BURIED SECRETS: A NEWS 12 DOCUMENTARY SPECIAL
UPDATE: Oct. 8, 2021: Sources tell News 12's Tara Rosenblum that the Westchester DA is conveing a grand jury and will pursue charges in the the 1982 dissapearance of Robert Durst's wife.
UPDATE: Sept. 17, 2021: A jury has found Robert Durst guilty of murder in the death of his freind Susan Berman.
The death of a New York socialite, a mobster's daughter from southern California and a struggling senior in Texas have one person in common: Robert Durst.
Some theorize that Kathie Durst, his first suspected victim and former wife, was murdered in a fit of jealous rage over her desire to end their crumbling marriage.
Two decades later, Durst would have his first brush with justice inside a Texas courtroom, after he admitted to killing and dismembering his neighbor, Morris Black. Durst testified he killed Black in self-defense after a fight between the two neighbors got out of hand. Five days of deliberation in court ended with an acquittal of murder.
Twenty years later, as he battles cancer, Durst now stands on trial again -- this time in California for a single count of murder in the slaying of his best friend, Susan Berman.
Robert Durst's own brother, Douglas Durst, thought he was the next target - he even showed up at the California trial with his own security detail. Accusations of Theft
Decades of tension came to a head when Robert Durst was accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the family business - accusations exposed by his wife, Kathie.
A court motion back in April 2021 outlines one of the prosecutor's theories that her determination to expose him ultimately led to a motive for a murder.
Robert Durst was set to inherit a multibillion-dollar empire, but the chairman's role is now held by his younger brother, Douglas.
Douglas Durst admitted that there was a point after Morris Black's death that he became involved in a contested legal dispute with his brother where he was paid tens of millions of dollars.
Kathie's family says they believe Douglas helped coverup his brother's heinous crime to avoid negative attention to the family. The Durst organization has denied this.
Durst never publicly admitted to stealing from his family but did say that witnessing his mother's apparent suicide at their Scarsdale home sent him down a path of mental illness.
News 12's Tara Rosenblum interviews Jill Biden's ex-husband Bill Stevenson as part of her ongoing reporting on the Robert Durst case. (News 12)
While Durst is on trial in Los Angeles, the Westchester district attorney reopened the 40-year-old cold case in early 2021, investigating Kathie's disappearance as a murder.
The justice system is now up against the clock if Durst is to be tried for the disappearance of Kathie as Durst's health begins to wane.
State police investigator Joseph Becerra, who first opened the case in Westchester back in 1999, thinks he knows where Kathie has been for the last 40 years.
Becerra says he believe Durst killed Kathie in South Salem and then buried her body in the secluded Pine Barrens, a notorious dumping ground for mobsters going back to the 1960s.
It's a theory based on Durst's seemingly odd behavior in the days after she disappeared.
Becerra says the morning after Kathie vanished on Feb. 1, 1982, he visited a Ridgefield, Connecticut store that sold tarps, ropes and strong cleaning products.
Becerra then explained to the jury that collect phone call records place Robert Durst near the Pine Barrens 36 hours after she went missing.
Connection to the Murder Victim
For the first time, Kathie's brother shared his shocking connection to Durst's murdered best friend with News 12's Tara Rosenblum.
Jim McCormack dated Susan Berman back in the 1970s and recalls going on double dates with Robert and Kathie in New York City.
Jim and Susan weren't a love match, but McCormack says he has no doubt of who murdered her.
"Bob was afraid that Susan Berman was going to implicate him in the death of Kathie," he says. "Susan knew exactly what happened to my baby sister. Susan had enough influence of Bob, that she would have extracted it from him."
Susan and Bob's inseparable bond would be put to the ultimate test in 1999 when a law enforcement officer in Westchester reopened the case into Kathie Durst's disappearance back after receiving a tip from a suspect in a non-related, public lewdness case.
Becerra, who was the lead investigator in the case, said he did plan on interviewing Berman, but never got the chance because she died of a gunshot wound to her head inside her Los Angeles home in December 2000.
