Durst attorney: Search of Houston home a 'publicity stunt'
HOUSTON (AP) — As investigators sift through items seized in a search of Robert Durst's Houston home, the troubled millionaire's attorney says he would be surprised if any evidence against his client were found.
Dick DeGuerin called the search of the condominium Tuesday "a publicity stunt" by a California prosecutor looking to pin the 15-year-old slaying of a former confidant of Durst's on his client.
The 71-year-old heir to a New York real estate fortune remains in custody in New Orleans after his weekend arrest, which came shortly before the finale of an HBO series about his links to the slaying of three people, including Susan Berman, in whose 2000 death in California he is charged with murder.
Durst also has been suspected — but never charged — in the disappearance of his first wife in New York. In 2003, he was acquitted of murder in a dismemberment death in Texas.
Seven officers spent hours Tuesday searching Durst's home in a 17-story condominium building in a posh Houston neighborhood before carrying away two white cardboard document boxes. Around 8:30 p.m. the officers, including one wearing a Los Angeles Police Department badge, carried two white cardboard document boxes to six vehicles and left.
"I don't know what they're looking for. I don't know what they could be looking for 15 years after Susan Berman was killed 1,500 miles away. ... I think it's a publicity stunt," DeGuerin said. "I'm not surprised by it, but I would really be surprised if they found anything of any evidentiary value. They can search now till kingdom come. They're not going to find anything because there isn't anything," he said.
FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap confirmed that FBI agents participated in the search at the LAPD's request. Harris County district attorney's office spokesman Jeff McShan said the LAPD contacted his office last week.
Neither Dunlap nor McShan would elaborate on what was happening inside the building and referred questions to Los Angeles police.
LAPD spokesman Sgt. Barry Montgomery said the department is not commenting until Durst is in its custody. Durst is being held in Louisiana, where he faces drug and weapons charges, and it's not clear how soon he will be returned to California.
"This is an investigation that's being handled by multi-jurisdictions," Montgomery said. "At this juncture the only thing the LAPD is doing is waiting for the extradition. We are just waiting on him to make it into our custody."
Durst was charged Monday in Los Angeles with first-degree murder in the shooting of Berman, the daughter of a prominent Las Vegas mobster. He could face the death penalty under special circumstances that allege he ambushed her and murdered a witness to a crime.
In the HBO documentary, "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst," Durst mumbled about how he "killed them all," providing a dramatic kick to the end of the series. But a law enforcement official said his arrest on the murder charge was based on words he wrote.
Analysis linked a letter Durst wrote to Berman a year before her killing with one that pointed police to her body, and that was the key new evidence in the long-dormant investigation into the 2000 killing, the official not authorized to speak publicly told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
But DeGuerin disagreed, saying, "This is a case that the L.A. D.A. has issued a warrant based on a television program, a (expletive) docudrama."
Bob Martin, who has lived with his wife, Carol, in the Houston building for 1 ½ years, said he would occasionally say hello to Durst and discuss the real estate market with him. He described Durst as no quirkier than anyone else in the building. He added that Durst would occasionally attend the building's homeowners' association meetings and that the building staff reported Durst was courteous to them, as well.
Durst waived extradition in New Orleans, but authorities there charged him with being a felon in possession of a gun, and illegally carrying a weapon with marijuana, a controlled dangerous substance. Assistant District Attorney Mark Burton said investigators found more than a quarter-pound of pot and a revolver in his hotel room.
DeGuerin said he wants a hearing in Louisiana as soon as possible to contest the arrest.
"We want a hearing as quickly as possible so Mr. Durst can go to California and face trial as quickly as possible."
The judge in New Orleans scheduled another hearing for Monday.