Robert Durst Charged with Murder of First Wife, Who Disappeared in 1982

Kathie Durst's remains have never been found

robert and Kathy durst
Kathie and Robert Durst. Photo: HBO

Authorities in New York have charged convicted murderer Robert Durst with second-degree murder in connection with the presumed death of his first wife, Kathie, who disappeared in 1982, PEOPLE confirms.

Investigator Joseph Becerra of the New York State Police, in Westchester County, filed the complaint against Durst in the town court of Lewisboro.

Durst, 78, was convicted in September in California for the 2000 execution-style murder of his best friend, writer Susan Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles said Durst killed Berman because she knew too much about Kathie's disappearance. Durst was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in October. Last Saturday, Durst's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, told The Los Angeles Times that his client has been hospitalized and placed on a ventilator with COVID-19.

Kathie's remains have never been found.

Robert Durst
Robert Durst. ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA/Shutterstock

Kathie was a 19-year-old dental hygienist when she met Durst, who was 9 years her senior, in 1971. After just two dates, she moved in with him; two years later, they were married. But by 1981, their marriage was headed for divorce, according to her family. Friends later relayed incidents of alleged abuse, which included Kathie showing up to medical school with a black eye and bruises on her arm.

Kathie was 29 and just months away from graduating from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York when she was last seen alive on Jan. 31, 1982, at a friend's gathering. Five days later, Durst filed a missing persons report, telling police he and his wife had had an argument at their South Salem, N.Y., cottage that night. He claimed he had then taken her to the station to catch a train to New York City.

Susan Berman
Susan Berman. HBO

Over the years, Kathie's unsolved disappearance spawned articles, books, a movie called All Good Things, and the 2015 HBO docuseries, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.

Meanwhile, Durst went on to make headlines: First in the Berman murder, and then for his 2001 arrest in the death of Morris Black, a neighbor in Galveston, Texas. Durst claimed self-defense in that case and was acquitted of murder, despite admitting that he chopped up Black's remains.

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In their search for answers, Kathie's family sued Durst for interfering with the family's efforts to recover Kathie's body. They also filed a wrongful death suit, alleging there was "overwhelming evidence that he had abused his wife before she vanished.

The wrongful death suit was later dismissed when a judge ruled it had been filed too late.

Robert Abrams, the family's lawyer, asked the New York state attorney general to take over the investigation into Kathie's death. "We're very hopeful that they will do the right thing," he told PEOPLE. "There has to be serious questions raised as to why Durst has never been prosecuted, but there's also serious questions about a coverup."

In May, the Westchester District Attorney's Office said they were reopening the investigation into Kathie's death.

At the time, Mimi Rocah, the district attorney, said she had assigned investigators from their cold case unit to look into her disappearance.

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