Detective: Robert Durst's Wife Told Neighbor of Beating, Threats - NBC Bay Area
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Detective: Robert Durst's Wife Told Neighbor of Beating, Threats

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    In this Aug. 15, 2014, file photo, New York City real estate heir Robert Durst leaves a Houston courtroom.

    The missing wife of New York real estate heir Robert Durst once told a neighbor that her husband had beat her and she feared he would kill her, a retired detective testified Tuesday.

    Kathleen Durst had climbed out her Manhattan penthouse window in her pajamas and knocked on a neighbor's bedroom window for help, James Varian said at a rare pretrial hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court.

    Prosecutors are recording testimony from witnesses who are old, ill or fear for their safety and may not be available at Durst's trial on a murder charge.

    Durst, 74, has pleaded not guilty to murder in the shooting death of his best friend, Susan Berman, in Los Angeles in 2000.

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    Prosecutors allege Durst killed Berman to prevent her from telling police what she knew about Kathleen Durst's mysterious 1982 disappearance.

    Kathleen Durst has never been found. A New York judge last month declared her dead.

    Varian, 77, had interviewed neighbors of the Dursts after the disappearance and retired from the force later that year.

    He said he did not recall much of what was written in the reports until he reviewed them, but he remembered the account of Anne Doyle, who lived in the 16th-floor penthouse next to the Dursts.

    Doyle said she once let a frightened Kathleen Durst into her bedroom window after she said her husband had a gun and she feared he would kill her, Varian testified.

    "Bob had beat her and wants to kill her," Varian said. "That's what Mrs. Doyle told me."

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    Kathleen Durst said she was afraid to be near any window and hid in the Doyle bathroom for two hours. Eventually, Kevin Doyle calmed her down and spoke with Robert Durst.

    Robert Durst did not admit beating his wife, but he told Kevin Doyle that she should come home, Varian said.

    Varian's video recorded testimony will only be used if he's not available at a future trial.

    A judge hearing the case hasn't yet determined if Durst will stand trial or if the testimony would be admissible at a trial.