NEW ORLEANS - Robert Durst, the real estate scion charged with first-degree murder is suicidal, according to statements by Louisiana authorities released on Wednesday after they moved him to a facility for inmates suffering from acute mental illness.
Awaiting extradition to California, the 71-year-old Durst was charged this week in Los Angeles County with killing longtime friend Susan Berman in 2000. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
In law enforcement's sights for decades, Durst has been the focus of investigations across the country. Three of Durst's condominiums in Houston were searched on Tuesday,and there have also been investigations in northern California, where the disappearances of two teenagers in 1997 raised questions about his whereabouts at the time.
The heir to a New York real estate dynasty was arrested in New Orleans on Saturday with a handgun, marijuana, a fake ID and over $42,000 in cash, records show, one day before the airing of the final instalment of an HBO documentary, "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst." In it, Durst was presented with evidence of similar handwriting on two envelopes, one from himself and another that likely originated from Berman's killer. Durst's voice was later picked up, while he was still wearing a microphone in the bathroom, saying that he had "killed them all." Durst was acquitted in 2003 in the killing of a male neighbour in Texas, whose body was dismembered.
He was also a suspect in the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen Durst, in 1982.
The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office said in a court filing on Tuesday it had "determined that, as with all other inmates who are deemed suicidal, Mr. Durst should be transported ... for his own safety." Durst's attorneys sought to have him kept in a New Orleans jail as he awaits a hearing on Monday on local weapons charges, but a Louisiana appellate court found he could be moved to a facility about 70 miles away, court documents show.
Durst's Houston condominiums were searched by authorities with court documents showing they were looking for handwriting samples and other evidence linking him to Berman's killing and his wife's disappearance, as well as signs he might try to flee.
According to a search warrant affidavit released on Wednesday, a document examiner for the Los Angeles Police Department initially thought writing on an anonymous letter to authorities stating the location of Berman's body belonged to another man.
But upon later review of Durst's handwriting, the analyst revised that view, determining in June 2003 that Durst was the likely author.
In northern California, police investigating the disappearance of 16-year-old Karen Mitchell want more information about when Durst was in Eureka, the city's police chief told NBC News on Tuesday. He added that no direct tie between Durst and the case has been found.
Bob Modafferi, father of Kristen Modafferi, who went missing while visiting San Francisco when she was 18, told the New York Daily News he wants to talk to the FBI about Durst, saying that if he was in the area "it raises a bunch of potential red flags and questions." Authorities in Eureka and San Francisco did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.