What Happened Between Robert Durst’s Confession and His Arrest?
There’s something weird going on with The Jinx’s timeline.
Here’s an impeccably timed New York Times story about the mind-blowing series finale of HBO’s true-crime documentary series. Regarding the evidence collected by director Andrew Jarecki that most certainly led to Durst’s arrest in New Orleans on Saturday, the Times reports:
In the final episode, a forensic document examiner the filmmakers asked to analyze Mr. Durst’s handwriting concluded that the tics in the note’s handwriting “are unique to one person and only one person.”
Mr. Jarecki and [producer Marc Smerling] struggled with whether to bring the letter to law enforcement authorities. If they did so too soon, their lawyers told them, they could be considered law enforcement agents in the event of a prosecution, possibly jeopardizing the material’s admissibility in court, Mr. Jarecki said.
They also wanted to preserve a journalistic privilege not to disclose sources or testify in court. Still, Mr. Smerling said in an interview, “We had a moral obligation and an obligation to the families of the dead to see that justice was done.” They began speaking to Los Angeles investigators in early 2013.
Near the documentary’s end, the filmmakers were packing up their equipment when Mr. Durst asked to use the bathroom. He did not remove his wireless microphone as he closed the door, however, and began to whisper to himself.
More than two years passed after the interview before the filmmakers found the audio.
Audio was allegedly found “more than two years” after the interview.
It’s thrilling TV. But as Buzzfeed’s Kate Arthur pointed out on Twitter, that two year figure is impossible, per the show’s own timeline—and a good indication that Jarecki misrepresented the order of events on the show to create a more suspenseful finale.
The Jinx is suspiciously careful not to reveal exact dates, but based on the documentary and news coverage, the order of events goes something like:
- 2010: Jarecki’s fictionalized version of Kathleen Durst’s death, All Good Things was released. Sometime shortly after after this, Durst contacted Jarecki to propose an interview.
- 2010-2013: The bulk of the documentary interviews were filmed, and Jarecki and company discovered a never-before-seen bit of evidence: An envelope, addressed by Durst, with identical handwriting and misspelling to the “cadaver” note sent to LAPD following Susan Berman’s Death.
- 2012: According to Times reporter Charles Bagli, Jarecki filmed a final interview with Durst in 2012—and not after his 2013 arrest, as the show indicates. In the interview, he confronted Durst with the envelope and Durst appears to confess in the bathroom
- “Early 2013”: Jarecki “began speaking to Los Angeles investigators,” according to theTimes.
- August 2013: Durst arrested for violating a restraining order filed by his brother. In The Jinx, this arrest is represented as occurring before Durst’s second, confessional interview.
- June 12, 2014: The taped confession was discovered during the editing process,according to the Times.
- The week of March 8, 2015: The LAPD signed an arrest warrant for Durst and, aided by the FBI, tracked him down to New Orleans, where he was staying in a hotel under a false name, according to the New York Post.
- March 14: Durst was arrested on an L.A. warrant at 11 p.m.
- March 15: The Jinx finale.
(We’ve updated the timeline to include new reporting from the Post indicating that Durst’s arrest warrant—based on Durst’s interviews and what a source describes as “other unreleased footage”—was signed last week, and the FBI assisted the LAPD in tracking him down, and to include information from an interview with Jarecki in the Times and reporting by Buzzfeed’s Kate Aurthur about the date of the interview. Additionally, there is an excerpt below from a CBS This Morning interview, in which Jarecki was asked about the timeline specifically.)
As you can tell, the Times’ “more than two years” couldn’t have passed between the final interview if the final interview actually occurred in the order of events presented on the show.
But it now appears that the Times’ original reporting may have been right—the gap between the confession and the discovery of the footage could have been years if the interview took place in 2012, as Charles Bagli says. This separate Times ArtsBlog recap of the Jinx finale states the footage in question “was taped nearly three years ago but accidentally discovered just nine months ago.” If that’s true, it means the second interview would have been recorded before his restraining-order arrest, and the events of the show were presented out of order.
So if the Times articles are correct about the timeframe and the second interview occurred sometime in mid-to-late 2012, it came well before Durst’s arrest and likely before Jarecki started talking to cops.
Jarecki hasn’t commented on when the interview took place yet. From the Times interview:
I’m just trying to clarify if the arrest for being on Douglas Durst’s property happened after the second interview.
Jarecki: Yeah, I think I’ve got to get back to you with a proper response on that.
Fishier even than the show’s liberal editing is the idea that the filmmakers “found” the audio after any passage of time—as though they’d have just stopped listening as soon as Durst stepped into the bathroom. Remember, this is a man who they already knew had the habit saying suspicious things after he thought they’d stopped rolling, because that’s exactly what he did in Episode 4 of this show, to the chagrin of his lawyer. It is highly doubtful that the sound guy didn’t hear Bob Durst say, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course,” the moment it came out of his mouth.
That smells like bullshit. Those guys were hot to get him. They knew he was oblivious to hot mics before. They also knew he didn’t take it off when he went into the bathroom.
Jarecki is playing us all for fools for the ratings of his show. I think he gave the evidence to the LA DA just in time to result in an arrest immediately prior to his finale.
I mean, Durst is guilty as hell, but I don’t feel like Jarecki did what he did for the families of the dead or for “justice”.
This makes sense to me. Could it be that Jarecki, Smerling & company sat on Durst’s ostensible confession for the sake of making good TV (and/or avoiding legal trouble)? Did they produce an arithmetically challenged lie to cover themselves, or is the Times’s reporting off? And what about the timing of Durst’s arrest? Was the evidence handed off to ensure that it would happen just in time to publicize a (however unfairly) slept on HBO documentary series? Or was there some kind of backend deal cut between the filmmakers, the cops, and HBO so that the cops got their man, HBO got its publicity, and the viewers got a thrilling package of documentary entertainment and real-life results?
CBS: So when did you all realize you had that recording, and when did you take it to the authorities?
Jarecki: Well, we actually interviewed Bob Durst two times. The first time was for about three days back in 2010 and we were surprised that he made a whole bunch of admissions and said things that were kind of shocking. And we thought we would go back to him again at some point. And then we went back to him again a couple years later to show him this new evidence we had discovered. And we thought we were done at the end of the interview. And he reacted in a strong way to the material that we showed him, and then he got up and said goodbye and we thought that was the end. But his microphone kept recording, we always leave the microphone on him, he knows that, and he went to the bathroom while it was recording. And it wasn’t until months later that we had an editor listening to material that we had just sort of left behind, thinking, well now we’ve got all this and everything we’ve got, we’re about to finish the series and we discovered we have this shocking piece of audio.
CBS: The New York Times said two years, you said it was months later when you found it.
Jarecki: Many months. I mean it was, uh, obviously for us a shock ’cause it was many months since we had sat down with him, and then after sitting down with him we thought well we’ve got this sort of revelation, which is he was unable to determine which of the two handwritings that we were showing him was his own and, in fact, we think both of them were his own. Um, and then after that he got up and it was not until many months later that we actually realized that the more interesting revelation might have been the secret revelation.
Months. Many months.
Gayle King also asked Jarecki about the spectacular timing of Durst’s arrest—just one day beforeThe Jinx’s finale. “The truth is that we hoped Robert Durst would be arrested as soon as possible, and we were sort of amazed ourselves that he hadn’t been arrested for so long,” said Jarecki. “But the authorities were never communicating with us other than in their normal cordial way, they were going through their investigation.”
King asked if Jarecki gave the audio to the authorities before yesterday and Jarecki replied, “Long before. They’ve had that audio for many months.”
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