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DA: 'Missed Opportunities' Contributed In Decades-long Delay In Durst Case

Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah and members of her office. Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah and members of her office.
Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah and members of her office. Photo Credit: Westchester County DA
Kathie Durst Kathie Durst
Kathie Durst Photo Credit: HBO
Robert Durst Robert Durst
Robert Durst Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Missed opportunities by law enforcement decades ago led to the delays that allowed nationally-known real estate tycoon Robert Durst to get away with his wife’s disappearance 40 years ago, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah released the findings of her office’s investigation into the disappearance of Kathleen Durst, whose body has never been found after she went missing out of Northern Westchester County in 1982, in the hamlet of South Salem in the Town of Lewisboro.

In a 12-page report released on Wednesday, Jan. 19, Rocah - whose office has accused Durst of killing his wife on Jan. 31, 1982 - following his death in a California hospital while serving a life sentence for the murder of his best friend, Susan Berman.

Rocah said that the report will “shed light on some of the reasons why it took nearly 40 years to charge Robert Durst with (Kathie’s) murder.


“In particular, our investigation revealed some missed opportunities by law enforcement during the crucial early stages of the investigation, which may have contributed to the delay in bringing justice in this case,” she said.

“This is not about assigning blame, but rather looking at how we can better serve justice in future cases.”

Rocah made note that the NYPD focused its investigation in Manhattan after Durst was first reported missing by her husband, who claimed that he drove her from their South Salem home to a train in Katonah before speaking to her while she was in their Riverside Drive apartment in the city.

“This focus was based largely on Robert Durst’s statements to police about his last contact with his wife,” she said. “A number of Durst’s statements to authorities regarding Kathleen’s disappearance were contradicted even early on in the investigation.”

Rocah cited "tunnel vision" and said that her probe into the case turned up new witnesses and physical evidence that corroborated certain elements of the case.


“In short, it appears that the initial investigation suffered to some degree from - vision having a theory of a case, which is maintained even when there are red flags that should

cause those initial theories to be questioned,” she said. “While the investigation understandably focused on Manhattan initially, that should have changed as more facts came to light.

“While it is impossible to know why this happened, we cannot ignore the wealth, status and resources available to Durst, and the credibility accorded to Susan Berman because of her status as a well-known author.”

Authorities now “can and must learn from this," she said, particularly for future investigations involving rich, powerful, and high-profile people,” Rocah added.

An attorney for Kathie Durst took Rocah to task following the release of the report, claiming that it was rife with “misrepresentations and omissions,” and claiming that she was part of the cover-up while calling for the DA’s resignation.


“Today the Westchester County District Attorney has sanctioned those illegal acts and attempted to explain away how money, power, and influence allowed a killer to escape justice,” Robert Abrams said in a statement.

“We ask the public to consider why the current Westchester DA and her predecessors remain unwilling to tell the truth about why it took nearly forty years for Robert Durst to be charged.” 

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