US real estate heir Robert Durst has tested positive for COVID-19 and is on a ventilator in hospital – days after being sentenced to life in prison for murdering a friend in 2000.
The 78-year-old had appeared to be ill during his murder trial and subsequent sentencing – and his lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, told NBC News that he was the “worst I’ve ever seen him” on Thursday.
Mr DeGuerin added: “He was having difficulty breathing, he was having difficulty speaking.”
Durst was convicted last month of murdering Susan Berman in December 2000, who was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head at her home.
The circumstances surrounding her killing had been a mystery for 15 years, but Durst was arrested after taking part in a documentary called The Jinx that unearthed new evidence and caught him in a stunning confession.
His trial had begun in March 2020 but was adjourned for 14 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prosecutors said that Ms Berman had helped Durst provide a false alibi in relation to the disappearance of his wife Kathleen McCormack in 1982.
It was alleged that the multimillionaire killed Ms Berman to prevent her from revealing this to police.
Durst, a cancer survivor who uses a wheelchair, spent 15 days testifying during the trial, claiming he had found his friend’s body when he went to visit her.
While Durst – believed to be worth $100m (£73m) – was only on trial for killing Ms Berman, prosecutors believe he murdered two others: his wife and a neighbour in Texas who discovered his identity while he was hiding from police.
Durst has never been charged in the disappearance of Ms McCormack, who was a 29-year-old medical student when she vanished. He has long been a suspect and the case was reopened in May.
Regarding the murder and dismemberment of Texas neighbour Morris Black in 2001, Durst was tried but acquitted.
Durst had still been wearing a live microphone after his interview in The Jinx and was heard saying to himself in the bathroom “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course” – evidence that helped build the case against him.