HOUSTON » Authorities on Tuesday carried away two boxes after searching the Houston home of real estate millionaire Robert Durst after his weekend arrest in New Orleans on a murder warrant.
Durst, 71, is charged with murder in a killing in California 15 years ago, and has been suspected — but never charged — in the disappearance of his first wife in New York. In 2003, he was acquitted of murder in a dismemberment death in Texas. His arrest in New Orleans came shortly before the finale of an HBO series about his links to the three killings.
Seven officers spent hours Tuesday searching Durst’s home in a 17-story condominium building in a posh Houston neighborhood. About 8:30 p.m. the officers, including one wearing a Los Angeles Police Department badge, carried two white cardboard document boxes to six vehicles and left.
The officers declined to comment, except for one who confirmed they were done.
FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap confirmed that FBI agents participated in the operation at the request of the Los Angeles Police Department. Harris County district attorney’s office spokesman Jeff McShan said the Los Angeles Police Department contacted his office last week.
Neither Dunlap nor McShan would elaborate on what was happening inside the building and referred questions to Los Angeles police.
LAPD spokesman Sgt. Barry Montgomery said the department is not commenting until Durst is in its custody. Durst is being held in Louisiana, where he faces drug and weapons charges, and it’s not clear how soon he will be returned to California.
"This is an investigation that’s being handled by multi-jurisdictions," Montgomery said. "At this juncture the only thing the LAPD is doing is waiting for the extradition. We are just waiting on him to make it into our custody."
Durst, 71, was charged Monday in Los Angeles with first-degree murder in the shooting of Susan Berman, his confidante and the daughter of a prominent Las Vegas mobster, in Beverly Hills. He could face the death penalty under special circumstances that allege he ambushed her and murdered a witness to a crime.
Dick DeGuerin, Durst’s longtime Houston defense attorney, said he was baffled by what investigators could be looking for in the condo building.
"I think it’s a publicity stunt. I’m not surprised by it, but I would really be surprised if they found anything of any evidentiary value," he said.
In the documentary "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst" that just wrapped up, Durst mumbled about how he "killed them all," providing a dramatic kick to the end of the series. But a law enforcement official said his arrest on the murder charge was based on words he wrote.
Analysis linked a letter Durst wrote to Berman a year before her killing with one that pointed police to her body, and that was the key new evidence in the long-dormant investigation into the 2000 killing, the official not authorized to speak publicly told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
Bob Martin, who has lived with his wife, Carol, in the Houston building for 1 1/2 years, said he would occasionally say hello to Durst and discuss the real estate market with him. He described Durst as no quirkier than anyone else in the building. He added that Durst would occasionally attend the building’s homeowners’ association meetings and that the building staff reported Durst was courteous to them, as well.
Durst waived extradition in New Orleans, but authorities there charged him with being a felon in possession of a gun and with having marijuana. Assistant District Mark Burton said investigators found more than a quarter-pound of pot and a revolver in his hotel room.
DeGuerin said he wants a hearing in Louisiana as soon as possible to contest the arrest.
"The warrant we believe is based on a television show and not on actual fact," he said. "We want a hearing as quickly as possible so Mr. Durst can go to California and face trial as quickly as possible."
The judge in New Orleans scheduled another hearing for next Monday.
Associated Press writers Tami Abdollah and Brian Melley in Los Angeles, Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans and Emily Wagster in Jackson, Miss., contributed to this report.