Thoughts after binge-watching HBO’s “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst”

robert-durst-hbo

Courtesy HBO.

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.

As I write this, it is 9:26 a.m. and I’ve just finished binge-watching all six episodes of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, HBO’s answer to Serial.

The series explores Bob’s connections to the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen Durst; the murder of his college friend Susan Berman in 2000; and the 2001 murder and dismemberment of his neighbor Morris Black, for which he was tried and acquitted.

While it appears that the filmmakers managed to answer the biggest question of the series in its finale (the reporting of which got the New York Times into trouble with its audience), I still have questions that seem to have been glossed over during the documentary.

There’s creepy, and then there’s creeeeepy.

While three murders would appear to be a chilling enough portion of the documentary for most people, I was most creeped out by two things: the death of Bob’s mother in 1950, and his eyes. The latter are apparently light brown, but in the film they appear to be dead, black, beady, iris-less sinkholes full of repressed emotion and secrets. They peer out of sunken, heavily creased eyelids, staring down Jarecki and the camera until succumbing to tics, twitches and other unsettling (involuntary?) movements.

The producers spend a few short minutes discussing the death of Bob’s mother, Bernice Durst, at age 32. The family refers to it as an accidental fall, but it clearly seems to have been a suicide. Bob describes witnessing the horrific event at the encouragement of his father, Seymour Durst. What kind of husband sees his wife standing on the roof of the house and calmly remains inside? Moreover, what kind of father proceeds to call his 7-year-old son to the window to witness his mother’s gruesome death? It’s clear to me that Bob Durst was irreparably damaged by this episode and the funeral afterward. It’s also clear to me that Seymour was also deranged, hinting at possible genetic mental illness on Bob’s part.

Was an autopsy conducted on Bernice Durst? Did she have hallucinogens in her system? Did she have a history of mental illness, perhaps post-partum psychosis after having four children in seven years while married to a psychopath? Did Bob ever seek any kind of psychotherapy at any point in his life?

Random questions:

  • After watching, I was wondering how Bob was able to remarry if Kathie was still legally “missing.” The answer? She is now legally “dead.” The filmmakers don’t make it clear that Bob actually divorced Kathie Durst in 1990, without even telling her family, who found out nine years later and had her retroactively declared dead (to 1987) so her estate could be disbursed. It seems like this would have been an important point for the producers to mention at least in passing, considering they introduce second wife Deborah Lee Charatan in the early moments of the first episode.
  • After Bob was acquitted of the murder of Morris Black, why couldn’t they bring charges of abuse of a corpse or obstructing justice after the fact? Would that count as double jeopardy?
  • If Susan Berman was the daughter of a prominent Las Vegas mobster, why was she living in virtual squalor at the end of her life? It doesn’t seem to make sense.

To me, Robert Durst appears to be a modern-day Harry K. Thaw, wealthy, mentally ill, and committing brazen murder and dodging any real consequences.

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