LOS ANGELES — New York real estate heir Robert Durst was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without chance of parole for the murder of his best friend more that 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 sentencing came after Berman’s family members addressed the court describing her as a warm person who’s been deeply missed.
“It has been a daily, soul consuming and crushing experience,” Sareb Kaufman said of her murder. Kaufman’s father was Susan Berman’s boyfriend and he considered himself her son.
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 that he didn’t kill either woman, but 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.
Durst is the grandson of Joseph Durst, who founded the Durst Organization, one of Manhattan’s largest commercial real estate firms. His father, Seymour, took the reins of the company and later handed control of it to a younger brother, Douglas.
Robert Durst settled his share of the family fortune and was estimated by prosecutors to have $100 million.
Durst’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, said they plan to appeal.
Durst, who has numerous medical issues, on Thursday was rolled into the courtroom in a wheelchair wearing brown jail scrubs. His eyes were wide open and he had a catatonic stare.
Several of the jurors returned to the courtroom to witness the sentencing and were seated in the jury box.
The trial began in March 2020 and was adjourned for 14 months as the Coronavirus pandemic swept the US and courts were closed.