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Charge Robert Durst's second wife with bigamy, lawyer says

by Amy Batten (2020-03-27)

The second wife of Robert Durst should be charged with bigamy because she had another husband on the side during her marriage to the scandal-plagued New York real estate heir, the lawyer for the sister of Durst's first wife said.  

In a letter to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, the attorney, Robert Abrams, argued that Debrah Lee Charatan's marriage to Durst, for which she was said to have been paid $20million, was intended to shield her from testifying against him in the numerous murder cases in which he was tried.

Federal and state laws enforce spousal testimonial privilege, which bars the government from compelling a spouse to offer testimony against another spouse in a criminal proceeding. 

Abrams said that Charatan should face charges for reportedly helping to cover up Durst's three suspected murders. 

Durst, 76, first married Charatan on December 11, 2000, and soon gave her power of attorney over his multi-million dollar bank account just days before he allegedly shot dead his best friend, Susan Berman. 

Prosecutors allege Durst killed Berman to prevent her from speaking to investigators looking into the alleged disappearance and murder of Durst's first wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, who has been missing since 1982.

Robert Durst (left) married Debrah Lee Charatan (right) in December 2000, just days before he was accused of murdering his best friend 

An attorney for the sister of Durst's first wife, who went missing in 1982, says that Charatan married Durst even though she was already married to real estate attorney Steven Holm (pictured left with Charatan in this undated file photo)

Durst (pictured) is currently on trial in Los Angeles, California, for the 2000 death of Susan Berman 

Abrams wrote that Charatan lived with another man, her 'soul mate' attorney Steven Holm, until his death in 2019, The Post reports. 

Holm, a real estate attorney, once represented Robert Durst. 

Prosecutors in Los Angeles, where Durst is currently on trial for Berman's murder, allege that Charatan helped Durst escape justice for the killing. 

'There is no question that while married to Mr. Durst, Mrs. Charatan purported to contract a marriage with Steven Holm,' wrote Abrams, who represents the sister of Durst's first wife. 

'Plain and simple, she violated the law; she is a bigamist,' he added. 

In her time away from Durst, Charatan reportedly created a life and home with her other lover, Holm.  

Holm and Charatan owned a New York property together, as well as founded a charity. 

Charatan (pictured) reportedly referred to herself as Holm's (right) wife during his eulogy following his death

She would sometimes ask to be called 'Mrs. Charatan-Holm,' Abrams wrote in the letter.

At Holm's funeral, Charatan reportedly gave a eulogy where she referred to herself as his wife. Others also referred to Charatan as such, the letter says. 

Various obituaries written in The New York Times for Holm mentioned Charatan as his wife, but she later reached out to publications, saying 'we were never married.'

In the letter, Abrams claims that Charatan and Durst never acted like a married couple except when asserting spousal privilege against law enforcement efforts. 

As a byproduct, authorities cannot order Charatan to testify or for the families that have lost a loved one. provide evidence for her husband's cases because she's his wife. 

Abrams wrote: 'Their marriage was part of a scheme. Mrs. Charatan-Holm has been paid tens of millions of dollars through Durst Family Trusts as compensation for her participation in that conspiracy.' 

In 2006, Durst left his role with the Durst Organization for $65million. He gifted Charatan with $20million of that sum.  

Abrams also called on Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr. to prosecute Charatan for allegedly entering a calculated marriage to help Durst walk free of his alleged murder spree.   

'I request that you show Mrs. Charatan-Holm that she must answer for her crime,' he wrote. 

The bigamy allegations come as Durst's Los Angeles murder trial began for the execution-style death of Berman.

Berman, 55, was shot in the head inside her Beverly Hills, California, home on December 23, 2000. 

Prosecutors said that Durst killed Berman to stop her from cooperating in a new investigation into Kathleen's disappearance and that Charatan helped her husband elude justice.  

Prosecutors claim that Durst (right) shot his friend Susan Berman (left) in the head over fears she would speak to authorities about his first wife's disappearance





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Prosecutor John Lewin called the couple's relationship a 'marriage of convenience' and that they tied the knot in an office building with a rabbi found in a phone book. 

'Defendant needed Charatan to handle his financial responsibilities, to provide assistance while he eluded authorities, and to carry on his affairs if he were ever captured, convicted and incarcerated,' Lewin said in court papers. 

Lewin said that Berman's murder is directly tied to the deaths of Kathleen and Durst's neighbor, Morris Black, in 2001.  

According to prosecutors, Durst murdered Kathleen in New York in order to avoid a divorce. Her body has never been found.

Authorities said that Kathleen asked Durst for a $250,000 divorce after he allegedly beat her and sent her to the hospital.

Investigators in Westchester County, New York, scheduled an interview with Susan Berman, Durst's good friend from California.    

Meanwhile, Berman allegedly helped Durst create an alibi for Kathleen's disappearance. 

CNN reports that Berman even called Kathleen's medical school pretending to be the missing woman on the day of her vanishing. She told school administrators that she was sick and wouldn't be in classes. 

On Christmas Eve, days before an alleged interview with police, Berman was found dead in her home with a gunshot wound to her head.  

Prosecutors said in court that Berman revealed to Durst that she was going to talk to investigators about his alleged murder, but lied about speaking to authorities. 

They allege that Berman, who was struggling financially, told Durst she was going to the police because she hoped he would give her money.

Durst has pleaded not guilty in Berman's death. 

While on the run, Durst met Black in Galveston, Texas, where he disguised himself as a mute woman named Dorothy Cines to avoid law enforcement.  

Investigators have long suspected that he also murdered his first wife Kathleen Durst, who disappeared in New York in 1982. Her body has never been found and Durst has never been charged or convicted of his first wife's murder (couple above in their wedding photo)

Black - whom Durst called 'cantankerous in the extreme' - moved in March 2001 into the same apartment complex where Durst was living and the two became friends. 

Black soon discovered his neighbor's true identity.

'Evidence will show that Morris Black was the only person in Galveston who knew that Dorothy Cines was actually Robert Durst,' Lewin said.

By the summer of 2001, Black was facing eviction and he was urging rich Durst to buy a house in Galveston where Black could have a room.

But Durst has other plans.

The wealthy real estate heir admitted killing and dismembering neighbor Morris Black (pictured) in Texas in 2001 but was acquitted after claiming he acted in self-defense

On September 25, he moved into the swanky San Luis resort in Galveston before moving to the Big Apple, the court heard.

Three days later, Durst returned to his old apartment - allegedly to pick up some marijuana he had hidden in the freezer there - and found an 'angry' Black sitting at a table on which there was a yellow sweater.

Then, according to a video clip shown in court, Durst said Black reached under the sweater and pulled out a handgun - which actually belonged to Durst - and pointed it at him.

'I grabbed the gun and the gun went off and shot him in the side of the face, ' Durst added.

Durst said he saw that Black was dead and after sitting for hours trying to figure out what to do, he decided to get rid of the body rather than call police.

'I'm Robert Durst whose wife disappeared, ' he explained.

'I'm this rich guy from New York. Morris Black is in my apartment, shot with my gun.

'The police aren't going to believe me. They're going to arrest me.'

Durst admitted to dismembering Black's body because it was too heavy to carry and went to a hardware store to get supplies. 

'Then I got stoned and drunk and dismembered the corpse,' he said in the video clip.  



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Robert Durst's second wife should be charged with bigamy, lawyer says