Dogs. They are a recurring theme in the trial of Robert Durst for the murder of Susan Berman.
Attorneys on both sides identified themselves as dog lovers during voir dire. Deputy District Attorney John Lewin incorporated his own Great Dane, Boomer, into his lesson on reasonable doubt and indirect evidence. Lewin also has indicated that Durst’s relationship with his family’s Alaskan Malamutes, all named Igor, will be presented as evidence at trial. And of course, Berman’s wire-haired terrier, Lulu, prompted witness Kathryn Shaw-Cutter’s phone call to the police after a neighbor found the dog wandering on busy Benedict Canyon Drive.
This is the story of how that dog, Lulu, triggered the investigation into Berman ‘s murder by alerting one of Berman’s neighbors that something was amiss. That neighbor, Sandra Garfield, testified on day one of the Durst trial. In contrast to other witnesses during the first week of the trial, her testimony was subdued. That may be because she never even met the victim.
BALIAN: DO YOU SEE ON PEOPLE’S 2, WHERE THERE IS A PIN THERE THAT SAYS 1527 BENEDICT CANYON. IT SAYS BERMAN AFTER IT. DO YOU SEE THAT PIN?
BALIAN: I TAKE IT THEN YOU DIDN’T KNOW THE WOMAN WHO LIVED AT THAT PARTICULAR HOME?
GARFIELD: I DID NOT.
BALIAN: YOU’D NEVER MET HER?
Her connection to her murdered neighbor was the little dog, Lulu.
BALIAN: AND DID ANYTHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY HAPPEN AS YOU’RE CARRYING THE GROCERIES IN YOUR HOME?
GARFIELD: YES. A LITTLE DOG WANDERED IN THE HOUSE.
BALIAN: OKAY. TELL US ABOUT THIS DOG.
GARFIELD: UH, I REMEMBER THE DOG’S NAME. THIS, I REMEMBER DEFINITELY TO BE LULU BECAUSE THE DOG HAD A NAME TAG AND, I REMEMBER THE DOG TO BE ABOUT THIS LONG AND MAYBE THIS TALL.
BALIAN: YOUR HONOR. FOR THE RECORD, APPROXIMATELY TWO FEET BY A FOOT AND A HALF. UM, WOULD YOU SAY IT WAS A SMALLER DOG?
GARFIELD: IT WAS DEFINITELY A SMALLER DOG. IT HAD, UM, UH, I DON’T THINK HE HAD LONG HAIR. I REMEMBER HAVING, UM, NOT SHORT HAIR, BUT MAYBE A LITTLE BIT, A LITTLE BIT OF A COAT AND I REMEMBER IT TO BE GRAYISH BROWNISH. I ALSO REMEMBER THAT, UM, THE DOGS SEEMED QUITE OLD AND THE DOG, UM, HAD I BELIEVE CATARACTS OR SEEMED TO BE PARTIALLY BLIND AND IT WAS WEARING A LEASH.
BALIAN: OKAY. YOU RECALL THE DOG WAS WEARING A LEASH?
BALIAN: OKAY. DO YOU HAVE A GOOD MEMORY OF THAT?
BALIAN: THANK YOU.
After Susan Berman was murdered in her Benedict Canyon home, her three dogs, Romeo, Golda, and Lulu, were likely confused, if not forlorn. Their owner had been shot, execution-style, in the back of the head. The dogs weren’t used to other people — due to Berman’s reclusive nature — and their instincts must have been to stay near their owner. Bloody paw prints circled Berman’s lifeless body, suggesting that the dogs either witnessed the murder or came upon Berman’s corpse and tried to rouse her.
After Berman remained unresponsive, one might speculate that Lulu wanted to alert humans that there was something wrong. Or perhaps she was trying to get someone to look after herself, Romeo and Golda. Whatever the dog’s motivation, she made her way out the back door of Berman’s home, through the backyard, and down a side path leading to the street.
Berman’s next-door neighbor, Marvin Karp, testified earlier how unsafe that road was.
BALIAN: WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT HER DOG?
KARP: IT BARKED. BARKED INCESSANTLY. A LOT.
BALIAN: DID THAT BOTHER YOU?
BALIAN: OKAY. AND WOULD THEY BARK WHEN THEY’RE IN THE BACKYARD? INSIDE HER HOUSE? COULD YOU TELL FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE?
KARP: USUALLY IN THE HOUSE, IN HER HOUSE.
BALIAN: THAT ROAD, DEPICTED ON PEOPLE’S 2: BENEDICT CANYON. DESCRIBE FOR THE JURY WHAT THAT ROAD IS LIKE IN FRONT OF YOUR HOUSE.
