By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The late wife of Robert Durst, the real estate scion tied to killings explored in HBO's series "The Jinx," once told a neighbor that Durst had beaten her and wanted to kill her, a retired detective testified on Tuesday in a hearing before Durst's latest murder trial.
Robert Durst, 74, has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of his friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles in 2000. Prosecutors allege Durst killed Berman because of what she knew about his wife's 1982 disappearance.
Former New York police detective James Varian, 77, testified in a hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday that in February 1982, after Kathleen Durst went missing, he interviewed a neighbor of the Dursts in a Manhattan residential tower.
The neighbor, Anne Doyle, said that in late 1981, a frantic Kathleen Durst climbed out of her window in her pajamas, crossing a terrace to enter Doyle's apartment through its window, Varian testified.
Kathleen Durst told Doyle that her husband "beat her and wanted to kill her," Varian said, reading from a police report he prepared the day he interviewed Doyle.
Kathleen Durst also told Doyle her husband had a gun and she hid for two hours in Doyle's bathroom because she feared Durst would shoot her, Varian said.
Durst has denied having anything to do with the disappearance of his wife, whose body was never found. She was declared dead earlier this month. He has not been charged in her death.
The judge has allowed Varian and other witnesses to take the stand early in the case, with their testimony preserved in the event they die or become incapacitated before Durst's trial, which is not expected to begin before next year.
The popular HBO documentary "The Jinx" last year chronicled Durst's ties to his wife's disappearance and Berman's slaying, and his 2003 acquittal in the killing and dismemberment of a Texas neighbor.
Prosecutors formally charged Durst with killing Berman a day after HBO aired the final episode, in which Durst was recorded muttering to himself off-camera, "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."
Police found Berman, 55, shot to death in her home in December 2000, shortly after it was revealed that police in New York had reopened an investigation into the disappearance and presumed slaying of Kathleen Durst.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Patrick Enright and Steve Orlofsky)