The story seems familiar enough. We’ve all seen the wealthy kid who learns that happiness can’t be bought; the sibling who doesn’t want to enter the family business; the abusive marriage that seemed so perfect for a brief moment way back when; the feuding apartment neighbors who argue over small problems; the unhappy suburban wife who takes her own life; the severed limbs found floating in trash bags in the water; the body found murdered, execution-style; the lying criminal without a glimpse of true remorse; the still-missing wife who just happened to fight with her husband the night she disappeared. But line all these recognizable stories up next to each other and link them all with the same man, and well, that’s a bit different. Welcome to The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst – it’s a story that spans four decades, three murders, and one disturbingly wealthy man still freely walking the streets today.
The Durst family is one of the wealthiest in the world, as the Durst Organization owns and manages more than 8.5 million square feet of Class A office space in Midtown Manhatten and over 1 million square feet of luxury residential rentals. The son of Seymour Durst, Robert was born in 1943, the oldest of four siblings. From the day Robert Durst was born, he was pegged as the one who would inherit the family business. What should have been a comfortable childhood changed dramatically when Robert witnessed his mother commit suicide by jumping off the roof of the family’s home. His father never replaced the maternal figure in Robert’s life. Fast-forward to 1973. Robert is 30 years old when he meets, and quickly marries Kathleen McCormack. Less than a decade later, Kathleen would go missing, and her case would remain unsolved. Although Robert has been a main suspect since the beginning (especially in the eyes of Kathleen’s family), no charges have ever been brought forward.
And that covers murder number one. We haven’t even gotten into the dismembered man found in Texas, or the woman executed in California. But I don’t want to spoil too much for you – watch and learn for yourself.
The Jinx is directed by Andrew Jarecki, who previously directed All Good Things, Remembering the Friedmans, and produced Catfish. The six-part documentary series premieres Sunday, February 8th at 8:00 pm ET. If you’ve seen All Good Things and this documentary sounds familiar to you, you’re not crazy – the film, starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, was based heavily off of Robert Durst’s story. But the documentary delves much deeper into the camouflaged and mysterious life of Robert Durst, and it’s not as cut and dry and it seems.
Following the release of All Good Things, Robert Durst reached out to Jarecki, and the two developed a unique, candid relationship. Jarecki exclusively interviewed Durst, uncovering secrets to multiple cases that have baffled authorities for years. This footage doesn’t surface until the second episode, “Poor Little Rich Boy”, but it’s certainly worth the wait. Episode 1, “A Body in the Bay”, sets the table and invites us to sit down by taking us to Texas in 2001, to a body found floating in Galveston Bay and introduces us to an array of interesting people from Durst’s life, including his current wife, Debrah Lee Charatan, Detective Cody Cazalas, who led the case in Galveston, Jeanine Pirro, the former Westchester County district attorney who reopened the investigation of Durst’s missing wife, among others. Where Episode 1 features many people telling us who Robert Durst is, Episode 2 stars Durst himself. This is where the documentary shines. The exclusive access to Durst, and bluntness in which he answers Jarecki’s questions, give The Jinx a balanced, transparent feel. The reenactments – usually a weak spot in documentaries – are used sparingly and effectively. And the opening credits are pleasantly reminiscent of True Detective.
Between Game of Thrones, True Detective, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad, Sunday night television has long been the mecca for elite programming. That HBO is putting The Jinx up against other networks’ stalwarts should prove how highly they think of it.
Comparisons to Serial will surely arise when The Jinx airs. Serial, for those not familiar, is a podcast that took the US by storm in 2014 and had everyone focused on a 1999 murder of high-school student Hae Min Lee, and more specifically the alleged guilt of Adnan Masud Syed, who is currently serving a life sentence despite some questionable proof. But where Serial left its audience torn over what to believe, Jarecki says “By the time you get through the six episodes, you’ll know what happened.”
You just won’t like it.
Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.
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