NEW ORLEANS(CNN) – A Louisiana judge ruled Monday that Robert Durst, the millionaire real estate heir charged with first-degree murder, will be held without bail.
That’s no big surprise. In 2001 — the last time he was accused of murder and released on bail — Durst fled to Pennsylvania, where authorities caught him after he tried to shoplift a sandwich from a supermarket.
As the attorneys sparred in court and witnesses testified Monday, they revealed new details about the investigation that led to Durst’s March 14 arrest, and set the stage for what will surely be a fierce legal battle.
Here are some key details from Monday’s hearing:
Durst’s phone led investigators to him.
Durst, who appeared in court wearing an orange prison uniform and shackles, was arrested last week after federal agents tracked his cell phone, according to information presented in court Monday.
Investigators knew he’d left his Houston condo with five suitcases on March 9. And, since a warrant allowed them to track his cell phone, they saw when it pinged a tower 85 miles east, in Beaumont, Texas.
But suddenly, he had stopped using it. Investigators thought the trail had gone cold.
“They had no indication of his movement,” said Jim O’Hearn, an investigator for the Orleans Parrish District Attorney’s Office.
But then, authorities tracked him to New Orleans after he called his voice mail twice from a Marriott there, O’Hearn testified. That’s where FBI agents found him and arrested him.
We already knew Durst had a latex mask, a gun and more than $40,000 in his hotel room. But that’s not all.
Last week, court documents revealed Durst had a loaded .38-caliber revolver, 5 ounces of marijuana, his passport and birth certificate, a neck-to-head latex mask with salt-and-pepper hair attached and more than $40,000 cash, mostly in $100 bills.
Among his possessions, he also had a UPS tracking number. The package was later intercepted by the FBI, prosecutors said in court Monday.
It contained clothing and more than $100,000 in cash.
There’s one thing prosecutors and defense attorneys seem to agree on: Durst is a flight risk.
It’s a case Durst even has made himself.
In “The Jinx,” the HBO documentary that featured him, Durst said: “You can’t give someone charged with murder bail because they’re going to run away, of course. Goodbye, $250,000. Goodbye, jail. I’m out.”
In a seconds-long news conference after the hearing Monday, Durst defense attorney Dick DeGuerin said he had no hope for bail and the judge’s decision was not surprising. The legal team, however, did obtain “a lot of information,” he said, and a preliminary hearing was set for April 2.
“All in all, I think this has been a very good day for us,” he said on the courthouse steps. He walked off without elaborating.
Durst’s attorney argues there wasn’t a basis for the arrest warrant or the hotel room search.
DeGuerin cast doubt Monday on the validity of the Los Angeles arrest warrant that led to Durst’s detention, and argued that items found in the hotel room search shouldn’t be admissible because detectives may not have had a search warrant at the time. He also said a detective and prosecutor interrogated Durst for three hours without his attorney present.
Since the weapons and drugs charges Durst faces in New Orleans are based on what investigators say they found in his hotel room, this is likely to come up again. But prosecutors argued that the matter at hand Monday was whether he is a flight risk or a danger to the community. The judge sided with the prosecution.
This is just the first step in what will likely be a lengthy legal battle.
Durst awaits extradition to Los Angeles to face that charge. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Prosecutors accuse Durst of “lying in wait” and killing Susan Berman, a crime writer and his longtime confidante, because she “was a witness to a crime.”
Berman was shot in the head in her Beverly Hills, California, home in December 2000, shortly before investigators were set to speak with her about the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen McCormack Durst.
Durst has long maintained he had nothing to do with Berman’s death or his wife’s disappearance.
It’s not the first time he’s been accused of murder. He admitted to killing and dismembering his neighbor in a 2003 trial, but he was acquitted after arguing he acted in self-defense.