the back and signed an order that waived extradition. His attorney indicated before the hearing that he would do so, agreeing to extradition from Louisiana to California.

Magistrate Harry Cantrell said Durst could be taken immediately to Los Angeles, but an attorney for Durst said the process is delayed because New Orleans prosecutors are considering charges against him. Durst was found with a revolver on him at the time of his arrest, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press.

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Louisiana law requires a permit to carry a concealed weapon. It was not immediately clear whether Durst had one to carry the revolver.

Attorney Dick DeGuerin wouldn't elaborate on what sort of charges Durst might face in New Orleans.

"Robert Durst didn't kill Susan Berman," DeGuerin said outside court. "He's ready to end all the rumor and speculation and have a trial.

"But we're frustrated because local authorities are considering filing charges on him here and holding him here. We're ready to go to California and have a trial."

Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for the Orleans Parish district attorney's office, said the office doesn't comment on open investigations or even the existence of them, The Associated Press reported.

Durst was arrested Saturday night by FBI agents at the Marriott Hotel in New Orleans' French Quarter. He is a suspect in the December 2000 execution-style shooting death of his close friend Berman, whose body was found on Christmas Eve in her Benedict Canyon home.

Authorities say Durst killed Berman because prosecutors in the New York City suburbs of Westchester County were about to interview her about the disappearance of Durst's first wife, Kathleen "Kathie" McCormack Durst in 1982 while she was in the process of divorcing him.

Investigators, in cooperation with the Major Crimes Section of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, secured the warrant for Durst's arrest, police said.

Police say friend Rick Markey was the last person to see Berman alive, and he is relieved her the case of her death may finally be solved

"Once he was arrested it was like, oh finally, justice," Markey said.

And Kathy Durst's friend Ellen Strauss said she was "over the moon" when she heard he had been taken into custody.

"Kathy always told us, 'if anything ever happens to me don't let bob get away with it. Look to Bob,'" Strauss said

Just hours after Saturday's arrest, HBO broadcast the final episode of the six-part HBO documentary, "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst." In Sunday's broadcast, Durst was caught on microphone saying to himself, "Killed them all, of course."

Documentary director Andrew Jarecki told "Good Morning America" Monday he didn't know an arrest was coming. He also said he didn't know about the bathroom audio until much later, when an editor double-checking the material came across it. 

"It was so chilling to hear it," Jarecki said in the GMA interview. "It was disturbing to hear it. It makes you very uncomfortable to hear it."

HBO issued a statement lauding the documentary's producers.

"We simply cannot say enough about the brilliant job that Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling did in producing 'The Jinx.' Years in the making, their thorough research and dogged reporting reignited interest in Robert Durst's story with the public and law enforcement," according to the network.

It wasn't clear whether producers confronted Durst about the secretly recorded words, or what Durst meant by them.

In addition to being a suspect in Kathie McCormack's disappearance and the death of Berman, Durst also admitted to killing Morris Black, a man who lived across from him in Galveston, Texas, where Durst fled while authorities were trying to make a case against him in both cases.

Durst went to trial in Black's death — after a nationwide manhunt located him in Pennsylvania because he tried to shoplift a sandwich — but he was acquitted by a jury that deemed Black's death accidental and in self-defense.

Jason Kandel contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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