As Robert Durst awaits trial for the 2000 killing of his old friend Susan Berman, questions are being raised as to his possible connection with the disappearances of two teenage girls who went missing 18 years ago.
In 1997, 16-year-old Karen Mitchell and 18-year-old Kristen Modafferi vanished from Northern California. Now, authorities have placed Durst in the vicinity of both women around the time of their disappearances.
Matt Birkbeck, who wrote A Deadly Secret: The Strange Disappearance of Kathie Durst, spoke to New York Daily News, saying that Mitchell volunteered at a homeless shelter in Eureka, Calif. before disappearing on Nov. 25, 1997. Durst had allegedly been spotted there while he was living in the nearby town of Trinidad.
"The investigators told me that one of the suspects they were looking at had dressed in drag, he had some odd habits," Birkbeck said. "After I finished the interview, I mentioned that I covered Robert Durst, who also dressed in drag. They wrote his name down and then I discovered he was living in San Francisco at the time. The police just jumped on it. They started putting pieces together."
Durst admitted to disguising himself as a woman when he was living in Galveston, Texas next door to Morris Black whose body parts were found floating in Galveston Bay in 2001. Durst was acquitted in Black's death case despite admitting to dismembering Black's body.
The other teen, Modafferi, was a college student from North Carolina, Birkbeck told the Daily News. She reportedly went missing on June 23, 1997.
Her father Bob Modafferi, 66, told the Daily News that police did investigate Durst, but "they did not indicate to us there's anything there."
Durst has not been charged in the disappearances of Mitchell and Modafferi, but he has been charged with first-degree murder of Susan Berman.
The HBO six-part documentary The Jinx brought new interest to Durst, but now there are concerns that the documentary could actually hurt the prosecution's case, according to former federal prosecutor David S. Weinstein.
"If I'm the defense lawyer, I'm going to argue that it was an unlawful eavesdropping," Weinstein said, referring to a private moment in a hotel bathroom following Durst's final interview with director Andrew Jarecki. Not realizing his microphone was still on, Durst was caught talking to himself, mumbling that he "killed them all."
Durst is currently in a mental health facility after being deemed suicidal, which could also work in Durst's favor.
"There is a possibility that he will raise a defense of insanity and will get off criminal guilt that way," Paul Rothstein of Georgetown Law said.