Robert Durst, who was sentenced earlier this week to life without parole after being convicted for murdering his friend, has been placed on a ventilator after contracting COVID-19, his lawyer said Saturday.
Durst, 78, was sentenced Thursday for murdering friend Susan Berman in 2000. The real estate scion was already in dire health straits during the sentencing hearing, according to his lead defense attorney, Dick DeGuerin.
“He was having difficulty breathing and he was having difficulty communicating,” DeGuerin said in an email to the Los Angeles Times. “He looked worse than I’ve ever seen him and I was very worried about him.”
Durst has been held under guard in a wing of USC Medical Center during his murder trial.
Durst, whose appearance in HBO’s six-part documentary series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst reignited interest in the Berman case, sat slumped in a wheelchair in the courtroom as the judgment was handed down. At one point, both of his representatives seemed to look at him with concern.
The defendant, unshaven and mask slipping down his face, looked even more gaunt than usual, his breathing seeming to increase as the proceeding marched toward its conclusion.
It was Durst’s own off-camera admission of “What the hell did I do?…Killed ’em all, of course” in the March 2015 series finale of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Jinx that saw the long-suspected murderer apprehended again by law enforcement.
Arrested by the FBI on March 14 of that year on behalf of then L.A. County D.A. Jackie Lacey’s office and on what appeared to be new evidence, Durst was extradited to the West Coast in fall 2015 to face California justice.
He was convicted of first-degree murder on Sept. 17 of this year. The jury also found true the special circumstance allegations of murder while lying in wait and murder of a witness. It likewise found true allegations that Durst personally used and discharged a firearm during the commission of the crime.
Durst has never come clean about whether he murdered his wife Kathie McCormack Durst in the early 1980s, which was the subject of the 2010 film All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst. Though he was acquitted on self-defense in 2003, Durst has previously admitted to killing his Galveston, Texas rooming house neighbor Morris Black in 2001.
The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month that the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office in New York would be convening a grand jury within a few weeks involving the disappearance of Kathie Durst, and that the family’s attorney, Robert Abrams, received an email notifying them that her family members will not be permitted to speak at Durst’s Los Angeles sentencing.
Durst has long been estranged from his real estate-rich family, which is known for ownership of a series of New York City skyscrapers including an investment in the World Trade Center. He split with the family when his younger brother was placed in charge of the family business, leading to a drawn-out legal battle and ultimately reached a settlement in which the family reportedly paid him $60 million to $65 million.
Tom Tapp and City News Service contributed to this report.