(NEW YORK) — A series of “missed opportunities” and an overreliance on false statements made by Robert Durst delayed his prosecution for the murder of his then-wife, Kathleen “Kathie” Durst, by almost 40 years, Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah said Wednesday.
Rocah’s office released a 13-page report that probed the entire scope of the investigation and found both police and prosecutors relied too much on Robert Durst’s alibis that his wife was last seen in Manhattan before she disappeared from their South Salem home on Jan. 31, 1982. Her body has never been discovered.
Even though Robert Durst’s claims were refuted by other evidence, investigators continued their search for Kathie Durst in New York City instead of Westchester, the report said.
“In short, it appears that the initial investigation suffered to some degree from ‘tunnel vision’ — having a theory of a case, which is maintained even when there are red flags that should cause those initial theories to be questioned,” the report said.
New York investigators uncovered evidence that showed Kathie Durst was the victim of domestic violence by Robert Durst before she was killed. Neighbors at the Dursts’ Manhattan residence told investigators at the time that Kathleen Durst had knocked on their window seeking protection from her husband, who allegedly beat her and threatened to shoot her.
Neighbors of his South Salem home refuted Robert Durst’s claims that he stopped by their house for drinks after he dropped off Kathie at a train station the night of her disappearance.
“And yet focus of the investigation remained guided by Durst’s version of events that he had driven her to the train to New York City on the night she disappeared,” Rocah said at a news conference Wednesday.
Susan Berman, Durst’s friend and unofficial spokeswoman, also gave questionable statements to the police suggesting Kathie had run off with another man, the report said.
Berman was murdered in 2000 before she was set to speak with police for a follow-up investigation into Kathie’s disappearance. Robert Durst was arrested in 2015 and charged in connection with Berman’s death, following the airing of the final episode of the HBO documentary “The Jinx,” where he was recorded on a hot mic allegedly incriminating himself.
Robert Durst was convicted in Berman’s death last year and was sentenced to life in prison in October. Shortly after the sentencing, Rocah’s office charged Durst with Kathie Durst’s murder.
Robert Durst died of natural causes earlier this month in custody.
Kathie Durst’s family wasn’t invited to Rocah’s press conference, according to family attorney Robert Abrams, who added that they’re calling for Rocah’s resignation. She was elected as DA in November 2020.
“There have been numerous individuals, including members of the Durst family, that have knowingly and intentionally participated in a criminal conspiracy to help Robert Durst avoid prosecution,” Abrams said in a statement. “Through her misrepresentations and omissions, DA Rocah must now be considered part of the cover-up.”
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