Robert Durst found friend Susan Berman dead in her apartment, defense claims

LOS ANGELES — Real estate scion Bob Durst panicked when he found his best friend Susan Berman’s dead body in her Beverly Hills home and fled, defense lawyers told jurors during opening arguments at his murder trial Tuesday in Los Angeles.

It was the first time Durst’s defense has admitted that he was in Berman’s apartment on Dec. 23, 2000.

“When Bob showed up and found her dead, he panicked,” said attorney Dick DeGuerin. “He wrote the anonymous letter so her body would be found and he ran.”

Durst hand-wrote and sent an anonymous letter to the Beverly Hills Police Department with Berman’s address and the word cadaver.

For years, Durst had denied having been in Los Angeles or having penned the letter.

DeGuerin argued that Durst, 76, suffers from mild autism, which explains some of the choices he has made. “Bob doesn’t make good decisions,” DeGeurin said. “It’s part of his makeup. It’s typical of his emotional condition.”

He said Durst was once diagnosed as having Asperger’s syndrome, but psychiatrists “now just call it as being on the spectrum.”

He reminded the jury that Durst is only on trial for Berman’s murder and not other crimes he has been accused of, including his wife’s disappearance in 1982 or the killing and dismemberment of Morris Black in 2001 in Galveston, Texas.

DeGeurin said the dismemberment of Black was so “awful” that it would “overwhelm everything else.” He said Durst was tried for that murder in Texas and was acquitted after a jury found he had acted in self-defense.

“The Jinx” is what got us to this courtroom today, DeGeuirin said, referring to Durst’s hot-mic confession in the finale of the six-part series. “Killed them all, of course,” Durst muttered.

DeGeurin said it wasn’t a documentary but a “heavily edited television series production.” He told the jurors that the HBO show was misleading. “I call it gotcha journalism,” he said.

Deputy DA John Lewin previously argued in his three-day opening statement that Durst shot Berman in the back of the head execution-style to prevent her from cooperating with Westchester authorities, who had launched a fresh probe into the disappearance of his first wife, Kathie Durst.

DeGeurin said that, despite no new evidence, an “ambitious district attorney by the name of Jeanine Pirro” decided to reinvestigate the case in 2000. “Bob panicked and he ran as he’s been doing all his life,” DeGeurin said. “The lack of evidence is also evidence.”

Durst, who has been held without bail since his 2015 arrest, sat stone-faced at the defense table. DeGeurin said that Durst, who looks gaunt and frail, has suffered from esophageal cancer and had two spinal surgeries and brain surgery.

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