Skip to main content
Got a tip?

‘The Jinx’ Finally Explains Mystery of Robert Durst Arrest One Day Before TV Confession

"Of course it was going to be confusing to people. Nobody was going to understand": Director Andrew Jarecki and EP Zac Stuart-Pontier give the The Hollywood Reporter a play-by-play breakdown of Durst being apprehended in 2015 ahead of the season one finale.

For anyone who needed a refresher on The Jinx, the follow-up series to the 2015 true-crime phenomenon that led to the arrest of Robert Durst did just that with its first episode. Except it delved deeper — much deeper — when it took the audience behind the curtain of the murder case against Durst to show how and why the investigation and Durst’s subsequent arrest lined up with the jaw-dropping final episode, which would air audio of Durst now-famously confessing from inside a bathroom, “Killed them all, of course.”

The Jinx launched as a six-part miniseries in February 2015. Durst was a New York real estate heir who had been suspected of three murders, but never convicted: his first wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst, who disappeared in 1982; his close friend Susan Berman, who was shot dead execution-style in December 2000; and his neighbor Morris Black, whom he dismembered but was acquitted of murdering, claiming self-defense, in 2001. Director Andrew Jarecki — whom Durst approached after seeing Jarecki’s film All Good Things, which was based on Durst’s life — interviewed Durst for 21 hours for The Jinx.

Related Stories

The final season one episode featured Jarecki confronting Durst with a smoking gun, when Durst could not distinguish between his own handwritten letter and the infamous cadaver note that was believed to have been sent by Berman’s murderer. Durst, who was still mic’d, excused himself to the bathroom, which is where he would go on to say, “There it is, you’re caught. … Killed them all, of course.”

That piece of handwriting evidence was first introduced to the audience in the fifth episode of season one and, as The Jinx — Part Two‘s first episode explains, Durst went on the run after he watched that episode air one week prior to the finale. He was ultimately apprehended in New Orleans and was arrested the day before his bathroom confession was made public. The Jinx became an instant true-crime unicorn: an HBO docuseries just led to an arrest in a cold case — how did that happen?

“Of course it was going to be confusing to people. Nobody was going to understand,” Jarecki tells The Hollywood Reporter when delving even further into the timeline of events that would ultimately lead to Durst’s arrest. “People were asking, ‘When did you give this evidence to the police?’ I think people were assuming that there was some plot where we had sat on the evidence in order to make this show a bigger deal.”

As Part Two makes clear with a title card, The Jinx filmmakers first handed over evidence in 2013, which would lead to L.A. District Attorney John Lewin reopening the cold case investigation into Berman’s murder. Jarecki and executive producer Zac Stuart-Pontier recently explained in their Official Jinx Podcast for HBO how two years after they filmed it, they uncovered Durst’s audio confession in their editing process and also gave that to Lewin.

What Jarecki and Stuart-Pontier detail below is that, once they handed over that final piece of evidence — before The Jinx even premiered — they became witnesses and were advised not to speak with the press in order to maintain their credibility in the case. Now, nine years later — during which time Durst was convicted for the first-degree murder of Berman and later indicted on the charge of second-degree murder in first wife Kathie’s killing, before his death in 2022 — they are ready to talk.


I’m in a Jinx rabbit hole after revisiting the timeline of Robert Durst’s arrest and the Part One finale (which aired in March 15, 2015) now that I’ve seen it all put into perspective with the behind-the-scenes revelations in the first episode of The Jinx — Part Two.

ANDREW JARECKI How would you feel about [a rabbit hole for] 21 years?

Well, how does it feel to release the second half of this Robert Durst story after 21 years?

JARECKI It’s really bizarre and surprising that we’ve been at it for this long. It was not something that we planned, but it really has been an incredible gift to be able to go this deeply into a story. Not only does the story keep shifting — and there are so many big, human questions that it calls into play — but this whole Part Two is really about something different for us. Obviously, Bob is centered in it. But Zac [Stuart-Pontier] and I used to say, “How do you kill three people over 30 years and get away with it? It takes a village.” So, who are these people? Who is this constellation of people, if you pull the camera back, who were there helping Bob along the way? Normal, ordinary, decent people who see themselves as regular citizens are all of a sudden getting drawn into murder. And not one murder, sometimes three murders.

That’s such an interesting evolution. Because it was easy to say that Bob was this lone wolf, and these bad things happened and he got in trouble for it. But the reality was that he had this cadre of people who, for various reasons and who came in at different times in his life in different ways, were able to participate. And without those people, I don’t think he would have been able to do what he did. Zac and I are getting very contemplative now. We’re seeing the end of this in sight and we’re getting a little nostalgic, and I was saying to him, “What are the biggest differences between Part One and Part Two?” And Zac said, “Part One was retrospective where these were terrible events that happened in the past. Part Two is happening while you are watching it. It’s action that’s happening in the present.”

