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Did Robert Durst kill wife Kathie Durst? A look into her mysterious disappearance in New York 40 years ago

Prosecutors are trying to tie Kathie's disappearance to Susan Berman's murder
Troubles in Kathie and Robert Durst's marriage were no secret (HBO)
Troubles in Kathie and Robert Durst's marriage were no secret (HBO)

Robert Durst's wife Kathie went missing nearly 40 years ago. Now, her disappearance in Westchester County, New York, could potentially alter the course of her husband's legal saga.

Prosecutors are trying to tie Kathie's disappearance to their case in California, where Robert is on trial and charged with his friend and confidant Susan Berman's murder, the Journal News/Lohud reported.


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Westchester County detectives are, in the meanwhile, taking another look at Robert's suspected role in what they are calling Kathie's murder. "Our Cold Case Unit was established to review and reinvestigate unsolved homicides," Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah told the Journal News. "It is reviewing a number of cases, including the murder of Kathie Durst."

In this handout provided by the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, Robert Durst poses for a mugshot photo after being arrested and detained on March 14, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana (Getty Images)

According to The Journal News, Kathie Durst's case had remained mostly dormant of late. On Monday, May 17, Robert Abrams, a lawyer representing her family, said that “it is our understanding that this investigation has been going on for several months and we look forward to a charging decision in the very near future. We are hopeful that District Attorney Rocah will not only make a charging decision shortly, but that she will also investigate the incompetence and unlawful ignorance of her predecessors.”

Robert Durst, 76, is a native of Scarsdale, New York, and heir to a wealthy real estate family. He is currently facing his second murder trial after being accused of killing Berman "execution-style" in December 2000, per the report. Durst allegedly wanted to silence Berman because of what she may have known about his wife going missing, Los Angeles prosecutors believe. While no charges have been brought against the eccentric millionaire in connection with his wife's disappearance in January 1982, prosecutors believe proving that Durst killed Berman "rests in large part on proving he killed his wife," according to the Journal News.

Kathie Durst's disappearance

Kathie and Robert Durst's troubled marriage was common knowledge, per the outlet. She was reportedly treated at a hospital just weeks prior after a physical altercation with her husband, and was seeking a divorce.

One of the motives prosecutors are presenting in the ongoing murder trial is blocking a costly separation. Meanwhile, they also claim to have evidence to prove that Robert Durst had been stealing from the Durst Organization, his family's real estate empire, for nearly eight years. Prosecutors believe Kathie knew about his actions and he wanted to "silence her over what she knew." However, the judge did not grant permission to present evidence from Durst's brother Douglas about the alleged thefts.

Douglas Durst is Robert's younger brother who was chosen to head the family business in the early 1990s. Robert allegedly felt passed over and waged a legal war that contributed to the siblings' estrangement and eventually a settlement that paid him more than $60 million. Douglas was allegedly approached by Kathie about a month before she went missing. He told prosecutors that Robert Durst was "very upset" that Kathie knew about this, according to a motion filed in April.

Developer Douglas Durst speaks at a press conference (Getty Images)

Abrams said that no details about Robert's alleged thefts were ever shared with NYPD investigators, who took over the case after the real estate heir walked into an Upper West Side police precinct on February 4, 1982, to report Kathie had disappeared from their Manhattan apartment. He told the authorities he had put her on a train in Katonah four nights earlier.

According to the Journal News, Robert's close pal Susan Berman is believed to have pretended to be Kathie on the morning of February 1, 1982, when she called Kathie's medical school to say she wouldn't be attending the first day of a pediatrics clerkship as she was sick.

What's more? Berman was reportedly also Durst's unofficial spokeswoman in the aftermath of Kathie's disappearance. Westchester detectives have reportedly long held that Kathie Durst never left the couple's South Salem residence alive on the night of January 31, 1982, per The Journal News.