(AP) — New York real estate heir Robert Durst was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without a chance of parole for the murder of his best friend more than two decades ago.
Durst, 78, was convicted in Los Angeles Superior Court last month of first-degree murder for shooting Susan Berman point-blank in the back of the head at her home in December 2000.
The killing had been a mystery that haunted family and friends for 15 years before Durst was arrested in 2015 following his unwise decision to participate in a documentary that unearthed new evidence and caught him in a stunning confession.
Berman’s death left a permanent hole in the lives of family members who remembered her Thursday for her adventurousness, creativity and deep love and loyalty.
“It has been a daily, soul-consuming and crushing experience,” said Sareb Kaufman, who considered Berman his mother after his father dated her. “I’ve lost everything many times over because of him.”
Durst, who has numerous medical issues and sat in a wheelchair wearing brown jail scrubs, said nothing. His eyes were wide open, and he had a catatonic stare when he entered the courtroom and barely looked over at Kaufman and three of Berman’s cousins when they spoke.
Durst silenced Berman to prevent her from incriminating him in the reopened investigation of his wife’s 1982 disappearance in New York, prosecutors said.
Berman provided a phony alibi for Durst when Kathie Durst vanished, prosecutors said.
Durst testified he didn’t kill either woman, but he said on cross-examination that he would lie if he had.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that he intentionally killed a neighbor in Galveston, Texas, in 2001, though he had been acquitted of murder in that case after testifying that he shot the man in self-defense and then panicked and chopped up the corpse and tossed it out to sea.
Defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin said Durst will appeal, and he refrained from making other remarks.
Judge Mark Windham denied a motion for a new trial, rejecting arguments there was insufficient evidence or that he ruled incorrectly on 15 issues.
“You said the court erred so many times it made me feel self-conscious,” Windham joked.
Windham there was overwhelming evidence and prosecutors proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at least five ways, including devastating revelations during Durst’s cross-examination and an admission he made in the climax of the six-part documentary, “The Jinx: The Life and Crimes of Robert Durst.”
After being caught in a lie about a note he penned directing police to Berman’s lifeless body, Durst went into a bathroom and muttered to himself on a live microphone, “You’re caught.” He later said, “Killed them all, of course.”