Why The Family Of Robert Durst’s First Wife Are Still Searching For Answers

by Alaina Urquhart-White
Handout/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Missing persons cases that have been open and unsolved for decades are both fascinating and deeply disturbing. One of the most puzzling cases that was recently brought back into the public consciousness is the 1982 disappearance of Kathleen Durst (she was officially declared dead in 2017, per an NBC News article). True crime fans were exposed to the case in 2015, during HBO's documentary, The Jinx, which examined and interviewed her husband, real estate heir Robert Durst. Now, Lifetime is presenting its own dramatized account of the events that led up to Kathie's disappearance in The Lost Wife of Robert Durst, premiering on Nov. 4. But was Kathie Durst ever found?

The short answer is no, Kathie Durst has not been found, either alive or dead. In fact, there is no real physical evidence to prove that she was murdered, though members of her family suspect that Robert killed her. According to a New York Times interview with Kathie's sister Mary McCormack Hughes, Kathie often said, "If anything happens to me, don’t let Bob get away with it.” Vanity Fair reported that, on the night of her disappearance in 1982, Kathie, who had been attending a party at her friend Gilberte Najamy's home in Connecticut, told Najamy before she went home, "If something happens to me, check it out. I’m afraid of what Bobby will do."

The New York Times reported that Kathie and Robert met in 1971, while she was living in one of Durst's father's buildings. After only two dates, he invited her to move with him to Vermont, where he ran a health food store. Reportedly, Kathie shared her unhappiness with friends and family. The couple eventually moved back to New York and got married but Kathie's sister Mary claimed in the previously mentioned New York Times interview that the marriage was volatile and abusive.

Kathie's brother, Jim McCormack, claimed to ABC News, that one night Durst had wanted to leave a family event. McCormack said he witnessed Durst abusing his sister, saying, "He grabbed Kathy by the hair and started pulling her out of the room by her hair.”

Though Robert Durst didn't report her missing until Feb. 5, according to Vanity Fair, the last time any of her friends or family reported seeing Kathie Durst was Jan. 31. She was attending a party at her friend Gilberte's home in Connecticut. Durst was at their home in South Salem. He has maintained she returned home that evening, and that the night ended with the couple having a fight. Durst claimed that Kathie chose to return to their New York City penthouse and that he put his wife on a train, heard from her that she had arrived at the apartment safely, then never heard from her again. The publication also reported that a doorman at the Durst's apartment initially claimed that he had seen her there that evening, but admitted later that hadn't seen the face of the person he believed was Kathie Durst.

Per Vanity Fair, Robert Durst claimed that he waited to report her disappearance because of her schedule (she was a fourth-year medical student), and that it wasn't odd for them to be out of communication for two or three days at a time. The aforementioned ABC News piece reported that a piece of paper was found in Durst's trash at his home that had, “town dump, bridge, boat, shovel” written on it. Per The New York Times, in 1990, Durst secretly divorced Kathie, citing "abandonment" and married his girlfriend, Deborah Lee Charatan, in 2000. That same year on Christmas Eve, Susan Berman (Durst's close confidant) was found shot to death in her apartment. According to the same Vanity Fair piece, Najamy claimed that prior to her death, Berman was contacted by the NYPD regarding information about Kathie's disappearance.

In 2003, the LA Times reported that Durst was acquitted of the murder of his former neighbor, Morris Black, though he did admit to dismembering his body.

In 2016, Durst was arraigned for the murder of Susan Berman and pleaded not guilty. The Los Angeles Times reported in Sept. 2017 that the preliminary hearing has been postponed until April of 2018. Durst is currently serving a seven-year sentence for gun charges, for which he pleaded guilty. At this time, no charges are filed or officially lodged against Durst in connection with his ex-wife Kathie's disappearance or possible murder, though her family and friends continue to search for answers in her case.