By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Real estate scion Robert Durst, whose ties to three slayings were portrayed in HBO series "The Jinx," had his close friend Susan Berman make a phone call pretending to be his missing wife, a former acquaintance of Berman testified on Wednesday.
Durst, 74, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with Berman's 2000 shooting death in Los Angeles.
Prosecutors allege Durst killed Berman, a writer and the daughter of an organized crime figure, because of what she knew about his wife's unsolved disappearance.
Hollywood producer Lynda Obst, who worked with Berman to develop a film about her life story, testified that decades ago Berman made a confession to her while explaining the lengths a person would go to protect a loved one.
"She said she once called Albert Einstein medical center for him and said she was (his wife) Kathie," Obst testified, referring to Durst's former wife, Kathleen.
Police found Berman, 55, shot to death in her home in December 2000, shortly after it was revealed police in New York had reopened an investigation into the disappearance and presumed slaying of Kathleen Durst.
HBO's "The Jinx" in 2015 chronicled Durst's ties to his wife's unsolved disappearance, Berman's slaying and Durst's 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."
In February, Dr. Albert Kuperman, the retired dean of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, testified that in 1982 he received a phone call from a woman identifying herself as Kathleen, a day after she was last seen alive, saying she would have to miss an appointment due to illness.
Kuperman also said that after being interviewed by investigators in 2015 he grew uncertain about the caller's true identity.
Durst's trial is not expected to begin before next year but a judge is allowing some witnesses to take the stand early in the case, preserving their testimony in the event they die before he is tried.
Prosecutors have argued Durst, whose wealth they estimate at $100 million, could have witnesses eliminated. Durst's attorneys have ridiculed that suggestion.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Bill Trott)