And the second thing is that, a lot of people in Part One wanted to participate. Bob Durst volunteered to be interviewed. And a lot of his friends wanted to be there and support him and say good things about him, and other people wanted to make their points and say how frustrated they were by him. People really had a desire to be in it. And people don’t want to be in Part Two.

Your cameras never stopped rolling. So you had a time period where you had captured footage before The Jinx exploded to become a true-crime phenomenon.

ZAC STUART-PONTIER When making Part One, we were never really sure where Part One was going to end. Andrew was already in touch with [L.A. County Deputy District Attorney] John Lewin. We were filming some of that as that relationship was progressing, like speaking for the first time. And there was some talk about including some of that in Part One. Obviously, that didn’t happen. We ended Part One with Bob in the bathroom [making his confession]. But while we were making Part Two, so much of what we filmed for Part One was relevant in this new and exciting way. That was one of my favorite things about making this season. There was this going back over of all the stuff when making Part One that was all of a sudden extremely relevant again.

I can’t recall how soon after The Jinx finale released that you made it public that you had actually discovered Durst’s bathroom audio confession two years after you filmed it. Can you go back to when you first made that known?

JARECKI When we first talked about it? It was truncated. Because at the time, when people were asking, “When did you give this evidence to the police?”, I think people were assuming that there was some plot where we had sat on the evidence in order to make this show a bigger deal. But people didn’t understand that we had reached out to the police a couple of years before the show came out. [Note: Part Two explains that they first handed over evidence in 2013.] It’s just that the average person thinks, “Well, if you have evidence of a murder, of course the police will go out and arrest the guy.” And we thought that, too.

And then when we met with John Lewin [who appears in Part Two], he said, “Just to let you know, these [cold] cases usually take me five years.” We’re like, “This guy has definitely murdered three people already. It’s very possible he’ll do it again. It’s possible I’ll be one of them.” And he said, “Well, the worst thing you can do, if you are a district attorney’s office, is bring a prosecution before you’re ready, because especially if this guy has hundreds of millions of dollars, he’s going to throw a lot of money at it and you don’t want to end up …,” what’s that expression, you don’t want to wound a prince? [Lewin continued], “If you’re going to do it, you gotta take him down.”

So, we learned a lot from that. But then at the time, when the show came out, one of the reasons people didn’t understand that is because that same DA had said to us, “Don’t talk to the press.” I had shown [ABC News anchor] George Stephanopoulos the last two episodes early, just because we’re friends and I knew I could trust him. We were very worried that if people in the press found out, it would leak and then Bob would flee. And similarly, I had done the same thing with Charlie Bagli at The New York Times [who appears in Part Two], because I felt that we may not be able to talk about this, so somebody had to have the basic facts right. And then right after that — because we didn’t know Bob was going to get arrested — [Lewin] said, “By the way, now that Bob’s been arrested, we’re bringing this case and you guys are going to be witnesses. So, don’t talk to the press.”

(Laughs.) So, then we were kind of stuck in that middle ground where we really didn’t want to damage our credibility as witnesses. We didn’t want to mess up their case. But, of course it was going to be confusing to people. Nobody was going to understand. Nobody was going to understand that it took us two years to find the bathroom audio. It’s understandable why people would say, “Well, that sounds crazy.”

And that bathroom audio confession was relitigated in court during Durst’s trial. Part of the defense’s case was an accusation that scene was edited. Can you address that, and what it was like to have that accusation thrown during the trial?

JARECKI Two different things. First, they were saying that we must have been in cahoots with the police, because — if that were the case — then they would be able to say that we were agents of law enforcement. And if we were agents of law enforcement, then what Bob said to us should be thrown out, because we didn’t Mirandize him; we didn’t say, “By the way, we’re kind of working with the police and we’re an extension of the police.” And that’s one of the reasons why we didn’t reach out to the police until we had finished that second interview [the one that ended the Part One finale].

We were talking to lawyers and asking what the best way was to provide the evidence that the police will need. And they said, “Don’t go to the police until you confront him with the evidence, because there’s only one shot at doing that and if you go to the police first, it will seem like they are giving you the questions or they’re asking you to do things that will help with the prosecution.” So, we had to separate ourselves there.

STUART-PONTIER And that is what the defense did try to do. They did try to make that argument, and that was litigated. And all the lawyers weighed in and they said, “No, you guys weren’t agents of law.” So the people who were advising us that that was going to become an issue were absolutely right. That was the right advice to give us.

