The Truth About Robert Durst's Marriage To Kathleen McCormack

More than five years after the release of the landmark HBO true-crime docuseries "The Jinx," an in-depth look at the life and possible crimes of New York millionaire Robert Durst, it seems the people firmly convinced of his guilt in at least one murder might have their opinions fully validated. As New York magazine and other media outlets reported, Durst's trial for the 2000 death of his longtime friend, writer Susan Berman, officially began in May after a number of stops and starts. 

Though Durst was arrested in 2015 by federal authorities, his legal team successfully argued for a series of delays over Durst's health; the trial was pushed back once again in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even after Durst's first day in court in May 2021, Durst's attorneys argued again and again for more delays in the proceedings by invoking their client's general medical condition.

Now, as L.A. Magazine reported in August, those overseeing the case have thrown out the main play in the defense's book. While the trial is still in progress as of the time of this writing, a possible conviction for Durst — whom prosecutors argue murdered Berman for the information she had on his possible involvement in the disappearance of Durst's wife, Kathleen McCormack — could lead to charges against him for McCormack's death. But why would Durst have committed harm against McCormack in the first place?

Robert Durst and Kathleen McCormack moved in together after two dates

As the HBO docuseries "The Jinx" chronicled in 2015, Robert Durst, the scion of New York real estate mogul Seymour Durst, has been a person of interest in multiple homicide cases over the course of five decades, the first of them all involving the unsolved disappearance (and possible death) of his wife, Kathleen McCormack. Durst, now 78, was in his late 20s when he met Kathleen (known as Kathie by her friends and family), a 19-year-old student studying medicine, per NBC News

Durst recalled in "The Jinx" that the couple quickly became serious. After only two dates, Durst invited McCormack to move in with him at a house his family owned in Vermont, an offer she took him up on. As a member of the Durst family — and, according to their personal familial protocol, an automatic heir apparent to assume the mantel of the family business — Durst instead opened a health food store in 1972 near the residence, which McCormack helped him run, per The New York Times.

Despite their parallel goals and ambitions at the time, Durst was eventually cajoled into moving back to New York City by his father, who promptly placed Durst within the upper echelons of his organization, as another New York Times article noted. Their move was also followed by nuptials in 1973. Less than a decade later, McCormack would never be seen alive again.

Kathleen McCormack disappeared under mysterious circumstances

As Vanity Fair reported in 2002, things began to deteriorate between Robert Durst and Kathleen McCormack a few years after their wedding in 1973. According to the magazine, Durst allegedly became physically and emotionally abusive sometime during the early '80s, which was corroborated by those close to the couple. McCormack was studying to become a pediatrician up until her disappearance, much to Durst's virulent opposition; according to Vanity Fair, he wanted McCormack to remain at home as much as possible. 

Other sources who spoke to Vanity Fair mentioned one incident in which "Bobby [Durst] had pulled her out of a family gathering — by her hair," and another in which McCormack was forced by Durst to have an abortion against her will. (Years later, in "The Jinx," Durst also admitted to the latter.) 

Per Vanity Fair, McCormack told friends she feared for her safety: "If anything happens to me, please don't let Bobby get away with it."

The answer to Kathleen McCormack's fate is tied to Robert Durst's trial

Everything culminated in 1982 after Kathleen McCormack failed to meet a friend for drinks in New York's Greenwich Village neighborhood. As members of her social circle frantically tried to find McCormack, Robert Durst waited four days to file a missing persons report and gave an account of both his and McCormack's timelines that didn't add up, per Vanity Fair. Suspicions only grew from there. Durst told officers that he had been at the couple's holiday cottage in upstate New York at the time his wife went missing and had dropped her off at a train station to return to Manhattan, per In Touch Weekly

In August 2021, Durst testified that he'd lied to police about speaking to his wife on the phone when she got back to Manhattan, the Associated Press reported.

Though Durst was never officially declared a suspect in her disappearance, he purportedly confided in his best friend, Susan Berman, that he had indeed murdered his wife — which, according to L.A. Magazine, Durst was allegedly afraid Berman would tell the authorities. This possible motive is the basis of the prosecution's case in Durst's current trial for the homicide of Berman over 20 years ago — and nearly 40 after McCormack vanished.