NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - With accused murderer Robert Durst set to spend at least six days in a Louisiana jail awaiting extradition to California, law enforcement officials and friends of possible victims expressed satisfaction on Tuesday over the prospect of the real estate scion facing justice.
Durst, 71, the subject of a six-part HBO documentary series called “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” was picked up by a filmmaker’s microphone saying he “killed them all,” apparently acknowledging his crimes, in footage that aired on Sunday.
He was arrested on Saturday by FBI agents at a New Orleans hotel, where he was staying under an alias and was deemed a risk to flee the country, after Los Angeles County issued a warrant for his arrest in the 2000 killing of longtime friend Susan Berman.
A revolver and a stash of marijuana were found in his room, according to police documents.
Durst was formally charged on Monday with first-degree murder in the killing of Berman, and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Long estranged from his powerful family with its major New York real estate holdings, the eccentric Durst was acquitted in 2003 in the dismemberment and killing of a male neighbor in Texas, and was a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen Durst, in 1982.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters on Tuesday his department’s 15-year investigation into Berman’s death had been delayed by the “legal maneuverings” of Durst and his lawyers.
“We are glad that we have finally come to a point where we can request to have Mr. Durst extradited to California, to Los Angeles, so he can face a jury of his peers in the homicide of Susan Berman,” Beck said.
Ellen Strauss, a friend of Kathleen Durst, told CNN she watched the end of the HBO series with Kathleen Durst’s family, and they were pleased with his apparent admission, which legal experts say probably will be admissible in court.
“We were listening so closely, everyone leaning forward in their chair,” she said. “We took it in. Everyone clapped.”
Durst’s apparent admission, uttered while still wearing a microphone as he used the bathroom, has not swayed the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office in New York to look afresh at Kathleen Durst’s disappearance, which remains an open case, a spokesman said.
“That doesn’t change anything at this point,” spokesman Lucian Chalfen said.
Before Durst can be tried in California, his legal troubles in New Orleans, where he was booked on two weapons charges, must be resolved.
On Tuesday, a New Orleans judge set a hearing for Monday to determine whether Durst is a flight risk and whether he should be granted bond, said Christopher Bowman, spokesman for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office.
A Louisiana appellate court on Tuesday granted Durst’s request to be transferred from a New Orleans jail to a lockup outside of town so he can be better treated for unspecified medical conditions, the Times-Picayune newspaper reported.
If granted bond, he would likely face extradition to California before being given the opportunity to go free.
Durst’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, told reporters outside a New Orleans courthouse on Tuesday that he is eager to get his client to California to contest the murder charge.
“Bob Durst did not kill Susan Berman, he doesn’t know who did,” he said. “The warrant that was issued in California was issued because of a television show and not because of facts.”
Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans; Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Mary Milliken, Mohammad Zargham and Will Dunham