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Prosecutors say Durst murdered his best friend to cover his tracks for killing another woman: His wife.

Marisa Gerber, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- As Los Angeles County prosecutors pieced together their murder case against Robert Durst -- the eccentric New York real estate scion accused of killing his best friend Susan Berman in 2000 -- they followed a path that led to the opposite coast and decades into the past.

Another devastated family. Another police investigation. Another woman close to Durst: his first wife, Kathleen, who disappeared in New York in 1982.

The fates of both women, prosecutors argue, are intrinsically connected. Their theory: Durst killed Berman to keep her from telling authorities what she knew about his involvement in his wife's disappearance. Although her body has never been recovered, prosecutors -- and Kathleen's family -- believe she was slain by her husband. Durst was never charged in connection with her disappearance.

A preliminary hearing to determine whether Durst will stand trial in Berman's slaying is scheduled to begin Monday. Berman, an author and longtime confidant, was found dead in her Benedict Canyon home on Christmas Eve in 2000. Durst, 75, has denied killing either woman.

At the heart of the prosecution's case -- one that relies on circumstantial evidence -- rests a haunting conclusion: that because Durst escaped justice in the New York slaying, he remained free to attack again. He went on to kill Berman, prosecutors say, and an elderly neighbor in Texas.

Deputy Dist. Atty. John Lewin described Durst as "a menace to society."

But Durst's defense team has emphasized that "it has never been determined that Kathie Durst was 'murdered.'"

"Any suggestion to the contrary by the people," the lawyers argued in a court filing, "is simply not supported by the record or evidence."

Durst's lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said he thinks his client was arrested "not because of facts" but because of "The Jinx," a six-part HBO documentary about Durst for which he gave an extensive interview. During the final episode, the real estate magnate mutters, "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."

Some interpreted his comments, which were captured on a hot microphone, as a confession to killing Berman and his wife, as well as Morris Black, his Texas neighbor. Durst was arrested on a murder warrant for Berman's death in New Orleans on March 14, 2015, a day before the finale aired.

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