Robert Durst sued for $100 million by family of his first wife

Published 8:15 PM EST, Tue December 1, 2015

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Millionaire real estate heir Robert Durst is sued by the family of his first wife

The $100 million civil lawsuit claims Durst violated her family's right to bury Kathleen McCormack Durst

McCormack went missing in New York 1982

(CNN) —  

The mysterious disappearance of Robert Durst’s wife decades ago continues to haunt him.

A $100 million civil lawsuit against the 72-year-old millionaire real estate heir from one of New York’s wealthiest families is the latest reminder.

Relatives of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, claim he violated their “right to sepulcher,” or bury, their family member, according to a complaint filed Monday in Nassau County Supreme Court in New York.

The lawsuit alleges Durst has known the whereabouts of McCormack’s body for the past 33 years. McCormack was declared dead by a New York court.

“Robert Durst intentionally and knowingly interfered with the next of kin’s immediate possession of Kathleen’s body,” the complaint said.

McCormack went missing in 1982. No one has been charged in her disappearance.

Durst has said the last time he saw his first wife was when he dropped her off at a train station in Westchester, New York, so she could head back to medical school in the city. He secretly divorced her in 1990, Court TV reported.

Her family has said Durst is to blame for her disappearance.

The claim that Durst infringed upon the right of McCormack’s family to bury her is an obscure and rarely used legal argument, according to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

The claim is rooted in old English common law and is part of a set of rights one would traditionally have as a family member. Similar arguments include loss of companionship and loss of consortium, according to Toobin.

“Basically, the idea is that a family member has certain rights to enjoy with other family members,” Toobin said. “If you kill a family member, you deprive the survivors of that right.”

The complaint said McCormack’s family has “suffered and continue to suffer extreme emotional distress, humiliation, mental and physical anguish, as well as economic losses” as a result of Durst’s “outrageous and extreme conduct.”

The lawsuit said: “Despite extensive efforts from law enforcement and others, Kathleen’s body has never been discovered.”

Earlier this year, Durst was the subject of the HBO documentary “The Jinx.” After the final episode, Durst was accused of killing his friend Susan Berman at her home in California in 2000. Prosecutors have suggested that slaying could be tied to his wife’s disappearance. Durst also faces state weapons and drugs charges in New Orleans.

Years after Durst’s wife disappeared, prosecutors argued that the millionaire was hiding out from investigators digging into that case when he killed a neighbor in Texas, dismembered the body and skipped town. Jurors acquitted him in a high-profile 2003 murder trial after his lawyers said he’d acted in self-defense.

In the final episode of “The Jinx,” Durst made headlines after he was overheard muttering to himself on a microphone he apparently did not realize he was on.

Durst is heard saying. “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

One of Durst’s attorneys, Chip Lewis, told CNN on Tuesday that he had not had adequate time to review the lawsuit.

Durst is being held in Louisiana on weapons charges. His next court appearance will be December 17.

A federal grand jury has charged millionaire real estate heir Robert Durst, a convicted felon, with unlawful possession of a firearm.

He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if found guilty of that charge, according to the indictment.

But the bigger courtroom fight will probably unfold in Los Angeles, where the district attorney filed a first-degree murder charge against Durst last month. He awaits extradition to Los Angeles to face that charge. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Prosecutors accuse Durst of “lying in wait” and killing Berman, a crime writer and his longtime confidante, because she “was a witness to a crime.”

A sketch shows Robert Durst as he appeared in court Monday.
Sketches by Tony O. Champagne
A sketch shows Robert Durst as he appeared in court Monday.

Berman was shot in the head in her Beverly Hills home in December 2000, shortly before investigators were set to speak with her about the disappearance of Durst’s first wife.

Durst has long maintained that he had nothing to do with Berman’s death or his wife’s disappearance.

He is suffering from hydrocephalus, which required brain surgery a couple of years ago, DeGuerin said. Doctors implanted a stent on the right side of his head, the attorney said.

DeGuerin also said that Durst is “mildly autistic” and has received treatment in the past from one of the country’s leading experts in Asperger’s syndrome and autism.