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BoA:Audio welcomes investigative journalist Matt Birkbeck for a discussion on his amazing book A Deadly Secret, which explores the captivating and unsettling story of millionaire real estate scion, accused murderer, and 'star' of HBO's The Jinx, Robert Durst. Over the course of the conversation, we get Matt's take on Durst's newfound infamy via the HBO series and we explore how the narrative of The Jinx differs in several key ways from the actual events surrounding Durst as chronicled in Matt's A Deadly Secret.
We also discuss a whole slew of unique characters who populate the Durst story and their role in shaping the narrative of Robert Durst as well as how his penchant for traveling around the country as a vagabond in drag may suggest an even more sinister Robert Durst than had been considered before. Additionally, we find out exactly where things stand for Robert Durst today, what might become of a trial in Los Angeles for murder, and if we'll ever find out if he truly "killed them all, of course."
For fans of The Jinx or folks who just love a good, creepy story, it's a must-hear conversation as we refresh the Robert Durst story with more concrete details about timelines and characters with the man who has been investigating the case for over a decade, Matt Birkbeck, author of A Deadly Secret.
Highlights: We kick things off with the standard bio/background on Matt Birkbeck and find out how he ended up researching and writing about Robert Durst. Then, for the listeners unfamiliar with the Durst story, Binnall provides a brief recap of all the strange twists and turns of the case over the last thirty years which culminated this past winter as Durst was the 'star' of the HBO docuseries The Jinx and subsequently was arrested for murder based, in part, on new information from the series.
Since Matt has been chronicling Durst for over ten years, we first got his reaction to seeing Durst's interview segments on The Jinx, where he agreed to be interviewed for the first time. We then begin unpacking some of the details uncovered by Matt's research which were excluded or glossed over during The Jinx, beginning with the increasingly suspicious behavior of Kathie Durst's self-proclaimed "best friend" and one of the last people to see her alive: Gilberte Najamy, who became a media darling during much of the coverage of the story.
Next we discuss Detective Michael Struk, who was tasked with investigating Kathie Durst's disappearance in 1982, was fed a number of false leads and information, and has repeatedly been portrayed unfavorably by the media in the years since. In light of the inconsistencies between The Jinx and A Deadly Secret, we find out of Matt has spoken with Jinx director Andrew Jarecki about these differences in the portrayal of the case.
Moving away from The Jinx and just looking at Durst's alleged (and admitted) crimes, we get Matt's take on the debate over whether the murders attributed to Durst were isolated incidents or part of a larger arc which suggests that Durst is a serial killer. Matt details the psychiatrist's analysis of a young Robert Durst which sheds deeper insight into the psyche of the enigmatic character. We also get Matt's opinion on Durst's penchant for traveling in drag and whether it speaks to possible gender identity issues or if it was simply his MO for hiding and committing crimes.
Looking one finer detail from the case, we have Matt tell us more about the 1982 ransom note which Durst claimed to have received after Kathy went missing and we discuss the possibility that it may end up matching the infamous 'cadaver' letter from the 2000 murder of Susan Berman. We also talk about Durst's other apartment that he rented as a woman in New Orleans and simply abandoned with potentially intriguing evidence left behind.
Getting Matt's take on another character from the Durst saga, we find out what he knows about Sareb Kaufman, who was responsible for discovering the'Beverley Hills' letter, written by Durst, which matched the 'cadaver' letter and has been seen by many to be the proverbial smoking gun in the Susan Berman case. We also get Matt's take on the longstanding debate over whether or not the Durst family intervened in 1982 to make sure that the police did not solve the Kathie Durst case.
Nearing the close of the conversation, Matt clears up the timeline issues surrounding when New York investigators were really going to interview Susan Berman, which leads to some talk about how then-District Attorney Jeanine Pirro continues to push forward a narrative surrounding the case that simply isn't true and seems more geared towards media publicity.
Bringing the story up to the present, we discuss Durst's current legal predicament (arrested for the LA murder of Susan Berman and also charged with a federal fire arm crime in New Orleans) and where the case seems to be headed next, specifically involving the FBI. We also ponder if and when Durst would go on trial for Susan Berman's murder in the event that he is found guilty of the federal weapons charges. We also discuss what role The Jinx creators may have in the eventual LA trial.
Closing out the program, we find out a bit about the behind the scenes process of writing A Deadly Secret and whether or not he heard from Durst or Durst confidantes about his reaction to the book. Wrapping up the conversation, we find out what's next for him, including new books on other strange subjects, and whether or not he thinks we'll ever get the full and true story of the bizarre life of Robert Durst.
Marie Jones & Larry Flaxman
Marie Jones & Larry Flaxman