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Accused millionaire remembers 'swimming in blood'

By John Springer

Robert Durst
Robert Durst

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GALVESTON, Texas (Court TV) -- Throughout five hours of intense cross-examination Monday, Robert Durst insisted he had no memory of cutting up his neighbor's dead body two years ago. On Tuesday, however, the millionaire murder defendant managed to recall one thing.

"It was like waking up from a dream, or a nightmare, with blood everywhere," Durst said in a voice devoid of emotion. "I remember blood everywhere. I remember like I was looking down on something and I was swimming in blood ... I don't know what is real, and I don't know what is not real. That is what I remember."

The defense insists that Durst's acknowledgement that he dismembered 71-year-old Morris Black and tossed the pieces in Galveston Bay has no bearing on whether Black's death was an accident. Durst testified that he and Black struggled for control of a gun inside Durst's apartment on September 28, 2001, and the gun discharged, shooting Black in the face.

Although Durst claims he does not remember using saws and an axe to cut up the body, he told jurors Tuesday that he thought he did a pretty good job of cleaning up the mess. He learned later that only 22 specks of visible blood were found on a wall in the apartment.

"I cleaned it up as well as I could. I threw water everywhere with Mr. Clean," Durst said, referring to the household cleaner. "I did not see any blood when I was finished cleaning up."

Durst, who first took the stand last Wednesday, was the defense's first witness after the prosecution rested October 20. Prosecutors contend that the dismemberment, cover-up and flight to avoid prosecution are evidence that Black's death was neither an accident nor self-defense.

Durst repeated Tuesday his previous testimony that he decided to cover up the death and flee because he feared police would never believe his story. At the time of Black's death, Durst was living in Galveston posing as a mute woman.

Durst said he concocted the alter ego out of fear of being indicted in New York in connection with the 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen -- a case that was never resolved.

On Tuesday, Durst testified that he did not recall telling his second wife that, while on the run after Black's death, he figured the $40,000 he carried in cash would last 200 days.

Based on their line of questioning, prosecutors apparently believe that Durst intended to fly out of the country after heightened security measures imposed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were relaxed.

Durst's concern about saving money also may explain why he chose to shoplift a chicken salad sandwich and a Band-Aid, which got him arrested in Pennsylvania and put an end to his life on the run. According to a taped phone conversation Durst made to his wife from prison, he blamed his "counting money" as the reason he took to shoplifting despite carrying more than $30,000 in cash.

Prosecutors asked him about these comments Tuesday, although the tapes have not been introduced into evidence.

Durst testified on redirect examination by the defense that all his problems stemmed from his decision not to call police immediately after Morris Black died.

"After I realized Morris Black was dead, I should have called the police," Durst said.

"Bob, of all the things you did after he was dead, did anything you did change the way he died?" defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin asked his client.

"No, sir," Durst said. "Nothing I did after would have changed that."

Confronted with a few last inconsistencies on minor points, Durst was then asked by prosecutor Kurt Sistrunk if he had woven a tangled web with his many efforts to deceive.

"Mr. Durst, you came into this courtroom with a story to tell, didn't you?" Sistrunk asked.

"I came in here prepared to tell you what happened," Durst said, after objections were entertained and overruled.

"It is hard to keep up with your lies, isn't it, Mr. Durst?" the prosecutor asked.

"I have not told any lies while I have been in this room," Durst protested.

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