Susan Berman was 55 years old when someone killed her in her own Beverly Hills, California, home in December of 2000. Police now say that someone was her best friend — who is also the man they long suspected of being Berman's killer, New York City real estate heir Robert Durst, subject of the six-part HBO documentary series The Jinx.
Cops took Durst into custody Saturday night, less than 24 hours before HBO aired the final episode of the series — an episode which concludes with Durst apparently confessing to the three murders he has been accused of, including the killing of Berman, when he mumbles to himself on an open microphone, "What did you do? Killed them all, of course."
But while the eccentric and, apparently, deeply disturbed Durst has been the focus of national media attention since Sunday, Susan Berman was a colorful and fascinating character in her own right, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster named Davie Berman. Susan Berman went on to write two books about her life in a Mafia-connected family.
A profile in New York Magazine shortly after her death described Berman as "almost always filled with breathless drama. If she was up, you knew it. If she was down, you knew it. Either way, you knew the details. That was Susan."
But she did not learn of her own family's ties to organized crime until she, herself, was briefly a reporter for New York Magazine in the 1970s. After that, she became obsessed with her family's criminal history.
While at graduate school at the University of California at Los Angeles in the 1960s, she met Robert Durst. The two became close friends, though it appears doubtful they ever became romantic.
However, when Durst became a suspect in the disappearance of his wife in 1982, and later when interest in the case was renewed in the late 1990s, Berman acted as Durst's unofficial press representative, running interference between the multimillionaire murder suspect and the media.
The HBO documentary suggests that Durst may have confided his secrets in Berman, and that she knew the truth behind the disappearance of Durst's wife, Kathy.
According to the New York Magazine article, just five days before her body was found shot gangland execution style in the back of the head, Susan Berman had an ominous phone conversation with a friend.
"I have information that's going to blow the top off things," Berman told the woman. "I don't have it myself. But I know how to get it."
Robert Durst has long denied having any knowledge of who killed Susan Berman or why. His attorneys repeated that denial after Durst appeared in a courtroom on Tuesday.
[Image: Susan Berman author photo]