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By Andrea Peyser
February 6, 2015

The Durst-case scenario for HBO's new documentary

Douglas Durst, the fabulously wealthy chairman of the multibillion-dollar Durst Organization, doesn’t get easily rattled. Except when it comes to his creepy older brother, Robert Durst.
He scares him to death.

“Given the opportunity, he would kill me, yes,’’ Douglas Durst told me.

Giving an interview about a personal matter is such a rare event for Douglas, I double-checked my notes to make sure that I wasn’t hallucinating. (I wasn’t.)

“If that makes me a pussy, then I’m a pussy,’’ he said. Yikes.

In a new six-part documentary miniseries set to debut Sunday on HBO, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,’’ the title character calls his brother a “pussy’’ in a videotaped deposition excerpted in the show because, mortally afraid of his bro, Douglas hired a bodyguard. Robert also claims that he was unfairly passed over as head of his family’s New York City real-estate empire in 1994 by his father and other relatives who preferred his sniveling sibling.


Douglas told me that Robert was cast out of the company because he urinated into his uncle’s wastepaper basket.

“I came back from vacation and I was putting my hand into the wastepaper basket and it was covered by liquid. It was urine,’’ said Douglas. Ick.

“It was I who asked the staff, and they said my brother did it frequently. When he urinated into my uncle’s basket they [company officials] took action.’’

The documentary, in which Douglas, 70, refused to participate, does not completely remove suspicion from Robert, 71, who’s been accused of, but never charged with, killing his first wife and a friend. He admitted that, while posing as a deaf-mute woman in Galveston, Texas, in 2001, he killed and dismembered a neighbor, Morris Black. But a jury acquitted Robert of a murder charge in 2003 after he testified at a joke of a trial that he killed Black accidentally in a struggle over a gun, then cut up his body and dumped the parts into Galveston Bay.

After his acquittal, he stood in the courtroom — glaring at me. This guy is terrifying.

Is he a sociopath, as some have claimed? Is he a psychopath, as others insist? Well, I’ve seen the first two episodes of the miniseries. Douglas said he’s seen “snippets,’’ which was more than he’d seen when he talked to The New York Times for a story the newspaper ran last month. I can tell you that Robert portrays himself as a pity case. He comes off as a blinking, twitching paranoiac.

He describes his late father, Seymour, as distant and cold to a young “Bobby.’’ He traces the beginnings of his tortured life to the night that, he says, his dad brought him to the window of their Westchester County house to wave at “Mommy,’’ who was standing atop a roof in her “nightie.’’ After he returned to bed, he says, his mom plunged from the roof to her death.

Robert was 7 years old at the time.

“What he says is untrue,’’ said Douglas. “My father loved him. Actually, he was my father’s favorite. He has no relationship to either the truth or emotions.’’

Douglas told me that Robert was not at the family’s house on the night in 1950 when Bernice Durst died, but rather at a neighbor’s house, along with Douglas and two other siblings. Douglas said that his mother, suffering from emphysema, took medication that made her unaware of where she was. It’s never been established if she fell off the roof accidentally or jumped deliberately.

“I think it’s terrible that Andrew [Jarecki, the doc’s co-producer, director and writer] is giving him a megaphone to attack my family and my father,’’ Douglas said. Jarecki, 51, also helmed the 2003 documentary movie “Capturing the Friedmans’’ and a 2010 feature film based on the Durst saga, “All Good Things,’’ which tanked at the box office.

Through an HBO spokeswoman, Robert Durst turned down my request for an interview. Jarecki told me, “The time for Doug Durst’s point of view to be represented was when we offered to interview him, and he declined.”

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, come on. How many people have to die around him?’’ said Ellen Strauss, a Connecticut lawyer and friend of Kathleen “Kathie’’ Durst, who vanished in 1982. Strauss, who appears in the documentary, believes that Robert did away with Kathie, but her body has never been found. Robert admits in the documentary that he hit Kathie and “made her’’ undergo an abortion in 1976, but denies killing her.

In 2000, Robert’s pal Susan Berman, then days away from telling authorities what she knew about Kathie’s presumed death, was murdered in Los Angeles.

Robert has been married since 2000 to real-estate broker Debrah Lee Charatan, 58, who did not return my call.

In 2006, the other Dursts paid Robert $65 million to relinquish all claims to the family fortune. I reported exclusively in 2003 that, two years earlier, Robert drove a car into the driveway of Douglas’ Westchester house, where he sat with two guns, but drove off without incident. He came back there in 2008, wearing a ski mask.

And, despite orders of protection taken out against him by 13 relatives, Robert was acquitted in December of trespassing charges, accused of approaching the Manhattan homes of his brother and a nephew. That month, he pleaded nolo contendere to a charge of criminal mischief and paid a $500 fine — for urinating on candy in a Texas CVS pharmacy.

I sense a trend.

Robert Durst is not a victim of ‘The Jinx,’’ as the documentary’s title suggests. The rest of us are jinxed with his presence.

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