INGLEWOOD (CNS) - Jurors heard testimony today that murder defendant Robert Durst's wife Kathie, who disappeared in 1982, told her medical school professor that her husband had “a homicidal side to him'' and shared her fear that he might kill her.
Jurors were shown videotaped testimony by Dr. Peter Wilk, who gave his original account during Durst's 2018 preliminary hearing on charges of murdering his longtime friend Susan Berman in her Benedict Canyon home.
Wilk said he took contemporaneous notes during a meeting with Kathie Durst to discuss her repeated absences from a medical clerkship program.
“Everything just came spilling out, pouring out. She was very emotional, she was shaking, she was traumatized,'' Wilk testified. “She said she was going through a divorce ... there was violence involved ... her life was a mess.''
Wilk said when he learned of her disappearance a year later, he reached out to the district attorney's office.
“The exact day, a year later, I spoke to (an investigator) .... telling him that ...Kathleen Durst had told me that her husband might kill her,'' Wick said on the videotape.
“He was violent and ... she said there was a homicidal side to him and that was -- that was shocking to me,'' he recalled.
The professor said Kathie Durst also told him that her husband had attacked a friend of hers, knocking him to the ground before “kicking him and stepping on his head ... She said that she was sure that if she hadn't interfered, he would have killed the person.''
During cross-examination, a defense attorney asked Wilk whether Kathie Durst “shared that she and her friend had been doing cocaine" when her husband discovered them, to which the professor responded, “No.''
An emergency room doctor appeared in court Monday to testify that she had treated Kathie Durst for a black eye roughly a month before she went missing.
Robert Durst's lead attorney sought to downplay the injury, asking Dr. Leslie Hain to confirm that she'd seen a “lot worse trauma inflicted'' during her time in the emergency room at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center.
Attorney Dick DeGuerin noted that the doctor had prescribed over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol as needed for the pain and swelling.
“You could have called police if you thought it necessary,'' DeGuerin said, and Hain confirmed that she hadn't placed such a call.
Durst, 78, is charged with murder, though the victim in question is not the multimillionaire real estate scion's wife, but Berman, a writer and Las Vegas mob boss' daughter with whom he had been close friends for years after the two met at UCLA.
The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation that the 55-year-old woman was killed in December 2000 because she was a witness to a crime.
In his abbreviated opening statement to update jurors last Tuesday after a more than year-long pause in the cause resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said the evidence would show that Durst shot and killed Berman “out of survival'' because he feared she would tell authorities about his involvement in Kathie's disappearance.
“Susan Berman never saw what happened. She never knew it was going to happen. She turned around because she trusted him because he was her close friend. He was not someone to fear ... She took a few steps and he basically blew her brains out,'' Lewin said.
Dr. Mark Fajardo, a former Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner who reviewed medical records and photos of Berman, testified that Berman had been shot once in the back of the head by a 9 mm pistol aimed from “within an inch'' away.
Calling the cases “interrelated,'' the prosecutor said jurors will also hear evidence that Durst killed his wife and used Berman to help cover up his part in the crime, and that he subsequently had to kill another person, Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas, in 2001, because the man figured out who Durst was and was putting pressure on him.
Durst -- who contended that Black was killed during a struggle over a gun before Durst dismembered his neighbor -- was acquitted in Texas of that killing.
DeGuerin told jurors during his most recent opening statement last week that the millionaire real estate scion had no motive to kill Berman and had nothing to gain from her death.
“Bob Durst did not kill Susan Berman and he does not know who did,'' DeGuerin told the panel twice, reiterating his opening statement to jurors in March 2020 shortly before the trial was stalled by the pandemic.
“Bob Durst had no motive and nothing to gain by the death of Susan Berman,'' DeGuerin said, noting later that there was no forensic evidence linking his client to that killing.
Durst's attorney countered that the disappearance of Kathie Durst and Berman's killing were “completely dissimilar'' to Black's shooting death.
“Whoever killed Susan Berman left no clues. Kathie Durst disappeared without a trace. After Morris Black's death, the police found hundreds of clues,'' the defense attorney told the jury.
He said Durst went to Berman's home in December 2000, found his close friend dead and “freaked out,'' then sent a note to Beverly Hills police about her body.
DeGuerin told the jury that his client -- whom he said suffered from Asperger syndrome, a form of autism -- has “been considered a little bit weird'' and run away all of his life.
“Bob doesn't make what we would consider good decisions,'' the attorney said, reminding jurors that they will hear from the defendant during the trial.
He disputed the prosecution's contention that Berman made a phone call posing as Kathie Durst and called Berman a “storyteller'' who had a “great imagination'' and “made things up.'' The defense attorney also said Durst told Berman to go ahead and talk with authorities.
DeGuerin told the panel that a six-part HBO series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,'' in which the defendant was recorded saying “There it is, you're caught'' and “killed them all, of course,'' was “heavily edited'' and “not a documentary.''
The defense attorney said Durst “wanted his story out,'' but chose the wrong people to tell that story and realized by the time the fifth episode aired that it was a “hatchet job.''
Durst appeared in court in a wheelchair and was wearing a face mask, as were all of the other trial's participants, as jurors sat spread throughout the Inglewood courtroom, where the trial had been moved because of social distancing protocols.
Superior Court Judge Mark Windham earlier rejected an emergency motion from the defense seeking to postpone the trial indefinitely based on what lawyers said were Durst's “life-threatening'' health issues, including severe malnourishment, a recurrence of esophageal cancer, atrial fibrillation, chronic kidney disease, coronary disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and spinal disease. He said his client has gotten “much worse'' in the last year.
Durst has been behind bars since March 14, 2015, when he was taken into custody in a New Orleans hotel room hours before the airing of the final episode of the HBO series, which examined Kathie's disappearance and the killings of Berman and Black.
Durst has been long estranged from his real estate-rich family, which is known for ownership of a series of New York City skyscrapers -- including an investment in the World Trade Center. He split with the family when his younger brother was placed in charge of the family business, leading to a drawn-out legal battle, and ultimately reached a settlement under which the family reportedly paid him $60 million to $65 million.
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