JARECKI And then the second part was something that I think people didn’t understand — and even Charlie Bagli at the N.Y. Times didn’t understand. They thought, “Well, the prosecution is going to be based on the The Jinx. We know that the bathroom audio is seven minutes long. All you showed in the film is 20 or 30 seconds of it, so clearly they are bringing this prosecution based on a film.” But what they didn’t understand is that we had given the entire seven minutes immediately to the district attorney as soon as we found it [two years after filming it and before The Jinx premiered].

So, it wasn’t ever based on [what we showed]. We were never going to be able to play seven minutes of bathroom audio in the film, but we knew that was what we had to do for the prosecution. And [the court] would have never tolerated it. They couldn’t have used the bathroom audio [from the film] in court and then said to the jury, “Well, we’re not going to play you the whole bathroom audio.” Because, what if there was something in the bathroom audio where he said, “Oh, I was just kidding about that part where I said, ‘Killed them all, of course.’” So, they would need to be able to play that whole thing for the jury.

But it was also something where Bob’s defense was trying to say that it was all in the editing: “They made Bob seem guilty.” But you know, the guy [Durst] walks into the bathroom and says, “There it is, you’re caught.” And then he says, “Killed them all, of course.” They knew that the only argument they could make was that somehow this was all a big Hollywood production. They even tried to make the argument that somehow HBO had worked with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office to plan the arrest to make the show more dramatic.

Robert Durst (here in a screenshot in The Jinx — Part Two) was arrested for Susan Berman’s murder in New Orleans on March 14, 2015, the day before The Jinx aired its season one finale. HBO

The timing to everyone not in the know seemed pretty remarkable — that he was arrested the day before the finale when seemingly no one except you guys knew what was even on the tape. This first episode now lets the audience in on the timeline you are delving more into here.

STUART-PONTIER Right. It’s not true that no one but us knew what was on the audio. The police knew. The police knew what was in The Jinx, because we showed them — because we were trying to be forthcoming with them. And therein is the answer to the mystery of why he was arrested on the eve of the finale, because the police knew he was about to watch himself confess onscreen and they knew he was already on the run. We didn’t know any of that.

Andrew knew that he was already on the run because there was some talk about some personal danger that Andrew was in. So, he did know that for those four or five days that [Durst] was on the run. But this was not common knowledge.

JARECKI It’s a little bit of nuance, but I think it’s worth understanding. It wasn’t a coincidence that they arrested him, right? It is true that it happened in this incredible, weird, lightning-strike thing where the show is about to come out. But it’s not because they were in contact with HBO. Cops don’t call HBO. Television people and law enforcement are not calling each other. But because the cops knew that the show was coming out and they knew what was in it, they had planned to arrest him. They never told us that.

We were freaking out a little, because we didn’t understand why they weren’t arresting him. And they would say, “Well, we’re just not ready.” But actually, internally, there was a little strife even on their side that we didn’t understand at the time; the district attorney did not want him arrested. John Lewin did not want Bob arrested at that moment because John, who is very careful about his cases and who wants everything to be perfect, said, “If he gets arrested, he could ask for a speedy trial. And I’m not ready to try him because I haven’t been able to talk to all the witnesses. I’ve talked to all the witnesses I can talk to who are not close friends of Bob’s, but if I had called the close friends of Bob’s, then they would have tipped him off and then he would have been on the run. So, I need time.”

In the meantime, you have [LAPD homicide detective] George Shamlyan and the big cop from LAPD who said, “I don’t really care what the DA has to say. I know the show is coming out and Bob has already scouted Cuba” — he had already made a trip to Cuba, he’s moving money around, we know this guy is gonna try to flee to a jurisdiction that doesn’t have reciprocity or an extradition treaty — and therefore he said, “I don’t really care what the DA does. We’re arresting him. We’re gonna look so stupid if we don’t arrest him and then he flies the coop.” So there was really a conflict between Lewin and the cops that we didn’t have any idea of until later.

But thankfully [Durst] was arrested; they were right. And in the end, Lewin had to suck it up and he was close enough. Luckily a few other things delayed Bob — the pot that he had with him and the gun [when he was arrested], and he ended up stuck in New Orleans for a while and couldn’t go to trial. But it was a lot of things that happened in a very short period of time and it made sense that people in TV world were like, “This doesn’t make any sense to me.” And it took a while for us to really understand it, too. But we ended up getting to know those guys over time and learning about why they didn’t just go arrest him.

