Robert Durst's alleged victim Susan Berman was 'mafia princess' and daughter of Las Vegas mobster David Berman

Susan's father was a 'respected Mob visionary responsible for turning Las Vegas into a gambling gold mine' for his gangster friends, including Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, and Meyer Lansky


                            Robert Durst's alleged victim Susan Berman was 'mafia princess' and daughter of Las Vegas mobster David Berman
Robert Durst allegedly killed Susan Berman, daughter of the Las Vegas mobster David 'The Jew' Berman (Getty Images, Wikipedia Commons, Odessa Police)
ADVERTISEMENT

Robert Durst's murder trial is underway after a 14-month delay due to the pandemic. The New York real estate heir is accused of fatally shooting his best friend, Susan Berman, who allegedly helped him cover up the disappearance and murder of his first wife, Kathleen. Durst has denied having anything to do with his first wife's death, but the prosecution is determined that the multimillionaire's "lies" will prove his "undoing."

ADVERTISEMENT

Susan Berman was shot in the back of the head at her Beverly Hills residence on Christmas Eve in 2000. Authorities recovered a spent 9 pm shell casing near her body, but the hunt for her killer went cold without a murder weapon or any other evidence -- at least until the arrest of her close pal and confidante Robert Durst 15 years later.

RELATED ARTICLES

ADVERTISEMENT

Robert Durst hacked Morris Black into pieces but was not convicted, here's how millionaire escaped murder charges

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

ADVERTISEMENT

While Susan Berman had a successful career in journalism and inherited $4 million from her father's holdings, she died nearly broke (Wikipedia/Fair Use)

Prior to Durst becoming the prime suspect in the case, Susan's murder was believed to have had all the hallmarks of a mob hit. Some of her friends, according to the Daily Mail, even speculated that it could have been an act of revenge for some old crime committed by her father David 'The Jew' Berman, reportedly one of the most notorious mobsters in Las Vegas history.

ADVERTISEMENT

Susan and Robert met in the 1960s as students at UCLA and forged a close bond because of their similar childhoods. Both grew up with immense wealth and both had mothers who allegedly committed suicide, per the British newspaper.

"It was always 'Bobby this, Bobby that, wonderful Bobby," a pal of Berman recalled to New York Magazine in 2001. Durst was also featured in the 'acknowledgments' of her memoir, 'Easy Street'.

ADVERTISEMENT

While Berman had a successful career in journalism and inherited $4 million from her father's holdings, she died nearly broke. Durst had given her two $25,000 bailout checks as a gift just months prior to her murder, which some suspect could have been a motive in the crime.

Robert Durst holds a device to read the real-time spoken script as he appears before Judge Mark E. Windham during court proceedings in his murder trial at Inglewood Courthouse on May 18, 2021, in Inglewood, California (Getty Images)

ADVERTISEMENT

'Mafia princess'

Susan was born to Gladys and David Berman on May 18, 1945, in Minneapolis. Her father was a "respected Mob visionary responsible for turning Las Vegas into a gambling gold mine" for his gangster friends including Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, and Meyer Lansky.

"He was the man who one crime reporter said ‘was so tough he could kill a man with one hand tied behind his back," Susan wrote of her legendary father in Easy Street. "He was the Mob visionary who helped convince his Eastern associates that there was money to be made in that honky-tonk town called Las Vegas and went on to forge a gambling silver mine out of a desert full of sagebrush.”

ADVERTISEMENT

She joked in her 1981 memoir that on the day she was born, several men waited just outside the delivery room and made the "waiting room at Abbot Hospital look like the scene of the St Valentine's Day massacre."

Susan remembered spending her childhood in casinos, and how her "friends" included notorious mobsters Gus Greenbaum, whose throat was later slashed in his home, and Willie 'Icepick' Alderman, who earned his moniker for his murder weapon of choice.

ADVERTISEMENT

However, as a child, she never knew that her father or his friends were notorious gangsters. She grew up as a sheltered "mafia princess" in Las Vegas where she reportedly did homework in the counting room, practiced multiplication tables on slot machines, and played gin rummy with her bodyguard. She recounted in her memoir how both Elvis and Liberace sang at her birthday parties and her favorite activity was to watch the showgirls rehearse. On her 12th birthday, her father would buy out the entire Riviera Hotel gift store as a present.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Everybody at the hotel was part of my extended family – the entertainers; Howard Hughes, who hung around in frayed short-sleeved shirts and tennis shoes; the hotel doctor…and the men who lavished presents on me, gamblers who wanted to curry favor with my father. I was surrounded by middle-aged men who helped my father raise me because my mother was so ill," Susan explained in her book. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip including (L-R) the Tropicana Las Vegas, New York-New York Hotel & Casino, Park MGM, MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas are shown as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States on March 15, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Getty Images)

Eventually, the stress of a mobster's dangerous life finally took its toll on Susan's mother Gladys, who began to suffer a series of mental breakdowns. "I thought of her as a beautiful painting that was becoming dimmer and dimmer as she became more and more diminished," Susan wrote of her mother.

ADVERTISEMENT

Her dreamy childhood abruptly ended in 1957 when her father died from a heart attack during a routine polyp removal surgery. Her mother died from a drug overdose less than a year later, according to the Daily Mail. Davie Berman, remembered by his daughter as "the greatest gangster that ever lived," had died and she was sent to live with a relative in Lewiston, Idaho.

ADVERTISEMENT

"He told his friends that I must never know the secrets of his past because the knowledge might destroy me," Susan wrote of her father in Easy Street. "He was determined that the sins of the father would never be visited upon his child," she added.