KARP: WELL BENEDICT CANYON IS A PRINCIPAL THOROUGHFARE, YOU KNOW, FROM GOING FROM SAY BEVERLY HILLS OR SUNSET BOULEVARD UP TO MULHOLLAND DRIVE. SO IT’S A MAJOR, MAJOR ROAD TO CROSS OVER TO THE VALLEY SIDE IF ONE WANTS TO DO THAT ACROSS ALL HOLLAND, BEVERLY GLEN BOULEVARD DOWN TO THE VALLEY. SO IT’S BUSY, IT’S A BUSY STREET.
BALIAN: ARE YOU SAYING THAT PEOPLE TRAVEL THAT ROAD WHO DON’T WANT TO TAKE THE 405?
KARP: THAT COULD BE.
BALIAN: OKAY. UM, ARE THERE OCCASIONS WHEN THAT ROAD IS BUMPER TO BUMPER?
BALIAN: WHAT’S THAT ROAD LIKE ON THE WEEKEND?
KARP: WELL, LESS. SOMETIMES VERY LITTLE TRAFFIC.
BALIAN: HOW QUICK DID THE CARS DRIVE UP AND DOWN THAT ROAD WHEN THERE’S NO TRAFFIC?
KARP: VERY QUICKLY. PRETTY FAST SOMETIMES.
BALIAN: OKAY. WOULD YOU SAY THAT’S A TYPE OF ROAD THAT YOU WOULD WANT TO LEAVE A SMALL CHILD? UNATTENDED IN FRONT OF THEIR HOUSE.
KARP: DEFINITELY NOT.
BALIAN: WOULD YOU SAY THAT’S THE TYPE OF ROAD THAT YOU WOULD WANT TO LEAVE AN ANIMAL THAT YOU CARED ABOUT LOOSE IN FRONT OF YOUR HOUSE?
BALIAN: WHY NOT?
KARP: WELL THERE’S A CHANCE THAT DOGS OR ANYTHING CAN BE RUN OVER.
BALIAN: CARS TRAVEL FAIRLY QUICKLY ON THAT ROAD?
BALIAN: IS THERE A PUBLIC PARKING IN 2000 ON THAT ROAD?
KARP: THERE IS SOME.
BALIAN: OKAY. SO IF SOMEONE WANTED TO VISIT YOU AT YOUR HOME IN THE YEAR 2000, COULD THEY PARK ON THAT ROAD? MAYBE EVEN DOWN THE STREET FROM YOUR HOUSE?
Garfield also testified that she rarely saw people, let alone dogs, walk on the busy street.
BALIAN: HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU SEEN A DOG LOOSE WITHOUT ANYONE WITH IT ON BENEDICT CANYON?
GARFIELD: NEVER. NEVER BEFORE.
BALIAN: ARE YOU SAYING IN THE 25 YEARS YOU LIVED THERE, THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU’VE SEEN A DOG LOOSE ON THAT STREET?
GARFIELD: I BELIEVE THAT TO BE TRUE. YEA.
BALIAN: YEAH. YEAH. WHY IS THAT?
GARFIELD: I SAW A COYOTE.
BALIAN: SO THERE ARE COYOTES IN THAT AREA?
GARFIELD: VERY OCCASIONALLY.
BALIAN: OKAY. AND IS THERE ANYTHING BASED ON YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF THAT STREET AS TO WHY YOU THINK YOU WOULDN’T SEE LOOSE DOGS THERE ON THAT STREET?
GARFIELD: IT’S A VERY BUSY STREET AND PEOPLE DRIVE LIKE MANIACS ON BENEDICT CANYON.
This is something to which both the Prosecution and the Defense kept returning in their questioning; how strange it was that Berman’s dogs were loose that day. How no one living on Benedict Canyon Drive would ever let their pets roam free around the neighborhood.
Defense attorney Donald Re also referenced the dogs’ distress that day in questioning Marvin Karp.
RE: YOU’VE INDICATED THAT YOU LIVE RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO SUSAN’S HOUSE?
RE: NOW, FROM YOUR HOUSE WHILE YOU WERE IN YOUR HOUSE, YOU’D BE ABLE TO SEE PORTIONS OF HER HOUSE, CORRECT?
RE: AND I GATHER FROM YOUR TESTIMONY IN FRONT OF YOUR HOUSE, WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO SEE PORTIONS OF HER BACKYARD? CORRECT?
