Kathie Durst was just months away from graduating from Albert Einstein College of Medicine when she disappeared on Jan. 31, 1982

By Christine Pelisek
November 25, 2019 09:17 AM
robert and Kathy durst
Kathie and Robert Durst
| Credit: HBO

For more than 37 years, the siblings of Kathie Durst — the 29-year-old missing wife of real estate heir Robert Durst — have sought answers.

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

She was never seen again.

Kathie’s siblings insist she would never abandon her family or her budding medical career. She was also in the middle of planning a birthday party for her grandmother.

Although law enforcement, as well as Kathie’s family, has long believed that Durst killed Kathie, he has never been charged with a crime related to her disappearance.

However, the now-76-year-old Durst is scheduled to stand trial this February in Los Angeles for the 2000 execution-style killing of his close friend Susan Berman.

Over the years, Kathie’s unsolved disappearance has spawned articles, books, a movie called All Good Things, and the 2015 HBO docuseries, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. But for Kathie’s siblings, it’s been a nightmare that spurred a decades-long quest for justice.

“All they want is for there to be justice for their loved one who’s been murdered,” says family attorney Robert Abrams of Abrams Fensterman. “It’s not some kind of TV series. This is real life and it’s just real important.”

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.

Kathy durst family
Kathie’s siblings Ginny McKeon, Mary Hughes, Carol Bamonte and Jim McCormack
| Credit: Ali Smith

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.

“This craziness, he gets away with it,” Kathie’s sister, Ginny McKeon, says in this week’s issue of PEOPLE.

In their search for answers, Kathie’s family has 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. (Last August, the wrongful death suit was dismissed when a judge ruled it had been filed too late.)

Recently, 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 says. “There has to be serious questions raised as to why Durst has never been prosecuted, but there’s also serious questions about a coverup.”

Robert Durst - News
Robert Durst

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As Durst prepares to stand trial this winter for Berman’s murder, Kathie’s siblings are determined to keep her story alive.

“We are not going to let her be just a footnote to the Susan Berman story or the Robert Durst story,” says Kathie’s brother, Jim McCormack, in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “This is my baby sister. She had a purpose. She had a life.”

Jim plans to honor Kathie by creating Kathie’s Porchlight Foundation, which will provide financial assistance to aspiring doctors and nurses. The foundation will partner with Western Connecticut State University and Albert Einstein colleges, Kathie’s former school.

“It’s what she stood for, the passion to care for people,” McCormack says.