Robert Durst case: Hearing focuses on mystery of 1982 phone call

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A brief phone call that happened 35 years ago took center stage Tuesday at a hearing in the Robert Durst murder case.

The call was thought to be the last time that anyone heard from Durst's wife Kathie before she vanished, although prosecutors are now raising the possibility that it wasn't her on the other end of the line.

Prosecutors allege that Durst, the millionaire real-estate scion and subject of the HBO series "The Jinx," killed Kathie and then nearly 20 years later murdered his friend Susan Berman because she knew too much about the slaying.

Durst, 73, is charged only with Berman's slaying — and prosecutors wanted to get testimony from three witnesses who they say are in fear of Durst.

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LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21: Real Estate Heir Robert Durst appears in the Airport Branch of the Los Angeles County Superior Court during a preliminary hearing on December 21, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Durst is charged with capital murder in a friend's killing Susan Berman in 2000. (Photo by Jae C. Hong-Pool\Getty Images)
Lawyers (L-R) David Chesnoff and Dick DeGuerin argue their client, New York real estate scion Robert Durst, while he appears in the Los Angeles Superior Court Airport Branch for a pre-trial motions hearing involving witnesses that are expected to testify before the trial in Los Angeles, California on January 6, 2017. The 73-year-old Durst, whose bizarre life was the focus of an acclaimed HBO series, is charged with the 2000 execution-style killing of longtime friend Susan Berman. / AFP / POOL / Mark Boster (Photo credit should read MARK BOSTER/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 14: (EDITOR'S NOTE: Best quality available) In this handout provided by the Orleans Parish Sheriffs Office, OPSO, Robert Durst poses for a mugshot photo after being arrested and detained March 14, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Family member of a prominent New York City real estate empire and subject of a HBO series, Durst has been arrested on a first-degree murder warrant issued by police in Los Angeles related to the death of his friend, Susan Berman. (Photo by Orleans Parish Sheriffs Office 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)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 6: Judge Mark E. Windham speaks from the bench about during a pre-trial motions hearing for New York real estate scion Robert Durst in the Los Angeles Superior Court Airport Branch involving witnesses that are expected to testify before the trial January 6, 2017. (Photo by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
New York real estate scion Robert Durst has a lighter moment with his attorney Dick DeGuerin while appearing in the Los Angeles Superior Court Airport Branch for a pre-trial motions hearing involving witnesses that are expected to testify before the trial in Los Angeles, California on January 6, 2017. The 73-year-old Durst, whose bizarre life was the focus of an acclaimed HBO series, is charged with the 2000 execution-style killing of longtime friend Susan Berman. / AFP / POOL / Mark Boster (Photo credit should read MARK BOSTER/AFP/Getty Images)
Photographers gather at an entrance to the courthouse where Robert Durst appeared for a bail hearing in New Orleans, Louisiana March 23, 2015. Durst, the real estate scion awaiting extradition to California to face a murder charge, was denied bail after a judge deemed him to be a potential danger to others and a likely flight risk. REUTERS/Lee Celano
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 07: Real Estate Heir Robert Durst appears in the Airport Branch of the Los Angeles County Superior Court on November 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Durst has pleaded not guilty to murder in the death of a friend Susan Berman in 2000. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
Robert Durst sits in a police vehicle as he leaves a courthouse in New Orleans, Louisiana March 17, 2015. Durst, scion of one of New York's largest real estate empires, was charged on gun and drug charges, after he was arrested in New Orleans on a murder warrant issued by Los Angeles County Saturday. REUTERS/Lee Celano (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW)
New York real estate scion Robert Durst appears in the Los Angeles Superior Court Airport Branch for a pre-trial motions hearing involving witnesses that are expected to testify before the trial in Los Angeles, California on January 6, 2017. The 73-year-old Durst, whose bizarre life was the focus of an acclaimed HBO series, is charged with the 2000 execution-style killing of longtime friend Susan Berman. / AFP / POOL / Mark Boster (Photo credit should read MARK BOSTER/AFP/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA MARCH 16, 2015: Robert Durst, wealthy NY real estate heir, has been arrested in connection with the murder of his friend Susan Berman. The crime allegedly was commited by Durst inside this home in Beverly Hills in 2000. A camerman films the exterior of the home. (Francine Orr/ LA Times via Getty Images)
The director of HBO’s docu-series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” discusses the shocking final moments of the show’s finale.
During the final episode of HBO's 'The Jinx,' Robert Durst was accidentally recorded saying he 'killed them all, of course.'
Robert Durst, a member of one of New York's wealthiest families and the subject of an HBO documentary, could face charges over a 15-year-old murder.
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)
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)
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)
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)
Robert Durst waived extradition Monday morning during a court appearance in New Orleans. He is expected to be sent to Los Angeles to face murder charges.
Robert Durst in a wheelchair arrives for his his arraignment on capital murder charges in the death of Susan Berman, with one of his lawyer David Z. Chesnoff (L) looking on, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
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The first was Dr. Albert Kuperman, a former dean of a New York medical school where Kathie Durst was a student at the time of her disappearance.

He testified that a woman who identified herself as Kathleen Durst called him on Feb. 1, 1982, to say she was sick with "gastrointestinal distress" and would not be in.

The prosecution and the defense sparred over how to describe the caller.

Throughout his cross-examination, Durst lawyer Dick DeGuerin emphasized that it was Kathie Durst who called Kuperman, The doctor testified that for 30 years "he had no reason not to believe it was Kathie who called him" and that he had been told she would call him at some point to discuss her attendance.

But Kuperman later testified that after meeting with Deputy District Attorney John Lewin and investigators in 2015, he began thinking about the call more critically and wasn't absolutely certain it was Kathie on the phone that day.

Check out headlines about Durst

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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)
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)
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Who made the call is significant because it could bolster or undermine Robert Durst's timeline for when and where he last saw his wife. In addition to establishing a timeline, prosecutors want to leave open the possibility that the call came from someone else impersonating her.

Throughout his cross exam, Durst lawyer Dick DeGuerin said it was Kathie Durst who called Kuperman in 1982. Kuperman testified that for over 30 years "he had no reason not to believe it was Kathie who called him" and that in fact he had been told she would be calling him at some point.

But Kuperman did admit when questioned by Lewin that after meeting with prosecutors and investigators in 2015 he began thinking about it more critically and wasn't absolutely certain Kathie was the caller.

During the daylong hearing, the two sides also fought over how to refer to "The Jinx," with prosecutors calling it a documentary and DeGuerin saying it's just a "movie."

The show examined Durst's links to the 1982 disappearance of Kathie, the 2000 murder of Berman and the 2001 killing and dismemberment of Durst's Texas neighbor Morris Black. Durst was found not guilty in Black's death.

"The Jinx" ended with Durst's bombshell statement on a hot mic that he "killed them all."

One of the witnesses scheduled to testify at the three-day pretrial hearing has not yet been named. DeGuerin said there's some indication that witness is working on a book, "which would be rather sensational."

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