Durst kicked man in face at party before wife disappeared: testimony

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Real estate scion Robert Durst, whose ties to three slayings were portrayed in the HBO series “The Jinx,” kicked a man in the face without provocation in 1981, breaking a bone, the man testified on Monday ahead of a highly anticipated murder trial.

FILE PHOTO: New York real estate scion Robert Durst appears in the Los Angeles Superior Court Airport Branch with his defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin for a pre-trial motions hearing in Los Angeles, California, January 6, 2017 REUTERS/Mark Boster /Los Angeles Times/Pool

Los Angeles county prosecutors have accused Durst of first-degree murder, saying he shot to death his friend Susan Berman, a writer and the daughter of an organized crime figure, in Los Angeles in 2000 because of what she knew about the unsolved disappearance and presumed slaying of his wife Kathleen.

They sought to tie the pretrial testimony of Peter Schwartz, a Connecticut therapist, about being attacked at a party by Robert Durst to the disappearance of Kathleen Durst.

Durst, 74, has pleaded not guilty to Berman’s murder and was never charged with killing his wife.

Schwartz said in Los Angeles Superior Court he was at a party at the Dursts’ Manhattan apartment in 1981, sitting on the floor in the same room as Kathleen Durst and a few women, when Robert Durst entered.

“He said, ‘You’re the only guy here,’” Schwartz testified, adding Durst looked enraged, even though Schwartz had never been romantically involved with Kathleen.

Durst then kicked Schwartz in the face with a pointed boot, fracturing a bone under his eye, Schwartz testified.

A short time later, Durst left the room and his wife fearfully exclaimed that he owned a gun, Schwartz said.

A year later, Kathleen Durst called Schwartz on Jan. 31, 1982, and asked him about the status of his legal case against her husband related to the incident at the party, Schwartz said. He said she became aggravated on the call.

During Schwartz’s testimony, deputy district attorney Habib Balian told the judge prosecutors believed Kathleen Durst went home that day and had an argument with her husband before he killed her. Kathleen Durst’s body has never been found.

HBO’s “The Jinx” in 2015 chronicled Durst’s ties to his wife’s unsolved disappearance, Berman’s slaying and Durst’s 2003 acquittal in the killing and dismemberment of a Texas neighbor.

Prosecutors formally charged Durst with killing Berman a day after HBO aired the final episode, in which Durst muttered to himself off-camera, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

Durst’s trial is not expected to begin before next year but Judge Mark Windham is allowing some witnesses to testify early in the case, preserving their statements in the event they die before he is tried.

Prosecutors have argued that Durst, whose wealth they estimate at $100 million, could have witnesses eliminated. Durst’s attorneys have ridiculed that suggestion.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Richard Chang