COMING FORWARD (Reported 5/27/21)
The former brother-in-law of Robert Durst, the accused killer at the center of the highest-profile murder trial in the country right now, is speaking out publicly for the first time after learning top Westchester prosecutors are reopening the cold case into his sister's disappearance.
Jim McCormack, the one-time brother-in-law of the infamous real estate scion and suspected killer, says he has renewed hope in his family's fight for justice.
When asked if he knows who killed his sister, McCormack says he has no doubt who did it.
Bob Durst killed my sister in 1982.
"None, absolutely none. Bob Durst killed my sister in 1982," says McCormack.
"The McCormack family wants desperately to have this thing finally brought to at least a charge," McCormack says.
In an exclusive interview, the New Jersey father of two opened up to News 12’s Tara Rosenblum about the living nightmare he and his three siblings have endured since their baby sister, Kathie Durst, went missing back in 1982.
McCormack says that the last time he saw his sister alive was 39 years ago during a Christmas gathering. Robert Durst wanted to go home at the end of the evening, but Kathie wanted to stay. What happened next has haunted McCormack for decades.
THE FULL VIDEO - THE ROBERT AND KATHIE DURST STORY
“He walked over to her, grabbed her by the top of her hair and yanked her. And she went with that pull. My grandmother's eyes were as big as pizza pies. She grabbed her coat and she turns to me and says 'It's OK, Jimmy,'" he says.
On the way to the abortion, he threw water on her head.
McCormack says this was the first sign of domestic abuse he witnessed in the marriage of his sister and her husband.
McCormack also shared details of another painful chapter in the marriage.
After her disappearance, the family discovered a journal Kathie kept where she wrote Robert forced her to get an abortion in 1976.
“On the way to the abortion, he threw water on her head," says McCormack.
Prosecutors have long suspected that Durst killed his wife - although her body has never been found.
The Westchester County District Attorney is now reopening the 1982 disappearance as a murder case – appointing top prosecutors from a new cold case unit to review evidence. The case will be viewed from the lens of domestic abuse.
"At the time that this alleged homicide occurred, we did not have the same understanding of domestic violence and how that kind of abuse could play into relationships and how it could frankly color, law enforcement. By that I mean police and prosecutors' perspectives on what happened and how they investigate a crime," says Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah.
A NEW START (Reported 5/17/21)
Although Kathie Durst was not declared legally dead until 2017, her disappearance has been considered the most notorious cold case in Westchester County for decades.News 12’s Tara Rosenblum first broke the news that the district attorney was reopening the case.
The family of Kathie Durst says that while they feel closer to justice than ever before, they are also anxious over Robert Durst's failing health.
The real estate baron has appeared frail and weak as he stands trial in California for the murder of his best friend Susan Berman, who prosecutors say was going to implicate him in Kathie's death.
"Susan knew exactly what happened to my baby sister," said McCormack.
After Susan's death, millionaire Robert Durst had the resources to go into hiding. But death, mystery and intrigue hounded him.
In Galveston, Texas, Durst disguised himself as a mute woman using the name of an old Scarsdale classmate. Durst testified that he killed his neighbor and dismembered him as an act of self-defense. He was acquitted of his neighbor’s murder in 2001.
"If you just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he discovered that you are a danger to him, then you're gone," says McCormack.
Kathie Durst reported missing (News 12)
Jill (top left) and Bill Stevenson (behind the camera) (Courtesy of Bill Stevenson)
THE POSSIBLE MISSING LINK (Reported 7/8/21)
As Robert Durst stands trial for murder in California, first lady Jill Biden's former husband has alleged a secret affair with Durst's first wife, Kathie, days before her disappearance nearly four decades ago.
Bill Stevenson says he has never shared his story publicly before, but he decided to disclose the revelations now due to Durst's failing health.
"I feel like I'm the missing link in this case," he says.
