Why Robert Durst’s First Marriage Is Still Shrouded In Mystery


The HBO docu-series The Jinx brought the strange life of real estate scion Robert Durst to the mainstream, including the unsolved disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst. Now, the case of Kathie Durst is getting a fictionalized portrayal in the new Lifetime movie The Lost Wife Of Robert Durst, which premieres on Nov. 4. How long were Kathie and Robert Durst married? The details of their reportedly tumultuous marriage are dramatized in the film.

Kathie McCormack and Robert Durst were married in 1973, and remained married through Kathie's disappearance in 1982, per The New York Times. Durst was nine years her senior, and came from incredible wealth as the heir to the New York real estate company the Durst Organization. A Vanity Fair profile on their marriage reported that Kathie was swept away by Durst and his fortune:

"Kathie, a dentist’s assistant, barely 19, was impressed. She did not come from money. The youngest daughter in a big New Jersey Irish-Catholic family, she was not used to being flown to Bangkok, to dining in restaurants in Tribeca, to dancing at Studio 54.

Yet this fairytale romance did not remain idyllic for very long. Another piece in The New York Times reported that the marriage began a downward spiral in 1976, when Robert forced his wife to have an abortion because he didn't want children. Kathie, who later enrolled at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine hoping to become a pediatrician, had reportedly wanted to keep the baby.


Their marriage also soon became marred by drugs, infidelity, and violence. The same New York Times piece reads:

"Mr. Durst has long acknowledged his marijuana use, and his wife used cocaine, according to friends and members of her family. Both had affairs, his and her friends and relatives say. Mr. Durst, they say, cut off her credit cards to keep her close."

Family and friends have also alleged that Robert Durst was physically abusive towards his first wife. The Times reported that multiple friends were told by Kathie that Robert could be "violent", and that she was gathering damaging evidence against her husband to present to a divorce lawyer. The Times article also stated:

"Three weeks before Ms. Durst disappeared, she was treated at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx for bruises she suffered during an argument with her husband, according to several friends and medical records later recovered by investigators."

This alleged history of domestic abuse made Kathie's family suspect Robert as the culprit when Kathie went missing from the couple's cottage on Lake Truesdale in the winter of 1982. According to the same Times article, Robert told police that he had placed Kathie on a train to Manhattan the night of her disappearance so she could make it to medical school in New York City the next day. He also claimed that he had spoken with her later that night, after she arrived at their apartment. Yet Kathie has not been seen since that night, and her body has never been found. Per another New York Times piece, in 1990, Durst quietly divorced Kathie, who was still missing, citing "abandonment."


Durst later admitted to producers during the filming of the HBO docu-series The Jinx that much of what he told police the night Kathie disappeared had been a lie. The series also featured the now-infamous hot-mic quote, in which he muttered to himself that he had "killed them all, of course." Considering that he was questioned by producers about the disappearance of his first wife, the murder of his close friend Susan Berman, and the murder of his neighbor Morris Black, many believe that this comment refers back to those cases.

In 2003, the Los Angeles Times reported that Durst was acquitted of the murder of his former neighbor, Morris Black. Durst has never been charged in the death of Kathie, though, per NBC News, she was declared deceased in 2017. Robert Durst has already been sentenced to seven years and one month in prison on a weapons charge to which he pleaded guilty, according to Varity, and now faces trial for the murder of Berman. According to another LA Times report, the preliminary hearing for that trial has been delayed, but Durst pleaded not guilty in his 2016 arraignment.

But Kathie's family has not given up the fight to hold Robert Durst accountable for her loss. Kathie's sisters Carol Bamonte, Mary Hughes, and Virginia McKeon have filed a lawsuit against Durst as well as against Durst's second and current wife, Debrah Lee Charatan. Per The New York Times, Kathie's sisters claim that Charatan had knowledge of the location of Kathie's body, and willingly concealed the location of the remains from the McCormack family.

Marc Smerling/HBO

But while Durst faces no criminal charges for anything to do with Kathie's disappearance, the suit may finally provide her family with a portion of the closure they have craved since she disappeared in 1982.