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Trial ordered for Robert Durst in slaying of friend in L.A.
In this Dec. 21, 2016, file photo, millionaire real estate heir Robert Durst sits in a courtroom during a hearing in Los Angeles. (Jae C. Hong/AP)
LOS ANGELES -- Robert Durst, the New York real estate heir who was the subject of a television documentary series, was ordered Thursday to stand trial for the murder of his close friend in Los Angeles 18 years ago.
A judge ruled that there's enough evidence to try the eccentric 75-year-old multimillionaire for the point-blank shooting of Susan Berman at her home. Durst has pleaded not guilty.
Durst allegedly killed Berman, his friend from college and the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, to keep her from telling police what she knew about his wife's 1982 disappearance in New York, prosecutors contend. Kathleen Durst has been missing for more than 35 years and is presumed dead.
Robert Durst, who has never been charged with a crime related to his wife's disappearance, has denied killing either woman.
Durst remains jailed without bail and was ordered back to court Nov. 8 for arraignment. The murder charge against him includes the special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and killing a witness to a crime. There is also an allegation that he personally used a handgun to carry out the murder.
At the end of the preliminary proceedings that were continued over several months, Durst's attorney, David Chesnoff, argued that there was no hard evidence -- such as DNA, fingerprints or witnesses -- linking him to Berman's killing. A call seeking further comment from Chesnoff was not returned Thursday.
Durst was arrested in New Orleans in March 2015, just hours before the airing of the final episode of HBO's "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst." The documentary examined the disappearance of his wife, and the killings of Berman and a Texas neighbour, Morris Black, in 2001. A jury acquitted him of Black's murder after finding that the killing was in self-defence.
The HBO series created a sensation after he was heard during the finale muttering to himself on a live microphone: "You're caught! What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."
Prosecutors will try to make the connection between Berman's death and the mystery around Kathleen Durst's disappearance, which they want to show as the foundation for the motive for Berman's slaying.
After Kathleen Durst vanished, Berman served as Robert Durst's unofficial spokeswoman. But prosecutors and witnesses in a series of earlier hearings said she did much more.
Berman told friends over the years that Durst acknowledged killing his wife and said she helped him cover his tracks. Prosecutors hope to use those hearsay statements at trial, which defence attorneys have vigorously challenged.
Berman told one friend who testified at an earlier hearing that if anything happened to her, Durst would be the culprit.