Kathie McCormack Durst, the young wife of a real estate scion, returned to the couple’s weekend cottage in South Salem, N.Y. on the evening of Jan. 31, 1982, and after yet another argument with her husband, she vanished.
There was no note to her mother, Ann, to her sisters and brother, or her friends. Her disappearance started a nearly 40-year saga that has included criminal investigations, breathless media coverage, books, a film and a documentary, much of it centered around her now-notorious husband, Robert A. Durst.
Now, decades after her disappearance — and just weeks after Mr. Durst was convicted of murder in another woman’s death in Los Angeles — prosecutors in Westchester, N.Y., say they can finally prove what many have long suspected.
Mr. Durst, a one-time heir to a real estate empire whose towers are strung across Manhattan, was indicted in White Plains on Monday on a single count of second-degree murder that accuses him of killing Kathie Durst when she was 29 and months away from fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor.
“For nearly four decades there has been a great deal of speculation about this case, much of it fueled by Robert Durst’s own highly publicized statements,” Miriam E. Rocah, the Westchester district attorney, said in a statement. “An indictment is a crucial step in the process of holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions.”
Mr. Durst, who has since been tried for two different murders and convicted once, has long insisted that he did not kill his wife. But he has acknowledged that he was violent toward her on the night of her disappearance. He told the producers of the 2015 documentary, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” that he engaged in a “pushing, shoving argument” with Kathie Durst that night in South Salem, about 50 miles northeast of Manhattan.
The case, the first in which Mr. Durst was implicated, in some ways represents a fitting conclusion to the long, strange legal odyssey surrounding him. Over the years of suspicion that followed his wife’s disappearance, his bizarre affect and disarming manner in interviews made him an irresistible subject for true-crime stories.
For the investigators who long pursued him, Mr. Durst proved to be a challenging adversary. Only this year was he finally convicted of murder. Just two weeks before the Westchester County indictment, Mr. Durst, 78 and frail, was sentenced in Los Angeles to life without parole for the murder of his confidante Susan Berman in December 2000. The jury in that case found that Mr. Durst had shot Ms. Berman in the back of her head because he feared she was about to reveal to investigators what she knew about the disappearance and murder of Kathie Durst.
Ms. Berman, a journalist and screenwriter who was living in New York in 1982, arranged interviews with the city’s tabloids for Mr. Durst at the time his wife disappeared. Both of them told police and reporters that Ms. Durst was drug-addled and in danger of flunking out of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, contrary to school officials and academic records.