A Los Angeles jury convicted New York real estate heir Robert Durst on Friday of murdering his close friend, Susan Berman, 20 years ago after a lengthy debate. 

Durst was pronounced guilty of first-degree murder after jurors deliberated about 7 hours over three days before announcing the verdict.

The 78-year-old real estate baron now faces life in prison in the shooting death of Berman in her Los Angeles home in December 2000.

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Durst was the eldest child of Seymour Durst, the owner of a well-known real-estate firm. Robert studied economics at Lehigh University and went on to UCLA after graduating in 1965, when he met and became friends with Susan Berman, the daughter of a gangster. Durst eventually moved back to New York City, marrying Kathleen McCormack, a dental hygenist, in 1973.

Durst's marriage was reportedly falling apart by 1981, according to numerous accounts, amid claims that he was aggressive and domineering. Kathleen vanished on January 31, 1982, a few months before she was to graduate from medical school. Durst said he had brought his wife to the train station in Katonah, New York, so she could return to the city after spending the weekend at the couple's lakeside house in South Salem.

Meanwhile, Robert did not report her missing until February 5.

Durst denied any role in Kathleen's disappearance, and while his version of events created doubts, numerous persons claimed to have seen or spoken with Kathleen after she allegedly returned to Manhattan.

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Although Durst escaped close scrutiny from investigators when his wife disappeared, his troubles resurfaced in late 2000 when New York authorities reopened the case.

He relocated to Galveston, Texas, where he pretended to be a mute woman and rented a cheap apartment. Berman, who was supposed to be interrogated by Kathleen's disappearance detectives, was discovered shot to death a month later. Police received a letter the day her corpse was discovered indicating that a "cadaver" would be located at her residence, which was misspelt as "Beverley Hills."

Durst ran from the law multiple times, staying under an alias at a New Orleans hotel with a shoulders-to-head latex mask for a presumed getaway. He jumped bail in Texas and was arrested after shoplifting a chicken sandwich in Pennsylvania, despite having $37,000 in cash — along with two handguns — in his rental car.

Nine months after Berman's death, Durst killed his Galveston neighbour Morris Black, in what he said was either an accident or self-defence. Durst said he found Black, who he had become friends with, in his apartment holding Durst’s .22-caliber pistol.

Durst gained national attention as the subject of the 2015 HBO documentary series "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst." During the shoot, the filmmakers uncovered a letter from Durst to Berman in which Beverly was misspelt in the same way as in the letter sent to police in 2000.