RE: AND WOULD IT BE ACCURATE THAT YOU COULD NOT SEE ALL OF HER BACKYARD FROM YOUR HOUSE?
RE: FOR EXAMPLE, AT THIS POINT AND BACK THEN YOU WERE AWARE THAT THERE WAS A DOOR TO HER HOUSE? CORRECT?
RE: COULD YOU SEE THAT BACK DOOR FROM YOUR HOUSE?
KARP: UH, NO.
RE: YOU INDICATED THAT YOU HEARD THE DOGS BARKING IN HER HOUSE FROM TIME TO TIME, CORRECT?
RE: SO YOU WERE CLOSE ENOUGH, YOUR HOME WAS CLOSE ENOUGH SO THAT YOU COULD HEAR THAT WHILE YOU WERE IN YOUR HOUSE, IS THAT CORRECT?
RE: NOW IN THE HOURS BEFORE AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT TIME YOU SAW THE DOGS, DID YOU HEAR ANYTHING UNUSUAL COMING FROM HER HOUSE?
RE: DID YOU HEAR ANYTHING THAT SOUNDED LIKE A GUNSHOT?
RE: DID YOU HEAR ANY SCREAMING OR YELLING?
Re clearly was focused on sowing doubt in the juror’s minds by implicitly asking how Karp could hear the dogs barking from inside Berman’s house, and yet not hear a gunshot. But the evident anxiety of these poor animals is also palpable in this testimony.
And with all of Benedict Canyon’s traffic and predatory wildlife, Lulu must have lucked out, because she made it safely down the block to Garfield’s house. But that wasn’t the end of Lulu’s story.
BALIAN: WHAT HAPPENED NEXT THAT DAY? DID YOU KEEP THE DOG?
GARFIELD: KEPT THE DOG. UM, NEXT MEANING WITHIN WHAT PERIOD OF TIME?
BALIAN: THAT DAY. DID YOU KEEP THE DOG IN YOUR HOME THAT DAY?
GARFIELD: KEPT THE DOG IN THE HOME. I REMEMBER FEEDING IT SOMETHING. I, I DON’T REMEMBER WHAT I FED IT. UM, WE WERE HAVING A LITTLE BIT OF TROUBLE BECAUSE WE HAD TWO CATS AND THEY WEREN’T TOO HAPPY ABOUT HAVING A DOG WITH US. AND, UM, SO WE EVENTUALLY PUT THE CATS BACK ON THE SERVICE PORCH AND I REMEMBER, UM, SPEAKING WITH, BOYD AND TESS SITTING ON THE COUCH, HOLDING THE DOG, PETTING THE DOG. UM, UM, THAT’S PRETTY MUCH MY MEMORY UNLESS YOU HAVE OTHER SPECIFIC QUESTIONS.
BALIAN: BOYD AND TESS, IS THAT YOUR, UH-
GARFIELD: MY HUSBAND’S SON, MY STEPSON, AND HIS THEN FIANCE.
BALIAN: DO YOU REMEMBER ANYTHING UNUSUAL ABOUT THE DOG AS THEY WERE PETTING IT?
GARFIELD: AS I WAS PETTING IT FOR WHAT I, I THOUGHT THERE APPEARED TO BE BLOOD ON ITS PAWS.
BALIAN: OKAY. UM, DID YOU GO TO THE ADDRESS ON THAT TAG THAT PARTICULAR DAY AFTER YOU LEFT THESE MESSAGES?
GARFIELD: I DID NOT.
BALIAN: OKAY. AND, AS YOU SIT HERE RIGHT NOW AND TO THE BEST OF YOUR MEMORY, YOU DIDN’T GO THERE THAT DAY?
GARFIELD: I DO NOT REMEMBER GOING THERE THAT DAY.
BALIAN: DID YOU SEE SUSAN BERMAN OUT THERE AT ALL WHEN THESE DOGS WERE OUT THERE?
BALIAN: WAS SHE ANYWHERE AROUND THAT MORNING, THAT YOU SAW?
BALIAN: HAD YOU EVER SEEN HER DOGS LOOSE LIKE THAT IN THIS PARTICULAR AREA BEFORE?
KARP: FIRST TIME
BALIAN: OKAY. SO THAT PARTICULAR NIGHT, WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE DOG?
GARFIELD: UH, THE DOG SLEPT IN MY HUSBAND’S STUDY AND WRECKED ONE OF THE CARPETS AND UM, UH, YEA, THE DOG SLEPT IN THE STUDY. YEAH.
BALIAN: YOU SAID IT WRECKED ONE OF YOUR CARPETS?
