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Retired NYPD detective defends his probe into Durst murder case

 

A retired NYPD detective got emotional on the witness stand Tuesday as he defended his investigation into the still-unsolved 1982 disappearance of Robert Durst's first wife Kathie Durst.

"I did the best I could," Michael Struk, 73, said under oath during testimony in Durst's Los Angeles murder case.

"Did you do anything to cover up Mr. Durst's role, if there was one, in his wife's disappearance?" defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin asked.

"It's silly," Struk replied, his voice getting choked up before he needed a minute to re-compose himself.

"Did you do your dead-level best in your investigation?" DeGuerin asked.

"Yes," he said.

Struk scoffed at a recent New York lawsuit filed by a lawyer on behalf of Kathie's living relatives to obtain his case records from the NYPD.

He dismissed as "bulls--t" any suggestion the NYPD protected Durst.

Struk said he felt mistreated by producers of the HBO documentary series "The Jinx," which chronicled Durst's life.

Robert Durst married Kathie McCormack (later Durst) in 1973 and she was last seen alive on January 31, 1982. According to Durst, his wife got on a Metro-North train near their home in South Salem, New York headed to their Upper West Side apartment, but she never arrived. Durst did not report his wife missing until Feb. 5, 1982.

Robert Durst: A sordid timeline of events

"Do you feel it was unfairly edited to make you look like an idiot?" DeGuerin asked.

"I truly don't know if that was by design, but it came out that way," Struk said.

He said the series allowed too much "opinion" and was "commercialized."

"Nobody knows what we do," Struk said.

"Well, but you know what you did. That's why we asked that you be brought here," DeGuerin said. "I want to start at the beginning."

Now living in New Jersey, Struk was the first witness called by the defense in an attempt to undermine claims by the Los Angeles County District Attorney that Durst murdered his best friend Susan Berman in 2000 out of fear she was on the verge of speaking with investigators about Kathie's disappearance.

Struk's examination was videotaped and will only be considered for admission at trial if he dies or becomes unavailable to testify before jurors who likely won't be chosen for at least another year.

Prosecutors have already called more than a dozen people to testify who are 65 years old and qualify as so-called "conditional" witnesses.

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 21, 2016, POOL FILE PHOTO

Robert Durst sits in a Los Angeles courtroom during his murder trial in 2016.

(Jae C. Hong/AP)

Durst, 74, has pleaded not guilty to shooting Berman execution-style in the back of her head inside her Benedict Canyon bungalow.

His lawyers claim he has no idea who killed Berman or what happened to his first wife.

The wealthy real estate scion waited five days from the time he says he last saw Kathie alive until he visited Struk's NYPD office to file a report on Feb. 5, 1982.

Struk said Tuesday that he went straight to work on the case. His case log lists calls to Kathie's mother, a doctor at Kathie's Bronx-based medical school and New York State Trooper James Harney.

Harney testified last month that he visited Durst's cottage in South Salem, N.Y., on Feb. 5, 1982, after police received a call from one of Kathie's concerned friends.

The house was where Kathie spent the final weekend before she disappeared.

Struk and his team have weathered criticism for never thoroughly searching the property.

"What did you learn from contacting Trooper Harney?" DeGuerin asked Struk on the stand in the Los Angeles courtroom.

-ALLCOUNTRY

Kathie Durst, one of the women Robert Durst was suspected of murdering.

(McCormack/Splash /McCormack/Splash )

"I learned from him he had made a warrantless search of the house. (Our) conversation was based on whether he saw anything remarkable, anything in disarray, something worthy of a crime scene," Struk replied. "He said, no, that the place seemed to be in order."

The NYPD never named Durst a suspect in Kathie's disappearance, and her body has never been recovered.

Durst was arrested on the Berman murder warrant in New Orleans in March 2015.

Prosecutors claim he was attempting to flee to Cuba the day before the dramatic "Jinx" finale.

In the final episode, Durst went into a bathroom still wearing his microphone and muttered an alleged confession to himself, unaware he was still being recorded.

"What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course," he said into the hot mic.

Durst admitted killing his neighbor Morris Black in Texas in 2001, but he was acquitted on self-defense grounds.

Tags:
robert durst
nypd
los angeles
california
the jinx: the life and deaths of robert durst
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