The Jinx: What happened in season one that led to Robert Durst’s conviction? SuperNayr

The Jinx caused a sensation when it first aired on HBO in 2015. The six-part docuseries, from director Andrew Jarecki, told the story of multimillionaire New York real estate heir Robert Durst and his involvement in a series of grisly crimes. The show sparked headlines around the world when its subject was arrested on first-degree murder charges the day before its finale aired.

Now, with The Jinx returning for a second season nine years on, the original series is enjoying renewed interest. The genesis of the show can be traced back to Jarecki’s 2010 drama All Good Things, which starred Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella. Although names were changed for the film, the story was heavily inspired by Durst’s real-life story. In the film, Gosling portrays David Marks, the wealthy son of a real estate tycoon played by Langella. Marks’ strange behaviour leads to him becoming a prime suspect in a series of murders, as well as in the unsolved disappearance of his wife (Dunst).

The real Durst liked the film so much that shortly after All Good Things was released he called Jarecki and offered to sit for an interview, having never previously spoken to any other journalists. In the end, Durst spoke to Jarecki for over 20 hours, and those lengthy discussions would go on to form the basis of the series.

The first four episodes of The Jinx explore the unsolved disappearance of Durst’s wife Kathleen in 1982, the execution-style murder of writer Susan Berman in 2000 and the 2001 death and dismemberment of Morris Black, who had been Durst’s neighbour in Galveston, Texas.

Durst always denied any involvement in the disappearance of Kathleen, who was just months shy of her graduation from medical school when she vanished. However, he changed his story several times and each version was riddled with inconsistencies. Durst and his wife reportedly had frequent public, sometimes violent, arguments, and Kathleen was treated for bruises on her body. She also claimed that Robert forced her to have an abortion.

Susan Berman, meanwhile, was a friend and confidante of Durst’s who was found shot dead in her Benedict Canyon home in Los Angeles. Berman had been Durst’s main spokesperson and defender in public, but before she died, she was reportedly about to tell authorities that Kathleen hadn’t disappeared but rather had been killed and that she had aided in Durst’s coverup of the murder.

Robert Durst on trial for the murder of Susan Berman in March 2020 (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

In October 2000, Durst was tipped off that police planned to reopen the investigation into Kathleen’s disappearance. In response Durst went into hiding, moving to Galveston, Texas, and going to elaborate lengths to disguise himself as a mute woman in order to evade police inquiries. He was then arrested in October 2001 after parts of his neighbour Morris Black were found dismembered in Galveston Bay.

At trial, Durst claimed he had killed his neighbour in self-defence after the pair struggled over his .22 caliber target pistol. He then admitted to cutting up Black’s body with a knife, axe and saws, putting it in a bag and dumping it into the bay. Black’s head was never recovered, so prosecutors were unable to present sufficient forensic evidence to dispute Durst’s account of the struggle. He was acquitted on 11 November 2003.

During the fifth episode of The Jinx, Jarecki is contacted by Susan Berman’s stepson Sareb Kaufman, who offers new evidence linking Durst to Berman’s killing. He provides an envelope that Durst had sent to Berman, which features block letter writing and a notable misspelling of “Beverley Hills”, both of which had also appeared on an anonymous letter that had been sent to the police to notify them about Berman’s murder.

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Robert Durst in ‘The Jinx – Part Two’ (HBO)

In the final episode of season one, Jarecki successfully convinces Durst to sit for a second interview. During this conversation, the filmmaker confronts him with the evidence of the two envelopes, but Durst continues to maintain his innocence and denies sending the letter about Berman’s murder.

After the interview, Durst excuses himself to go to the bathroom and is apparently unaware that his microphone is still recording him. He rambles to himself, eventually stating: “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

That shocking and revelatory ending served as the climax of the series, but the real-life drama continued. The evidence provided by Berman’s stepson and the filmmakers led directly to Durst being convicted of killing Berman.

His trial began in 2020, but was postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic. He was convicted that September, with both his brother Douglas and a friend, Nick Chavin, testifying against him, and sentenced to life in prison.

‘The Jinx’ director Andrew Jarecki (Getty Images)

However, it did emerge during the trial that the damning audio heard in the finale of The Jinx had been edited and re-ordered. What Durst actually said on the full bathroom recording was less clear: “I don’t know what you expected to get. I don’t know what’s in the house. Oh, I want this. Killed them all, of course… I want to do something new. There’s nothing new about that… He was right. I was wrong. The burping. I’m having difficulty with the question. What the hell did I do?”

In January 2022, Durst died of cardiac arrest while in hospital for tests. The second instalment of The Jinx, which will air weekly on Max beginning Sunday 21 April, is set to include new interviews, hidden material, and Durst’s prison calls.

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