Robert Durst appears in court for his sentencing in Los Angeles on Thursday. Durst was sentenced to life without possibility of parole for the killing of Susan Berman. Photo by Myung J. Chun/EPA-EFE/POOL
Oct. 14 (UPI) -- A Los Angeles judge on Thursday sentenced real estate heir Robert Durst to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2000 murder of his best friend, Susan Berman.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark Windham handed down the sentence a month after a jury found Durst guilty of first-degree murder in Berman's execution-style slaying.
"Susan Berman was an extraordinary human being, and killing her was a terrible loss to our community," Windham said of the journalist and screenwriter, who was found shot to death in her suburban Los Angeles home on Christmas Eve 2000. "This is indeed a horrific crime."
The murder, Windham said, was "a witness killing," which served to "tremendously" aggravate its seriousness.
Prosecutors said Durst killed Berman to stop her from talking to New York police about the disappearance of Durst's first wife, Kathie McCormack, who was last seen in 1982.
In victim impact statements before the sentence was issued, members of Berman's family testified that her death was a tremendous loss.
"I should have been working for a career I could be proud of, finding love, getting married and having children," said Berman's stepson, Sareb Kaufman. "Instead, I was forced to pay for memorials and bills that were not mine or planned for, having to spend what time I could manage to not be in tears or feel the hopelessness of going on another day."
He and another family member, cousin David Berman, urged Durst to reveal the whereabouts of Kathie McCormack's body -- it has never been found but she was declared legally dead in 2017.
Durst, who pleaded not guilty to killing Berman during arraignment in November 2016, gained national attention the previous year when he became the subject of the HBO documentary series, The Jinx, which covered him as a suspect in the killings of McCormack, Berman and of his neighbor, Morris Black, in Texas in 2001.
Durst was convicted of dismembering Black but acquitted of the murder charge, citing self-defense.
In the documentary series, Durst appeared to mutter to himself he'd "killed them all, of course," unaware that microphones were still recording him.
In April 2016, Durst was sentenced in New Orleans to seven years and one month in prison on a weapons charge and he was extradited to a Los Angeles jail in November of the same year to stand trial for the murder of Berman.