Photo Courtesy of HBO
Durst, who spent several years of his life in Trinidad, recently pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Los Angeles.
Sometime in the mid-1990s, a quirky man with a mysterious past and proclivity for tall tales arrived in Trinidad, buying a home with sweeping ocean views in the small, secluded fishing village.
From this far-flung location — seemingly as removed as possible from his life as the scion of New York’s real estate elite — Robert Durst is suspected of setting off on a 660-mile road trip to kill his former friend and confidante at her Benedict Canyon bungalow in December of 2000.
Photo By Thadeus Greenson
For about five years starting in 1995, Durst lived in this home in Trinidad, where he seemed to enjoy relative anonymity and attempted to separate himself from his wealthy New York family. When Durst, and bloody allegations against him, made national headlines, rumors quickly spread through Trinidad.
The eccentric millionaire, whose time in Trinidad and appearance on HBO’s The Jinx
was detailed in the Journal
’s June 25, 2015, cover story, “Robert Durst’s Ghost
,” pleaded not guilty to a murder charge on Nov. 7.
Appearing in court wearing a neck brace while seated in a wheelchair, the New York Times
reports he told the judge in “a hoarse, low voice: ‘I am not guilty. I did not kill Susan Berman.’”
But even before the now 73 year old was arrested in New Orleans last year on a murder warrant in connection with Berman’s fatal shooting, Durst’s name had surfaced in an unsolved case much closer to home: the disappearance of Karen Mitchell.
Come Nov. 25, 19 years will have passed since Karen was last seen walking down Broadway Street in Eureka on her way to the Coastal Family Development Center, where she looked after children. A witness reported he may have seen the 16 year old enter a circa 1976 to 1978 light blue Ford Granada or Mercury Monarch with a driver that bore a striking resemblance to Durst.
“I think there are two specifics that piqued our curiosity,” Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said. “One was his proximity to here, being up here and having a missing person. And the second thing is the sketch that has his general appearance.”
Mills said Karen — who was five days short of her birthday when she disappeared — has never been forgotten by her community or his department. The 21 binders that comprise her case file are back at EPD after previously being turned over to the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office by his predecessor.
“It’s everyone’s greatest fear,” he said. “A young person with a full life ahead of them goes missing.”
Mention of Karen’s 1997 disappearance began appearing in the national media soon after Durst’s arrest in March of 2015, when the FBI started looking into unsolved cases in the mishmash of places he had lived over the years.
“We’re still communicating with the FBI on it because they still have it as an active case,” Mills said on Thursday. “He’s lawyered up so we’re going to have to wait (to talk to him). That’s where the bureau can come in and help. We don’t have that reach. We’re all aware of and are waiting for the opportunity to look at that side of the equation.”
Mills said he plans to bring in a retired investigator to go back through Karen’s massive missing person file and re-interview witnesses. As recently as the last few weeks, the EPD looked into a report that a woman bearing a resemblance to Karen as well as a similar name was sighted in Ohio. It wasn’t her.
Meanwhile, Mills cautions against jumping to conclusions about a possible Durst connection to Karen’s disappearance.
“Would it shock any one of us if that was the case? No,” Mills said. “But we have to go by fact, not innuendo.”