By Daniel Trota | Reuters
A California judge on Thursday sentenced billionaire real estate heir Robert Dorst to life in prison for the murder of his best friend Susan Berman in 2000.
Darst, 78, has been out of the law for most of the past four decades due to ill health, since his wife, Kathleen McCormack, went missing in New York in 1982.
Los Angeles County prosecutors allege he killed Berman because he helped provide Darst with a false alibi in 1982 and feared she would reveal it to authorities.
A Los Angeles County jury found him guilty of shooting Berman, 55, in the back of his head at his Beverly Hills home. The jury also found him guilty of special charges of lying while waiting and killing a witness, which carries a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Supreme Court Judge Mark Windham, who presided over the trial, handed down the sentence.
The lawsuit was filed six years after Darst’s apparent confession was aired on the HBO television documentary series “The Junks”, in which Darst, who was still wearing a microphone directly after the interview, went to the bathroom and He said to you, “What’s the matter, I did kill them all.”
Lead prosecutor John Leon, who has been pursuing Darst for years, credited the revelations to “The Jinks” filmmakers Andrew Jericho and Mark Summerling, who helped create the case against Darst.
Darst was only on trial for Berman’s murder in California, but prosecutors argued that he killed three people: his missing wife, Berman, and a neighbor in Texas who discovered his identity when Darst Was hiding from the law.
Despite being accused of missing his longtime wife, a 29-year-old medical student, Dorst has never been charged.
McCormack’s family has called on prosecutors in New York’s Westchester County to prosecute Darst’s murder.
Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Roka reopened the case in May, shortly after taking office. His office declined to comment Thursday.
Darst, a cancer survivor who uses a wheelchair, testified during the trial over 15 days, nine of whom were interrogated. He claimed to have found Berman’s body when he went to see him, but did not call police.
Prosecutors also revealed the death and mutilation of Morris Blake in 2001, who was a neighbor of Darst in Galveston, Texas. A Galveston jury acquitted Darst of murder, although Darst admitted that he had cut off Blake’s body and dumped it in Galveston Bay.
Darst said Blake pulled a gun on him and was accidentally shot when the two men fought with firearms.
Along with Blake, like Berman, Darst testified that he first tried to call the 911 emergency number but later ruled against it, for fear that no one would believe he was guilty.
Dorst is the grandson of the founder of Darst Organization, one of New York City’s premier real estate companies. He left the company long ago to build Manhattan’s signature skyscrapers.