Stevenson, a concert hall owner from Delaware, first met Kathie Durst in the 1960s when they were children spending summers near one another in the Poconos.
"She was a cool little sister where you'd look over and laugh and she would say something funny. And you know, she was to be heard not to be just seen," he says. "As we went through our lives together, I watched her grow up to be a beautiful young woman."
I feel like I'm the missing link in this case
The friendship continued - even as they went on to marry different partners - people who would become household names for very different reasons. Jill Stevenson later became Jill Biden and the first lady of the United States. Kathie's husband, Robert Durst, wound up as one of America's most notorious and analyzed suspected serial killers.
In the summer of 1974, Bill and his then-wife Jill hosted Robert and Kathie Durst at their Delaware home (photo below) for a long, three-day weekend.
Stevenson said Kathie and Jill had an instant connection.
"Both students. Both very smart. They're similar people at that age. It was hard not to hit it off," he says.
In a 2 1/2-hour, exclusive interview with News 12's Tara Rosenblum, Stevenson says it was a stark contrast to his connection with Robert Durst.
"I remember him talking to himself in my garage. To me, it was like, 'Oh my God.'"
The bigger shock would come a few years later in a surprise phone call from Kathie.
Stevenson said Kathie called him extremely upset, saying she was "scared to death," having "a real problem with Robert" and that he was being violent with her.
"I think at that point she really couldn't trust anybody around her who knew Robert, I guess. I don't know why she picked me, but I'm glad she did," he says.
As Stevenson tried to hold back his tears, he added, "But I do feel like I let her down. I look back at that last two months and go 'What could I have done differently?"'
Between December 1981 and January 1982, Stevenson, who was now divorced from Jill, says he visited Kathie at least five times in New York City to try and help her escape her troubled marriage.
During one of those visits, when he and his best friend George Kearns stayed at Kathie's apartment, their relationship took an unexpected turn.
"I felt like I was falling asleep. I was looking at the table and then all of a sudden, I look over and Kathie is standing next to me, and I looked over and I realized that she was in a silk nightie, nothing was said, and she grabbed my hand. Led me back to the bedroom. We closed the door and life changed for both of us. Totally unexpected. Beautiful night and no regrets," says Stevenson.
The "beautiful night" then took a drastic turn for the worse.
“The next thing I realize there is pounding at the door at 7:30 a.m. She runs out of the bedroom, and then runs back in and says, 'It's Bob.' I jump up. I ran out. And then all of a sudden, he screams something. He had a wad of cash rolled up and hit her right in the face with it, and it was so crazy, and he started yelling, 'Kathleen, this isn't going to happen.' And she started yelling, 'I'm moving to Delaware. I'm moving to Delaware. I'm done.' and I'm like, sitting there. I'm in shock. People have to understand that this guy is a monster - I saw it in his eyes."
People have to understand that this guy is a monster - I saw it in his eyes
George Kearns says he also remembers the incident vividly, including his memories of Kathie, who he described as "the kind of girl you wouldn't mind taking home to introduce to your mother."
“It was a lot of yelling and screaming and he was very angry," says Kearns. "I was behind Bill behind the door...You know, whatever happened could have happened that morning if we hadn't been there. I mean, he just had no control over himself, you know, just kind of out of his mind, angry."
Kathie Durst vanished 10 days later.
Bill Stevenson (Courtesy of Bill Stevenson)
"I got in my car and went to the 19th Precinct, literally within 24 hours. And I said, 'He killed her,'" said Stevenson. "He wrote a couple of things down. He goes, 'We'll get back to you.' I never heard another word from them."
News 12's Tara Rosenblum asked Stevenson if he thought his intimate relationship with Kathie Durst had anything to do with her disappearance.
"Absolutely, I think it would have driven him crazy. And I don't feel guilty about that. He was abusing her and she wanted out. I do not regret that. The minute I saw her standing there and she grabbed my hand, it was all I could think about. I got to be honest, and if it led to him going off the deep end I think, and at that point, I don't regret it. Not a second,” says Stevenson.
