Multimillionaire Robert Durst denied in a California court this week that he killed his friend Susan Berman, daughter of a Las Vegas mobster and casino operator. Durst is charged with murder in her December 2000 shooting death.
The 78-year-old son of a New York real estate magnate, Durst took the stand in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, the Associated Press reported. Until this spring, the trial had been delayed for more than a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Durst’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, opened the testimony this week by asking his client, “Bob, did you kill Susan Berman?”
“No,” Durst said from the stand.
“Do you know who did?”
“No, I do not,” Durst answered.
During his testimony, Durst sat in a wheelchair. He had difficulty hearing and speaking, according to the Associated Press. Durst has said he suffers from bladder cancer and other ailments.
In court this week, Durst said he and Berman first became friends in the 1960s when both were attending graduate school at UCLA.
“We both had trust funds,” Durst said.
Berman later acted as Durst’s spokesperson in the 1982 disappearance in New York of his wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, known as Kathie. Though her body was never recovered, she later was declared dead. He has not been charged in that death.
Prosecutors have said Durst killed Berman, 55, because she was going to tell police she helped cover up his wife’s disappearance.
Two days before Christmas in 2000, Berman had let Durst into her home in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles and turned her back on him “because she trusted him,” Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said in court earlier this year.
She turned around, she took a few steps and he basically blew her brains out,” the prosecutor said.
Durst’s attorneys said that after going to her house and finding her body, he panicked and ran.
Las Vegas Mobster
Berman was the only child of David Berman, who served time in Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York for kidnapping, according to author and journalist Cathy Scott. Scott wrote the 2002 book Murder of a Mafia Daughter: The Life and Tragic Death of Susan Berman.
David Berman moved to Las Vegas in 1944 and invested in downtown casinos such as the El Cortez, which is still in operation, with some of the original structure intact.
Scott, a former reporter for the Las Vegas Sun, has written that Berman once “ran the Flamingo,” formerly a Mob-connected casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, a New York gangster, opened the Flamingo in December 1946. It is still in operation at that site, though none of the original buildings remain.
David Berman died in June 1957 at age 54 of a heart attack during an operation.
‘Gambling Silver Mine’
In an article last month for Psychology Today, Scott noted that Susan Berman had inherited $5.25 million but squandered it and, at the time of her death, was penniless.
Over the years, Susan Berman had embarked on a career as a writer, which included publication of her 1981 memoir Easy Street: The True Story of a Gangster’s Daughter.
In it, she credited her father with being one of the first to realize Las Vegas’ potential as a gaming capital.
“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,” she wrote.
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