LOS ANGELES — The estranged brother of Robert Durst, the real estate heir on trial in his best friend’s slaying, reluctantly testified Monday that the two never got along and he feared his oldest sibling would kill him.
“He’d like to murder me,” Douglas Durst bluntly told jurors in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Douglas Durst, chairman of one of New York’s largest commercial real estate firms, said he had not seen his brother in 20 years and they had not spoken since 1999. He said Robert Durst was angry and bitter over an acrimonious inheritance settlement for tens of millions of dollars.
Douglas Durst, chairman of the Durst Organization that owns some of Manhattan’s premier skyscrapers and 2,500 apartments, said he and his brother had fought since they were children.
“He treated me miserably,” Douglas Durst said. “He would fight with me at every chance. He would embarrass me.”
Despite the bad blood, Douglas Durst said he was not happy to testify against his brother, who is on trial on charges of fatally shooting Susan Berman in 2000 at her Los Angeles home. He said he cooperated with prosecutors under threat of subpoena.
“There are other places I’d much rather be,” he said.
Prosecutors say Berman provided an alibi for Robert Durst after he killed his first wife, Kathie, in 1982 and that he silenced his friend to keep her from telling police what she knew about the disappearance. Robert Durst has pleaded not guilty.
Kathie Durst had told Douglas Durst she planned to seek a divorce from his brother, he testified.
Douglas Durst said his brother told him that she had vanished a couple of days after he put her on a train to New York City from their lakeside house in Westchester County. Robert Durst said that was the last time he saw his wife.
“His tone was very neutral,” Douglas Durst said. “There was no great anxiety in his tone. It seemed a little strange.”
Kathie Durst has never been found, but she was declared legally dead. Robert Durst has long been considered a suspect in her death but has denied any involvement and has never been charged with a crime related to her disappearance.
Douglas Durst, tan and wearing a crisp white shirt with French cuffs and a gray mask, cut a much different figure than his ailing brother.
A pale Robert Durst, 78, with a shaven head that reveals a massive scar from removing fluid on his brain, was seated in a wheelchair and dressed in brown jail scrubs.
Durst, who has bladder cancer and several other maladies, stood up and addressed the judge to counter a suggestion by Deputy District Attorney John Lewin that he was seeking sympathy from jurors by displaying his urine bag.
Durst said his head was shaved only because it was the only haircut he could get in jail. He said he wants a doctor to remove a catheter.
“I am not seeking sympathy from the jury,” Durst said in a throaty voice.