“I feel if something was wonderful at the end of her life, I hope this was it. I just hope she had the same thoughts at the end there."
Stevenson added that he believes Kathie is looking down right now, saying ''I cannot believe this story is finally going to be told."
The NYPD does not keep visitor logs dating back to the 1980s, so it could not comment on Stevenson's story. Robert Durst's attorney told Tara Rosenblum that he wanted to watch News 12's story before reacting to Stevenson's allegation. He added that Durst had nothing to do with his wife's death.
Stevenson also told News 12 that he has written an autobiography, but decided not to publish it at this time.
Kathie Durst's family did reveal to Tara Rosenblum that Kathie told them about her time with Bill Stevenson before she went missing.
Tara Rosenblum's exclusive, one-on-one interview with Jill Biden's former husband, Bill Stevenson.
COLD CASE GETS HOT LEAD (Reported 7/29/21)
A nearly four-decades-old cold case is now getting a hot lead, thanks to newly revealed information provided by the Turn To Tara team.
New York prosecutors are now officially looking into allegations from Bill Stevenson, the ex-husband of first lady Jill Biden.
He revealed exclusively to News 12 that he had an affair with Robert Durst’s wife, Kathie, just days before she vanished.
The murder mystery involving millionaire real estate heir Robert Durst has been highly scrutinized but kept tightly under wraps by the Westchester District Attorney’s Office for weeks.
But News 12 can now confirm that the alleged extramarital affair Tara Rosenblum uncovered, along with a witness who’s never spoken out before, has become a focal point of this cold case investigation.
Pennsylvania businessman George Kearns tells News 12 he wants justice for the family of Kathie Durst after nearly four decades.
Kearns says he was there the night Stevenson had a romantic encounter with Kathie Durst and even witnessed Robert Durst explode in a fit of rage early the next morning - 10 days before she vanished.
He just had no control over himself. He was just out of his mind angry
Kearns said he saw "essentially a madman screaming in the apartment."
"He just had no control over himself. He was just out of his mind angry," said Kearns.
The alleged outburst happened in Robert and Kathie’s former Upper East Side apartment.
George says Kathie had invited him to crash on her living room couch that night along with Stevenson, after the three of them had gone to a local bar.
In this March 10, 2020, file photo, Robert Durst looks over during his murder trial in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo, Pool, File)
His story is now in the hands of Westchester’s top prosecutor.
One week after News 12's first report aired this month, Kearns says two detectives from the DA’s team contacted him and conducted an interview about what he saw that night.
Dan Schorr, a former New York City and Westchester County prosecutor, has tried many homicide and domestic violence cases in his career.
He was working under former DA Jeanine Pirro 20 years ago when Kathie Durst’s case was reopened.
Schorr says News 12's interview with Bill Stevenson is probably a tipping point in the investigation.
News 12 reached out to District Attorney Mimi Rocah for comment on all of this. Her spokeswoman declined, citing the ongoing investigation.
George Kearns says his interview lasted under an hour and now he’s just hoping charges will be filed in the case very soon.
Robert Durst is currently on trial for the alleged murder of his best friend in California.
A judge is expected to rule this week on Robert Durst’s motion for a mistrial due to his failing health.
Kathie Durst's sister, Virginia McKeon
Tara Rosenblum talks exclusively with Kathie Durst's older sister, Virginia McKeon
Excerpt from Kathie Durst's journal
Pauline Chiou: News Director, News 12 Westchester/Hudson Valley
Lee Danuff: Senior Producer, News 12 Digital
Alan Flamenhaft: Photographer/Editor
Audrey Gruber: Vice President of News, Altice USA
Frank Pokorney: Assistant News Director, News 12 Digital
Tara Rosenblum: Senior Investigative Reporter, News 12 Westchester/Hudson Valley
Jean Salzarulo: Investigative Producer
Chris Vaccaro: VP, News 12 Digital