MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – A 2012 tip led investigators to look into whether millionaire real estate heir Robert Durst played a role in the 1971 disappearance and presumed death of a Middlebury College freshman, police said Tuesday.
The tip was not connected with the producers of the HBO show “The Jinx,” which focuses on the life of Durst, who’s facing murder charges in the 2000 death of a woman in Los Angeles, Middlebury police Chief Thomas Hanley said.
Investigators, until they received that tip, were unaware Durst had been running a health food store where the student had shopped in the college town about 30 miles south of Burlington, Hanley said. He declined to describe Durst as a suspect in the disappearance of Lynne Schulze, who was from Simsbury, Connecticut.
“He is a person that had some proximate connection with a person that is missing here,” Hanley said Tuesday. “With some of the other background that we’re discovering on this person we’re very interested to find out what that connection is and how far we can go with that connection.”
Durst’s lawyers have said he has no connection to Schulze’s disappearance.
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“Bob Durst had no connection to the case in Vermont or any other case that some law enforcement people have seen fit to draw suspicions about,” defense attorney Dick DeGuerin said by email. “He’s an easy target for this game of `Blame it on Bob.'”
Schulze disappeared on Dec. 10, 1971, failing to show up for a final examination. She bought prunes at Durst’s store shortly before her disappearance, Hanley said.
Schulze’s parents didn’t report her missing until the following week, and her disappearance wasn’t made public until the next month. Hanley said Schulze’s parents initially didn’t want to publicize the case because it was hoped that she would return on her own.
Durst is an estranged member of the wealthy New York real estate family that runs 1 World Trade Center. He was acquitted of murder after the dismembered body of a neighbor, Morris Black, was found in a Texas bay in 2001.
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He was arrested earlier this month and was charged with killing Susan Berman in 2000 before she could speak with New York investigators about the disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen Durst, in 1982. He was held in New Orleans pending extradition to California.
His lawyers have said his arrest was illegal.
Hanley said investigators have been working to retrace Durst’s steps in Vermont more than 40 years ago. Last year they searched the location where Durst lived – it was not in Middlebury, but Hanley wouldn’t say where – but they found nothing of interest.
Detective Kristine Bowdish said she has been in touch with Schulze’s siblings.
“They are very interested in the lead and the outcome, but most of all they’re asking for some privacy,” Bowdish said.