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LOS ANGELES

Man Quizzed in L.A. Author's Death Is Held in Texas Slaying

Crime: Robert Durst once was considered a 'person of interest' in the shooting of Susan Berman.

October 12, 2001|JILL LEOVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police investigating the killing of a 71-year-old man in Galveston, Texas, have arrested Robert Durst, once considered a "person of interest" in the shooting death of Los Angeles author Susan Berman.

Los Angeles police said they have no plans to interview Durst, 58, whom they had questioned after Berman was found slain in her Benedict Canyon home Dec. 24. A police spokesman played down a connection between the new case and the slaying of Berman, 55, the daughter of long-dead Las Vegas mob figure David Berman.

Sgt. John Pasquariello of the Los Angeles Police Department said the arrest "may have some relevance. He has been arrested for murder. He was acquainted with the woman who was murdered." But, he added, "beyond that there is no direct connection between Durst and the [Berman] murder."

Galveston police did not return phone calls Thursday afternoon, and calls to detectives on the Berman case also went unreturned.

According to wire reports, a police investigation and phone tip Tuesday led officers to Durst, who was arrested without incident in the slaying of his 71-year-old neighbor, whose name was withheld pending notification of relatives. Durst was being held in Galveston County Jail on $250,000 bond.

According to the reports, the neighbor's dismembered body parts were found in garbage bags tossed into Galveston Bay. A man fishing with his son pulled up the torso Sept. 30.

Durst's name was publicly connected to the Berman case after New York state police said they had been trying to arrange an interview with the author just before her death. They wanted to talk to her about the unsolved disappearance of Durst's wife years before.

Berman attended UCLA with Robert Durst in the 1960s, and the two were believed to have remained in touch. Durst, the son of the late Seymour Durst, once one of New York City's wealthiest developers, went on to become a developer himself.

Durst's wife, Kathleen, disappeared in 1982, shortly after she began talking about her desire to divorce her husband. Durst was investigated but never charged, and he has steadfastly denied any role in her disappearance. The old case was reopened last year following a tip, New York police said.

Berman, who wrote books and produced documentaries based on her early upbringing as a Mafia daughter in Las Vegas, was found shot in the head.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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