And this first episode explains how Durst, who was watching The Jinx in real time when new episodes landed on Sundays, did go on the run because of what he saw in episode five (the episode that aired before the finale confession). It was striking to see Durst, after he was arrested, tell the police he couldn’t answer himself why he spoke to you for The Jinx, and he also shares that he was high on methamphetamine for the interviews he did with you.

JARECKI “Shares”? Or “invents” the idea?

STUART-PONTIER “Claims” is the word I was thinking.

JARECKI He’s floating a test balloon, right? He doesn’t know John Lewin yet. He doesn’t know that John Lewin does not suffer bullshit. So he thought, “Let me try some stuff. Let me throw out, ‘Oh, I was on meth.’” And then John is like, “That thing you just told me, I think is bullshit.” And then Bob has to retreat and be like, “All right, I might have to keep negotiating with this guy,” and says, “Well, I’m not saying the answers I gave are wrong, I’m just saying that there was something going on with me.” And John is like, “All right, let’s move on.”

Do either of you think he was on any sort of substance in those 21 hours you were speaking with him for Part One?


STUART-PONTIER He loves to smoke weed. It’s not impossible that he took a hit on his way over. He’s a wake-and-bake kind of guy. So, is it possible that early on he was stoned? A little. Maybe. But the guy spends his whole life stoned, so I don’t know how much that affected him. Beyond that, I think we would have known. He was totally with it. He was getting up, he was moving around. He was interacting with people. He’s a weirdo, but I don’t believe he was on drugs.

Later, in recorded prison calls in this first episode, Durst ends up saying that doing The Jinx was the “dumbest thing” he ever did. Charlie Bagli tells the cameras that if Durst had kept his mouth shut, he probably would never have been caught. Why do you think he spoke to you?

JARECKI I think it was a number of different things, and some of them were more pedestrian than others. One of them is that he does not have a lot to do. He’s loaded [with money]. He wanders the world and has various places that he would stay; he would go to Galveston or he would go to his place in Northern California; he had a place in Florida for a while and a place in New York. He was kind of the idle rich, and I think he got bored. And I think he loved the stimulation of being in the press. And that dovetails with another thing, which is that he hates his brother so much, and he hates his family so much, that he would do anything to torture them.

Douglas Durst is the chairman of The Durst Organization. Bob was the eldest son and he was passed over as head of The Durst Organization in favor of his younger brother Doug, who he couldn’t stand. Doug would work incredibly hard to build some new building, and they would have to beg the local press to write a little blurb about it. Because, it’s not that interesting when a building goes up in Manhattan. Then Bob would show up, stand in front of Zabar’s, someone would snap a photo of him and he would end up on the front page of the New York Post with a headline, “He’s Back!” Bob loved the fact that he could draw the attention to himself. The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

I also think that there were some deeper reasons. He really felt that he was being treated unfairly. I think if you had asked him what he meant by that, he would say, “Well, I applied to get into this co-op, they wouldn’t let me in. I’ve never been convicted of murder. That’s not fair to me.” Even though in his mind he knew he had killed these three people, he felt maligned. He felt somehow like he wasn’t being treated fairly, given the fact that, under the letter of the law, he wasn’t actually a murderer. You could say to him, “Well Bob, you can understand that if you are living in your nice Manhattan co-op, you might not want to step out to get the newspaper and look across and see a guy who dismembered somebody.” [Durst was acquitted for the 2001 murder of his neighbor Morris Black, whom Durst admitted to dismembering, claiming he killed Black in self-defense.] He never totally understood that. He felt that was a technicality, and that he was technically innocent.

And then the deepest thing of all is that I do believe he had a compulsion to confess. Even if Bob had less conscience than others, I think he knew that he had killed the people who loved him. His first wife [Kathleen McCormack Durst] was an incredible person. She really loved him and thought she could make him better. She saw all of his flaws, and thought she could be the missing piece and fix him. And I think he missed that. I think he always felt guilty that he had killed her. And that’s one of the reasons why the minute I finished showing him the two pieces of handwriting and he can’t tell the difference [in the Part One finale] and two minutes later he gets up and goes to the bathroom, he doesn’t even get the door closed before he says, “There it is, you’re caught.” I feel like, during the interview, he was thisclose to just wanting to blurt it out. So I think that was also part of why he spoke to us.

I’m curious about your correspondence with him for Part Two. I’ve seen the first four episodes, but press did not receive screeners for the final two episodes. Do you speak to him directly here, can you say?

JARECKI I think maybe we’ll leave the last episodes to their own devices.

The Jinx — Part Two releases new episodes 10 p.m. Sundays on HBO and Max. Read Jarecki and Stuart-Pontier explaining how they came upon Durst’s bathroom confession two years after filming and check back in with THR as Part Two unfolds for more from the filmmakers.