The secret witness set to testify at a hearing in the murder case against New York real estate heir Robert Durst was revealed Wednesday to be Nathan “Nick” Chavin, a longtime friend of the multimillionaire and the woman Durst is accused of killing.
Chavin, 72, made his first appearance in Los Angeles’ Airport Courthouse shortly before 3 p.m., flanked by two bodyguards.
Although a preliminary hearing in Durst’s murder trial is not set to take place until October, prosecutors had sought to question Chavin in advance, saying they had uncovered evidence showing a “possible danger” to the man’s life. They began questioning another witness Tuesday, in fear that witness might die before the case went to trial next year.
Durst, 73, is charged with murder in the execution-style slaying of his friend Susan Berman. Prosecutors say he fired a single shot through the back of her head inside her Benedict Canyon home in 2000, allegedly because she knew too much about the disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen. He has pleaded not guilty.
Chavin referenced the accused when introducing himself in court on Wednesday.
“I know him as Bob or Bobby,” he said. “I’ve known Bob Durst for 25 or 30 years. I met Bob Durst through a very dear friend of mine, Susan Berman.”
In court, Chavin said that he and Durst were best friends, adding that Durst was one of the best men at his wedding. The witness said Durst drastically changed the trajectory of his career when he invited him to do the advertising for some of the Durst Organization’s holdings.
That work “became like a snowball,” Chavin said, opening up the opportunity to add many other lucrative accounts. Chavin said that Durst and his father, Seymour, changed his life, describing Seymour Durst as his mentor.
Chavin was an advertising executive in New York City and received a master’s degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University, according to a wedding announcement published in the New York Times in 1988.
He testified that he had conversations with Durst’s wife Kathleen and that she described her husband as “impossible” and said she was afraid of him physically hurting her. The witness said Durst told him that he’d once intentionally hit a police officer with his car while going 1 mph during a trip to the Bay Area and also that he had once kicked a man in the head because he “pissed him off.”