Robert Durst's Wife Was Afraid Of Him, Secret Witness Says
Nathan Chavin was a longtime friend of the millionaire featured in HBO’s The Jinx, who now faces a murder trial.
A longtime friend of Robert Durst told the court Thursday that when he asked the real estate heir in 2014 what happened to their mutual friend, Susan Berman, he basically confessed to the killing her, allegedly because she knew he had killed his first wife, Kathleen.
Nathan Chavin, 72, said Durst told him, "I had to. It was her or me; I had no choice," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Chavin said he took Durst's admission to mean that he had carried out the execution-style killing of Berman in 2000.
Durst is accused of shooting Berman once in the back of the head inside her Benedict Canyon home in 2000 because she knew too much about Kathleen's disappearance.
It was Chavin's second bombshell during his two days on the stand at the pretrial hearing after testifying that Berman had told him Durst confessed to her that he had killed Kathleen Durst, who disappeared Jan. 31, 1982.
Chavin's identity was kept under wraps until Wednesday, when he first took that stand. He had been referred to only as the "secret witness" by prosecutors, who said there was evidence of "possible danger" to his life, although they did not elaborate. Chavin arrived in court flanked by bodyguards at the start of his testimony.
Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John Lewin told the court he needed to get Chavin’s testimony on the record now because of his age. A second witness was questioned Tuesday for similar reasons.
Chavin said he had known Durst for 45 years after meeting him "through a very dear friend of mine, Susan Berman."
Chavin said he would go out often with Berman and Durst in the early 1980s. Durst eventually became a good friend and served as one of his "best men" at his wedding. Even during Durst's marriage to Kathleen, Chavin testified that the two often went out alone to pick up women for "boys' nights out."
Chavin was a budding copywriter at a firm when Durst gave him the large Durst family real estate account, sparking a rising career. He described Durst's marriage as rocky, and often witnessed the couple arguing.
Chavin also testified that Kathleen had told him she was afraid of Durst and didn’t think they would stay together. She also told him she didn’t think she could continue to live with Durst, but never mentioned divorce, Chavin testified.
He also described instances of Durst getting into physical altercations with men who he thought had made a pass at his wife.
When Kathleen disappeared in 1982, Chavin said he didn’t think Durst had anything to do with it, but Berman told him that he did and that they needed to protect him, according to the Associated Press.
Kathleen's disappearance and Berman’s death decades later were the subject of the popular HBO documentary series The Jinx, which aired in 2015. It also included a 2003 trial in Texas, in which Durst admitted to fatally shooting his neighbor, Morris Black, chopping the body up, and throwing pieces of it into Galveston Bay. But Durst claimed self-defense and was ultimately acquitted of murder.
Durst has pleaded not guilty to murder in Berman's case, despite appearing to confess to the killing on a hot mic while being interview for The Jinx.
The episode of the recording aired one day after Durst's arrest, and shows filmmaker Andrew Jarecki confronting the real estate heir with evidence that he had killed Berman.
Durst denied the accusation, but after the interview, his live microphone recorded what he thought was a private moment.
"What the hell did I do?" he said. "Killed them all, of course."
In court documents released last year, however, Durst claimed he was on meth "the whole time" and didn't fully know what he was saying.