HBO Revives Memories Of New Hyde Park Resident

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New Hyde Park Memorial High School alumnus Kathie McCormack Durst is pictured here on the day she graduated from Western Connecticut State College in 1978. (Photo by Jim McCormack)
New Hyde Park Memorial High School alumnus Kathie McCormack Durst is pictured here on the day she graduated from Western Connecticut State College in 1978.
(Photo by Jim McCormack)

Kathleen McCormack graduated from New Hyde Park Memorial High School and, when she was only 20 years old, married Robert Durst on April 12, 1973.

Kathie once told her brother that Bob commented he “turned 30 and got married on the same day!” Jim McCormack recalled. Robert Durst, one of the heirs to a New York City real estate company valued today in the billions of dollars, now finds his life the subject of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, a six-part documentary series currently airing on HBO.

Before they were wed, Kathie and Robert operated a health food store in Rutland, VT, called All Good Things. Although they appeared deeply in love at first, their marriage was, by most accounts, on the rocks by the late 1970s. When 29-year-old Kathie went missing without a trace after leaving the couple’s Westchester County house on Sunday night, Jan. 31, 1982, the mystery was a New York media sensation for weeks. It then became a cold case. In the intervening years, however, Kathie’s fate has been the subject of books, such as Matt Birkbeck’s compelling A Deadly Secret (Summerville), numerous television crime story shows and the inspiration in 2010 for a major motion picture, the fascinating All Good Things. Kathie was portrayed in that film by Kirsten Dunst and Bob was played by Ryan Gosling.

“I’m keeping the porch light lit for Kathie, and it is never going to go out as long as I’m alive,” said 70-year-old Jim McCormack, Kathie’s brother, who appears in the HBO series and resides in Sparta, NJ. A St. John’s University graduate who spent his career in finance, marketing and sales, he is the father of three grown daughters. McCormack is the second oldest of five children born to James and Ann McCormack. Kathie, their youngest, was born in 1952. Carol, Ginny and Mary are the other McCormack siblings. Their 101-year-old mother still resides at the New Hyde Park home she and her late husband purchased in 1962.

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Durst, as newlyweds, went on a six-month honeymoon in 1973, driving cross-country, Kathie’s brother said. “Bob never had any constraint on money or responsibility,” McCormack added, an allusion to the fact that Durst, as a son of the late Seymour Durst, would always have substantial financial resources. Their marriage produced no children, and Birkbeck’s interviews with people who knew the couple during that era told the author that Kathie, who graduated from Western Connecticut State College in 1978 and thereafter enrolled in the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, had told her husband she wanted a divorce shortly before she went missing.

A Deadly Secret was reissued on Feb. 2 and is available in print and digital on Amazon and BN.com, with updated information on the investigation into Kathie’s disappearance, according to Birkbeck’s publisher. The book chronicles in great detail how Kathie probably never boarded a train to Manhattan, from their South Salem, NY, home on the last night she was seen alive. The New York City detectives assigned to the case initially worked on the assumption Kathie had arrived in the city.

“There was little, if any, investigation done in Westchester County,” McCormack stated. “Everybody took him [Robert Durst] at his word,” when Durst indicated Kathie had called him from Manhattan upon arriving there from Westchester’s Katonah train station. Kathie used the couple’s 86th Street apartment as her base of operations while studying for her medical degree in the Bronx. She was three months away from becoming a doctor, her brother said.

HBO’s The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst premiered on Sunday, Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. and five additional installments are airing each Sunday thereafter, at the same time. After seeing a preview of All Good Things, the filmmakers, Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling were contacted by Durst to sit down for taped interviews, something he’d resisted for decades, McCormack noted. Those conversations with Durst have provided much of the narrative for the Jarecki-Smerling documentary. HBO viewers are slowly learning what the McCormack family has known for quite some time. Kathie McCormack is not the only person who entered Robert Durst’s orbit and met a cruel fate.

Mike Barry

 

Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism.

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