Real estate heir Durst is a suicide risk, sheriff says

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Durst Smiles As Murder Case Mounts

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Troubled real estate heir Robert Durst was moved from a New Orleans jail to a state prison with a mental health unit because he is considered a suicide risk, officials said Wednesday.

Durst, the 71-year-old millionaire, is in custody in Louisiana on gun charges while awaiting a transfer to Los Angeles to face murder charges in the death of his friend Susan Berman 15 years ago.

A city magistrate had ordered that Durst remain in the New Orleans jail. But the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office appealed that order, and Louisiana's 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the sheriff on Tuesday.

He moved that night to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, about 70 miles from New Orleans, according to the sheriff's office.

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Real estate heir Durst is a suicide risk, sheriff says
Daily News front page November 12, 2003, Headline: Millionaire cross-dresser Robert Durst shot a man, chopped up his body and beat the rap. So Bobby...WHERE'S THE HEAD? Robert Durst (Photo By: /NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Daily News front page February 9, 1982, Headline: WIFE MISSING; 100G REWARD - Real estate tycoon's son asks for search - Medical student Kathleen Durst, wife of real estate tycoon Robert Durst and daughter-in-law of Seymour Durst, has been missing since Jan. 31, and the family has offered a $100,000 reward for information. She was last seen at her Riverside Drive apartment house. (Photo By: /NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Daily News front page September 23, 2003, Headline: HOW DURST DID IT - Defense tells trial why he butchered neighbor in 'self-defense' Robert Durst (Photo By: /NY Daily News via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 30: Fugitive murder suspect Robert Durst, the estranged scion of one of New York's wealthiest real estate families, is shown in a police booking photo Friday, Nov. 30, 2001, in Hanover Township in Bath, Pa. Durst was arrested Friday after shoplifting Band-Aids and a sandwich at a supermarket near Route 22, an east-west highway that leads to New York. Durst, who was suspected in his wife's disappearance 19 years ago, became a fugitive after being charged in October with murdering his 71-year-old neighbor, whose dismembered body parts were found dumped in Galveston Bay in Galveston, Texas. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 20: Robert Durst of the Durst Organization, Inc. (Photo by Bill Turnbull/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Daily News page 8 and 9, November 11, 2000, Headline: Trial heats up in missing wife mystery - Cops shake the dust off '82 Durst case. By a stone cottage in northern Westchester, the pieces of an 18-year-old mystery, the celebrated disappearance of Kathleen Durst are slowing being put together. After more than a decade of inactivity, state police investigators have reopened the Durst case, chasing leads that again focus suspicion on her wealthy husband, real estate heir Robert Durst, law enforcement sources told the Daily News. (Photo By: /NY Daily News via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2000: Robert Durst of the Durst Organization, Inc., 133 6th Ave., New York City. (Photo by Bill Turnbull/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 18: Daily News page October 18, 2001 on Robert Durst, Headline Reads: , Hunt for Durst Widens (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 25: Robert Durst who is wanted in Galveston Texas for the killing of a woman friend and for the missing of his New York wife Kathleen Durst, as he comes and goes from Northhampton Courthouse in Easton Pa. (Photo by John Roca/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Daily News front page December 1, 2001, Headline: NABBED - Millionaire murder suspect Robert Durst caught stealing sandwich (Photo By: /NY Daily News via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2002: Photo of Robert Durst taken from Lehigh University Yearbook, 1965 (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Daily News page 28, October 13, 2001, Headline: Coast-to-coast probe of Durst - N.Y., L.A. cops head to Tex., looking to link him to 3 killings - Investigators from New York and Los Angeles will meet with Texas law enforcement next week in a bid for evidence that could tie real estate heir Robert Durst to three killings. (Photo By: /NY Daily News via Getty Images)
New York City real estate heir Robert Durst leaves a Houston courtroom Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. Durst is charged with criminal mischief for urinating on a counter at a Houston drug store, his hearing has been reset for next month. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Robert Durst, right, listens with his attorney Dick DeGuerin during a parole revocation hearing held by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles Friday, Jan. 13, 2006 in Houston. The parole officer for the New York real estate heir acquitted of murdering his Galveston neighbor recommended the eccentric millionaire be housed in a prison facility for parole violators after he made unscheduled trips to Galveston and Houston that were against the terms of his release. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Multi-millionaire murder defendant Robert Durst is escorted from the courtroom after being found not guilty Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2003, in Galveston, Texas. The cross-dressing son of a New York City real estate tycoon was accused of murder for killing a neighbor at a low-rent Galveston apartment house where they both lived, then dismembering the victim and throwing the body parts into Galveston Bay. He still faces two more charges. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
New York City real estate heir Robert Durst leaves a Houston courtroom Friday, Aug. 15, 2014. Charged with criminal mischief for urinating on candy at a Houston drug store, his hearing has been reset for next month. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
New York multi-millionaire Robert Durst, left, and his attorney Chip Lewis react to the $2 billion bond set on Durst's bond jumping charges by Judge Susan Criss Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2003 in Galveston, Texas. Durst was acquitted last month of murder charges but remains jailed on the bond jumping. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
GALVESTON, TX - NOVEMBER 10: Millionaire murder defendant Robert Durst (C) sits in State District Judge Susan Criss court with his attorney Dick DeGuerin (R) November 10, 2003 at the Galveston County Courthouse in Galveston, Texas. Durst is being charged for the murder and mutilation of his neighbor Morris Black. (Photo by James Nielsen/ Getty Images)
GALVESTON, TX - NOVEMBER 10: Millionaire murder defendant Robert Durst sits in State District Judge Susan Criss court November 10, 2003 at the Galveston County Courthouse in Galveston, Texas. Durst is being charged for the murder and mutilation of his neighbor Morris Black. (Photo by James Nielsen/ Getty Images)
GALVESTON, TX - NOVEMBER 10: Millionaire murder defendant Robert Durst (C) sits in State District Judge Susan Criss court with his attorney Dick DeGuerin (R) November 10, 2003 at the Galveston County Courthouse in Galveston, Texas. Durst is being charged for the murder and mutilation of his neighbor Morris Black. (Photo by James Nielsen/ Getty Images)
GALVESTON, TX - NOVEMBER 10: Millionaire murder defendant Robert Durst (C) sits in State District Judge Susan Criss court with his attorney Dick DeGuerin (R) November 10, 2003 at the Galveston County Courthouse in Galveston, Texas. Durst is being charged for the murder and mutilation of his neighbor Morris Black. (Photo by James Nielsen/ Getty Images)
Ellen Strauss, who was a friend of Robert Durst’s wife Kathleen, is interviewed at The Associated Press in New York, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Strauss believes Durst is responsible for his wife's 1982 disappearance. She told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she is "over the moon" about his arrest in New Orleans last weekend. Durst is charged with murder in the killing 15 years ago of a woman who was about to be questioned about Kathleen Durst's disappearance. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)
Robert Durst, right, smiles with his attorney Dick DeGuerin during a parole revocation hearing held by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Friday, Jan. 13, 2006, in Houston. The parole officer for the New York real estate heir acquitted of murdering his Galveston neighbor recommended the eccentric millionaire be housed in a prison facility for parole violators after he made unscheduled trips to Galveston and Houston that were against the terms of his release. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Robert Durst is escorted from Orleans Parish Criminal District Court to the Orleans Parish Prison after his arraignment in New Orleans, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Durst was rebooked on charges of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of a weapon with a controlled dangerous substance, a small amount of marijuana.(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Robert Durst is escorted into Orleans Parish Prison after his arraignment in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court in New Orleans, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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A three-judge panel ruled that the sheriff has sole authority to decide where to house inmates needing mental health treatment.

