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Kathleen McCormack Durst disappeared over thirty three years ago when she was completing her last year at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in the Bronx. At the time of her disappearance, she was living with her husband, Robert Durst, a real estate tycoon estimated to be worth nearly $100 million. Her husband didn't report her missing for four days, telling investigators he had last seen her at the train station. Police were suspicious of Robert but he was never charged in her disappearance. Kathleen Durst was declared dead in 2001.

In January, HBO aired a six-episode documentary about Robert's strange life. Since the disappearance of Kathleen, unsolved disappearances and murders have followed him. In California, in December 2000, he was questioned but never charged in the execution style murder of his friend, Susan Berman. Then in Texas in 2001, he was charged with killing his neighbor, dismembering the body, and dumping it in the bay. He led authorities on a nationwide manhunt ending in Pennsylvania. When he was brought back to Texas, he admitted to dismembering his neighbor's body. He claimed self defense and two years later was acquitted of homicide charges. He pled guilty to lesser charges, was put on probation, which he then violated and was sent to jail for a couple months. At the end of the documentary, Robert is heard whispering "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course!"

Since agreeing to participate in the documentary, Robert has faced a slew of charges. He agreed to provide 25 hours of interviews, credit card records and court papers. His lawyer had warned him not to participate in the documentary, but Durst was undeterred. He said in an interview “[i]t’s so long ago. Some D.A. would have to commence a major budget-busting investigation. I don’t see that happening.” Unfortunately for Durst, the documentary spurred the reopening of investigations. He's currently in jail in New Orleans on a gun charge. Then, one day before the airing of the final episode of the documentary, Robert Durst was arrested for the murder of Susan Berman. After he's sentenced in New Orleans, he'll be sent to California to face the murder charge. 

Nearly thirty-four years later and Kathleen's family has held off on filing a lawsuit against Durst, but after seeing the documentary they decided it was time. Kathleen's brother petitioned to be named administrator of the estate in order to file a wrongful death suit on the families behalf. The documentary made this suit legally possible because New York has a two year statute of limitations on wrongful death suits unless there is new evidence. 

Recently, Kathleen's mother and sisters filed a $1oo million lawsuit against Robert Durst. They have long suspected that Robert killed Kathleen but remained hopeful that she would someday return. The lawsuit contends that he violated the McCormack family's right to sepulcher. The right to sepulcher is a NY law which grants family members the immediate right to possession of a body for burial.  If the right is interfered with, the next of kin may be entitled to bring a claim for the emotional harm that has been suffered. The family's lawyer said that "their priority has been and continues to be to provide Kathleen with a proper and dignified burial."

Emily Morris


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