GARFIELD: WELL, IT WAS TRYING TO GET OUT AND IT SCRATCHED UP THE CARPET TO BITS NEAR THE DOOR.
BALIAN: IT JUST PLACED YOUR PORK CATS AND NOW IT’S RUINED YOUR CARPET. WAS THIS A WELCOME GUEST?
GARFIELD: NO, BUT IT WAS A SWEET LITTLE DOG, YOU KNOW, A SWEET LITTLE DOG.
BALIAN: AND YOU DECIDED TO KEEP IT FOR THE NIGHT?
BALIAN: WHAT HAPPENED THE NEXT DAY?
GARFIELD: THE NEXT DAY? I DON’T REMEMBER WHAT TIME IT WAS, BUT I, UM, DECIDED THAT I WANTED TO RETURN– TRIED TO RETURN THE DOG TO THE ADDRESS ON IT’S TAG.
BALIAN: I WOULD ASK YOU, WHY WOULD I THINK I CAN GUESS. WHY DID YOU WANT TO GET RID OF THE DOG?
GARFIELD: WELL, I HAD A LOT OF THINGS TO DO FOR CHRISTMAS. THE DOG WAS CREATING CHAOS WITH MY CATS AND UM, I WANTED IT TO GO BACK HOME.
BALIAN: OKAY. SO WHAT DID YOU DO?
GARFIELD: WHAT I DID WAS, UH, ME AND MY HUSBAND AND BOYD AND TESS, MY STEPSON AND HIS THEN FIANCE, WALKED UP WITH THE DOG TO, UH, THE, THE ADDRESS ON THE DOG’S TAG.
BALIAN: WHAT DID YOU DO WHEN YOU GOT THERE?
GARFIELD: AND KNOCKED ON THE DOOR. MULTIPLE TIMES. AND AT LEAST TWO DOGS BIGGER THAN LULU I COULD SEE THROUGH WHATEVER WINDOW WAS THERE AND WERE WILDLY JUMPING UP AND DOWN AND BARKING. AND, UM, AND THEN BOYD, MY HUSBAND’S SON SAID HE WANTED TO CLIMB OVER THE FENCE TO SEE WHAT WAS GOING ON. AND I SAID, I FELT SOMETHING WAS VERY WRONG, PLEASE DON’T CLIMB OVER THE FENCE. AND HE DIDN’T CLIMB OVER THE FENCE. AND THEN WE WENT NEXT DOOR TO THE HOUSE NORTH OF, UM, THE BERMAN HOUSE AND KNOCKED DOWN THE DOOR AND A YOUNG COUPLE ANSWERED AND WE TOLD THEM ABOUT LULU AND UM, ASKED IF THEY WOULD TAKE HER AND RETURN HER TO UM, BERMAN AND, OR WE DIDN’T KNOW BERMAN’S NAME AT THE TIME, BUT TO THE OWNER. AND THEY SAID THEY WOULD DO THAT.
BALIAN: OKAY. THEY AGREED TO DO THAT?
BALIAN: AND THIS WAS THE HOME YOU BELIEVE WAS JUST ADJACENT TO SUSAN BERMAN’S HOME.
GARFIELD: IT WAS THE ONE ADJACENT.
As noted earlier, Garfield then walked to Kathryn Shaw-Cutter’s residence to ask if Shaw-Cutter could drop Lulu off at Berman’s house.
This leads us to the eventual 911 call reporting Berman’s murder (presented during Shaw-Cutter’s testimony), and the police response to the call.
SHARIF 5:30 – OPEN DOOR CALL
SHARIF: WE ARRIVED AT APPROXIMATELY 12:52 THAT AFTERNOON.
BALIAN: AND, WHAT DID YOU DO WHEN YOU ARRIVED?
SHARIF: WE MET UP WITH ANOTHER UNIT THAT HAD GOTTEN THERE JUST PRIOR TO US ARRIVING.
BALIAN: HAD THEY ALREADY ENTERED THAT PARTICULAR RESIDENCE AND CHECKED IT OUT OR NO?
SHARIF: NO, THEY WERE OUT FRONT.
BALIAN: WHAT’S THE USUAL PROTOCOL IN A SITUATION LIKE THIS?
SHARIF: USUALLY YOU WOULD WAIT FOR AN ADDITIONAL UNIT TO COME AND TALK TO THEM AND COME UP WITH A PLAN OF HOW YOU’RE GOING TO APPROACH THE SITUATION.
That was Officer Rashad Sharif, one of the first policemen on the scene.
