Robert Durst was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Thursday for the murder of his longtime pal Susan Berman.
The 78-year-old real estate tycoon was found guilty last month of first-degree murder for shooting Berman point-blank in the back of the head in her LA home just before Christmas in 2000.
Prosecutors argued he killed his best friend and confidant to stop her from telling police about a fake alibi she provided after his wife, Kathie McCormack Durst, disappeared from Westchester County in 1982.
“This crime was a witness killing and a circumstance of that crime was the denial of justice to the McCormack family,” Judge Mark Windham said before issuing the sentence.
“And they suffered terribly due to Kathie’s killing and saw her maligned and denied justice.”
Kathie was eventually declared legally dead, but Durst was never charged with the crime.
The real estate heir appeared masked in court in a wheelchair looking frail, his hair unkempt and his eyes cast downward. He sat slouched and slumped, his head leaning on the back of the seat for most of the hearing.
Attorneys for Durst had argued for a new trial but that request was rejected by the judge in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The judge spoke of Berman after family members discussed their loss.
“Susan Berman was an extraordinary human being. I personally wish I could have known her,” Windham said. “I feel like I got to know her vicariously far too late and under terrible circumstances, but she was an extraordinary human being and killing her was a terrible loss to our community.”
Prosecutors argued that Durst, whose family is behind real estate giant The Durst Organization, was planning to flee the country after the HBO documentary “The Jinx” about the alleged murders aired.
Durst was arrested in 2015 in New Orleans a day before the final episode aired.
His trial was shown the elaborate head-to-shoulder prosthetic mask and fake IDs Durst planned to use to conceal his identity when he made a run for it.
After Durst’s conviction, Deputy District Attorney John Lewin described him as a “narcissistic psychopath” who “killed his wife and … had to keep killing to cover it up.”
“He’s 78 years old. He’s been walking around for a long time. He had a lot more of a life, you know, Kathie didn’t make 30. On balance, considering what he’s done, he got a lot more of a life than he was entitled to,” Lewin said.
Durst’s trial first kicked off in March last year but was forced to adjourn for 14 months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It resumed in May this year before the jury reached their verdict on Sept. 17.
In the wake of his guilty verdict in Berman’s death, a Westchester County prosecutor is prepared to seek charges against him in his wife’s death, a source told the Associated Press.
Durst testified during his LA trial that he did not kill his wife or best friend.
Prosecutors are set to impanel a grand jury in the coming weeks to hear evidence against Durst in his wife’s disappearance.
With Post wires
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