Durst's lawyer does not believe his client suffers from acute mental illness, according to a brief filed by the sheriff's office. The magistrate agreed Durst should stay in the city jail so he could help his defense team prepare for his weapons case. But the sheriff's office said in its brief that lawyers could have "virtually unrestricted access" to Durst with 24 hours' notice to the prison.

Dick DeGuerin, Durst's lead attorney in New Orleans, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Tuesday, seven officers spent hours searching Durst's Houston home - a condominium in a 17-story building in a posh neighborhood. They carried away two white cardboard document boxes.

But DeGuerin said he would be surprised if any evidence against his client were found.

The lawyer called the search "a publicity stunt" by a California prosecutor.

"I don't know what they could be looking for 15 years after Susan Berman was killed 1,500 miles away," DeGuerin said. "I would really be surprised if they found anything of any evidentiary value. They can search now till kingdom come. They're not going to find anything because there isn't anything."

But Durst himself may have pointed to his condo, in a recording made while talking to himself in a bathroom immediately after a tense interview with the makers of a documentary about his life.

Just before saying he "killed them all," he says "I don't know what's in the house!"

In this bathroom tape - which forms the shocking conclusion of the six-part HBO documentary that wrapped up Sunday - Durst talks to himself in short bursts of whispers, apparently contemplating his arrest. The filmmakers say they shared the tape with police months ago.

Durst also 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.

Harris County, Texas, district attorney's office spokesman Jeff McShan said Los Angeles police contacted his office last week - days before Sunday's finale on HBO of "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst."

LAPD spokesman Sgt. Barry Montgomery said the department is not commenting until Durst is in custody in Los Angeles. It's not clear how soon he will be returned to California.

Durst could face the death penalty if convicted of killing Berman, the daughter of a prominent Las Vegas mobster, under special circumstances that allege he ambushed her and murdered a witness to a crime.

A law enforcement official said his arrest on the murder charge was based on words he wrote in a letter to Berman a year before her killing, which match one that pointed police to her body.

That's the key new evidence that revived the cold case, the official told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

DeGuerin disagreed: "This is a case that the L.A. D.A. has issued a warrant based on a television program, a (expletive) docudrama."

Bob Martin, a neighbor of Durst's in Houston, described the murder suspect as courteous and no quirkier than anyone else in the building.

Durst waived extradition to California on Monday, but was then charged with being a felon in possession of a gun and illegally carrying a weapon with marijuana, a controlled dangerous substance. Assistant District Attorney Mark Burton said investigators found more than a quarter-pound of pot and a revolver in his hotel room.

DeGuerin said he wants a quick hearing in Louisiana, so that "Durst can go to California and face trial as quickly as possible."

The judge in New Orleans scheduled another hearing for Monday.

___

Lozano reported from Houston. Associated Press writers Tami Abdollah and Brian Melley in Los Angeles and Emily Wagster in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this report.

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