SHARIF 9:00 – ENTERING THE HOUSE
SHARIF: THE PLAN WAS TO ENTER THE RESIDENCE THROUGH THE REAR YARD. THERE WAS A REAR DOOR THAT WAS OPEN AND THE PLAN WAS TO WALK DOWN THE SIDE OF THE HOUSE AND ENTER THROUGH THE REAR PORTION.
BALIAN: AND, DID THE FOUR OF YOU DO THAT?
SHARIF: YES WE DID.
BALIAN: DID YOU KNOW WHEN YOU ARRIVED THAT THIS WAS GOING TO BE A HOMICIDE SCENE?
SHARIF: NO, NOT AT ALL.
BALIAN: DID YOU SUSPECT THIS WAS GOING TO BE A HOMICIDE SCENE?
BALIAN: WHAT KIND OF CALL DID YOU EXPECT?
SHARIF: I WON’T SAY WE GET CALL LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME, BUT NORMALLY WE GET AN OPEN DOOR AND THE PERSON, YOU KNOW, LEFT OUT THE HOUSE WITHOUT CLOSING THE DOOR OR FORGOT IT WAS OPEN. SO THIS WAS THE FIRST CALL, THAT I RECALL, THAT I WENT TO WHERE AN OPEN DOOR ACTUALLY TURNED INTO A CRIME SCENE.
Officer Sharif goes on to explain the moment he saw the body of Susan Berman, accompanied by graphic photographs of the crime scene.
SHARIF 24:30 – SPOTTING THE BODY
BALIAN: AS YOU ENTERED THIS ROOM, DID YOU NOTICE SOMETHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY?
SHARIF: YES I DID.
BALIAN: WHAT DID YOU NOTICE?
SHARIF: THERE WAS A WOMAN’S BODY LAYING IN THE DOORWAY OF THAT-BEHIND THE PINK CHAIR.
BALIAN: AND, I’M GONNA SHOW YOU WHAT’S BEEN MARKED AS PEOPLE’S 31D. DO YOU SEE THIS PHOTOGRAPH?
BALIAN: DOES THIS PHOTOGRAPH FAIRLY AND ACCURATELY DEPICT THIS ROOM AND THE OBJECTS IN THE ROOM AS YOU WALKED THROUGH IT?
SHARIF: YES IT DOES.
BALIAN: AND THIS BODY THAT YOU FOUND, DO YOU SEE THIS BODY IN THIS PHOTOGRAPH?
Sharif then came into contact with Romeo and Golda. Lulu, of course, was already in the care of Cutter-Shaw.
SHARIF 41:00 – WERE THERE ANY ANIMALS ON THE PREMISES?
BALIAN: WERE THERE ANY ANIMALS ON THE PREMISES?
BALIAN: TELL US ABOUT THAT.
SHARIF: THERE WAS A COUPLE DOGS INSIDE THE RESIDENCE. ONE OF THE DOGS GOT OUT, BECAUSE WE WENT THROUGH THE DOOR, AND GOING THROUGH THE HOUSE ONE OF THE DOGS RAN OUT, SO THEN ME AND MY PARTNER CHASED THE DOG DOWN BENEDICT CANYON OUT THE HOUSE TO TRY TO RETRIEVE THE DOG.
Sharif’s testimony, though graphic at times– with photos of the grisly crime scene displayed on the monitors– ends with a moment of levity.
SHARIF 42:00 CHASING THE DOGS DOWN THE STREET WITH PARTNER
BALIAN: NOW, I’M GONNA PUT YOU ON THE SPOT, CUS I’VE TALKED TO HIM. WHICH ONE OF YOU GOT THE DOG?
SHARIF: UH, I THINK MY PARTNER CAUGHT IT. I’M FASTER THAN HIM BUT HE, HE CAUGHT IT.
As for the tone and tenor in the testimonies by Sharif, Garfield and Karp, they were neither as jaw-dropping as Thomas Durst’s, or as emotional as Anne Anderson-Doyle’s, nor even as touching as Shaw-Cutter’s revelation that she adopted Lulu after Berman’s death. Nevertheless, together they paint a clearer picture of how a non-human eye-witness to Berman’s murder left the sanctuary of her home, braved the many dangers of Benedict Canyon Drive, and alerted Berman’s neighbors that something was amiss.
And thus Romeo, Golda, and Lulu join Boomer and the Igors in the pack of canines that populate the evidence in the trial of Robert Durst.
You can find all of CRIME STORY’S reporting on the Durst trial here. This story was originally published under the title A Little Dog Named Lulu (and the Trial of Robert Durst). It has been modified to add the testimony of an additional witness.