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Robert Durst Could Be Linked To Disappearance Of Two California Teens In The '90s
Over the last week, Robert Durst has been arrested and charged with the 2000 murder of his close friend in Beverly Hills. And now the wealthy New York real estate scion could be linked to two Northern California teens who went missing in 1997.
Durst, the 71-year-old subject of HBO's riveting docuseries, The Jinx, has not been identified as a suspect or a person of interest in the two cases. However, in one of the cases, Eureka, CA investigators said they want to talk to Durst about it. In the other case, the family of a missing San Francisco teen reportedly brought up Durst to the FBI just a few months ago.
Karen Mitchell, 16, was one of the girls who disappeared in Eureka on Nov. 25, 1997, according to NY Daily News. That day, she volunteered at a homeless shelter in the area; it was place where Durst had been spotted before. After she left the shelter, she went over to her aunt's shoe store and after leaving the shop, Mitchell vanished.
Author Matt Birkbeck, who's written extensively on Durst and penned the book “A Deadly Secret: The Strange Disappearance of Kathie Durst," said at the time of Mitchell's disappearance, Durst lived in the neighboring town of Trinidad, CA, just about 23 miles away from Eureka. He said Durst frequented Mitchell's aunt's store while dressed in drag.
"In that case, police put out a composite drawing based on the recollections of the last person who saw Mitchell alive as she got into a car," Birkbeck wrote in a NY Daily News article. "It was a spitting image of Robert Durst."
Birkbeck said that police later began investigating Durst in connection with another missing girl, 18-year-old Kristen Modafferi. She vanished just five months earlier on June 23, 1997 after leaving work in San Francisco. At the time, Birkbeck was writing an article for Reader's Digest about Modafferi. When he interviewed investigators for the story, they mentioned that the suspect dressed in drag, so Birkbeck brought up Durst. The next day, investigators told Birkbeck that they found out Durst had been living in San Francisco at the time of Modafferi's disappearance.
Modafferi's father, 66-year-old Bob Modafferi told the Daily News that police did investigate Durst, but nothing came out of it. “They did not indicate to us there’s anything there,” he said. “As time goes on, realistically the hope starts to dim, but it never dies out completely. There are cases you hear about that finally have a break. We will never lose faith or give up hope.”
Birkbeck said that just a few months ago, Modafferi's family talked to the FBI about Durst.
Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming did not go into any details about Modafferi's case. “I really can't confirm or deny that Durst is a person of interest because anything said about the investigation could potentially hinder the investigation,” she told the Daily News.
A Eureka investigator says that authorities want to talk to Durst about Mitchell, but they are stressing that they haven't made a direct link with her disappearance to Durst. "I caution people about reaching too far too quickly," Eureka Police Department Chief Andy Mills told NBC News.
Durst was arrested on Saturday in New Orleans, and charged on Monday for the 2000 murder of his close friend Susan Berman, who was found with a single bullet wound to her head in her Beverly Hills home. Since her mysterious death was covered in the The Jinx, it renewed interest in the case. The docuseries also unearthed some new and potentially incriminating evidence against Durst.
Even though Durst was caught on tape saying "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course," while filming The Jinx, his lawyer Dick DeGuerin maintains that his client is innocent. Deguerin told CBS News, "Bob Durst did not kill Susan Berman. He doesn't know who did."
On Tuesday, police searched Durst's home in Houston, TX, and left with two cardboard document boxes, according to NBC News.
Since Durst's arrest, he had been held without bail in a Louisiana jail, in preparation to be extradited to Los Angeles to stand trial for Berman's murder. He could face the death penalty. However, the L.A. Times reported that Durst has since been moved to a prison for the mentally ill after Durst was found to be suicidal.
Durst has also been linked to another murder in Galveston, TX, and the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen Durst, in 1982—a case that's never been solved. Durst has never been convicted. One of his most highly-publicized and shocking cases was the 2001 death of his neighbor, Morris Black, in Galveston, TX. At the time, Durst was living under a different identity, disguising himself as a mute woman. Durst was acquitted in the murder trial, claiming that he killed Black out of self defense, and then butchered his body parts, stuffed them in garbage bags and left them in a bay—because he was scared.
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