You can read all of Charles V. Bagli’s previous reporting for Crime Story here.
You can find links to all of Crime Story’s coverage of the Robert Durst trial here.
Kathie A. McCormack saw him across the room. A year out of high school in 1971, she had traded a quiet life in the Long Island suburbs for a walk-up apartment in Manhattan and a job that barely covered her bills. But meeting people whose life was so different from her own was part of what made living in the city so exciting for Kathie.
Slender, blonde and blue-eyed, Kathie quickly learned that his name was Robert Durst. The guy was older, handsome and only a couple inches taller than she was. He had longish hair, spoke with an air of authority, and had a cutting sense of humor. There was a small crowd in his one-bedroom apartment in a narrow four-story building on the Upper East Side, with a rare, little garden in back.
On that pretty Sunday afternoon in the fall, the attraction between Kathie and Robert was immediate and mutual. “He was talking about accounting and all this other stuff, which didn’t interest me one iota,” recalled Cheryl Catranbone, Kathie’s roommate at the time and a friend from New Hyde Park Memorial High School. “But you could see she was smitten, and so was he.”
“When they met,” Catranbone told me, “the stars collided.”
That was the start of what Kathie’s brother Jim McCormack called a storybook romance. Durst was a scion of a major New York real estate family whose buildings were an enduring part of the city’s skyline; his father was pictured in a New York magazine article, “The Men Who Own New York.”
Kathie was the youngest of five siblings from a close-knit, lower middle-class family where money was tight.
A decade later the couple was married, splitting their time between a West Side Manhattan penthouse, an East Side apartment, and a stone bungalow in the New York State countryside… and their fairytale relationship had descended into a horror show of bickering, break-ups, shoving, affairs and, ultimately, outright violence.
On January, 31, 1982, Kathie, then 29, suddenly vanished, just a few months shy of achieving her lifelong goal of graduating from medical school and becoming a doctor. There were no last calls to her many friends, and no note to her mother Ann McCormack, who died in 2015 at 102 still wondering what had become of her youngest daughter. Kathie was just gone.
Kathie’s disappearance has been an enduring mystery for nearly 40 years, prompting books, a podcast series, a movie, a documentary and several TV news magazine stories, and multiple criminal investigations. Plenty of suspicion, but no body, no official crime scene, and no charges.
Now, four decades later, the mystery of what happened to Kathie may be nearing a resolution. Robert A. Durst, 78, who was Kathie’s husband at the time of her disappearance, is on trial for murder in Los Angeles. He stands accused of shooting a confidante, Susan Berman, in the back of the head in Benedict Canyon, just before Christmas Day 2000. The prosecutors, headed by Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, argue that Berman was both a victim of Durst and an accomplice.
Prosecutors contend that what happened in Los Angeles in 2000 tracks back 18 years to New York and Kathie’s disappearance. Berman, they say, helped Durst cover up his murder of Kathie. Afraid that Berman was about to spill the beans to investigators who had reopened the case in 2000, prosecutors further allege, Durst killed Berman too.
Durst pleaded not guilty, saying he did not kill Susan Berman and does not know who did. His lawyers say that Kathie’s disappearance is as much a mystery to him as to her family and friends. In the courtroom, his defense team has painted Kathie as a cocaine-addled gold digger who was on the verge of flunking out of Albert Einstein Medical School. That closely mirrors how both Durst and Berman described the missing Kathie to police in 1982.
A far different picture of Kathie has emerged from my 20 years of interviewing her family members, friends, lovers and classmates, reviewing her academic records, and from the testimony of her med school supervisors. No one disputes that Robert and Kathie Durst enjoyed the recreational drugs that flowed in certain social circles and through Studio 54, Xenon and other nightclubs of the era. But, her friends and family say, Kathie was intensely focused on becoming a doctor.
“She was excited to be a medical student,” her former classmate,” Dr. Alicia Landman-Reiner, told me. “She worked very hard. She always took a seat in the front row and took notes.”
“She was only three months shy from becoming a doctor and she never would have given that up,” Jim McCormack said in 2001. “She knew she wanted to be a healer. She loved helping people.”
Kathie — the person on the verge of becoming a doctor when she vanished — is sometimes lost in the tumult of the Robert Durst story and the span of time. But as Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney John Lewin has told the jury, this mind-bending tale really begins with Kathie. Her family, which has struggled for decades to discover what happened — and maybe even Robert Durst himself — would agree.
Kathie McCormack, like Robert Durst, lost a parent at a young age. Kathie’s dad died of cancer when she was a teenager. More on that experience in a moment. Durst’s mother either fell or jumped from the roof of their home when Bob was only seven, leaving a psychic scar that never healed.
They both grew up in the suburbs of New York City. But they were worlds apart. Home for Durst, scion of a prominent real estate family, was in Scarsdale, one of the wealthiest towns in America, while the McCormacks nestled in New Hyde Park on Long Island, a modest commuter town of about 10,000.
Kathie’s parents, James and Ann, had made the pilgrimage with their family from Brooklyn to Queens before jumping to the suburbs in 1962, even if it was only eight miles from the border with New York City. New Hyde Park, largely white and Asian with a handful of African Americans, offered affordable houses, safe streets, and a solid high school. “We felt like we were living in the country,” Kathie’s older brother, James, recalled.
Kathie’s father, a World War II vet, was an account representative for the telephone company, a job that took him from military bases to Aqueduct Racetrack to Mary Immaculate Hospital. Her mother raised the family. The youngest of five children Kathie was doted on by both her parents and her siblings, Carol, James, Virginia and Mary.
The family was close. They gathered for Sunday dinners of pot roast and mashed potatoes, with the children divvying up responsibility for washing the dishes, drying them, and putting them away. James was religious and the Catholic Church loomed large in family life and education. Ann McCormack gave up her Lutheran upbringing when she married James.
Their lives changed in 1966, when Kathie’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer. His illness planted a seed in Kathie, who helped care for her father, that would not sprout until after she met Durst. Her father died at 56 the following year, when Kathie was 14. Anne eventually went to work at the phone company to make ends meet. Kathie had part-time jobs to help out. “She was a worker,” her sister Mary said. “We all were.”
Even so, Kathie did well at New Hyde Park Memorial High School, earning good grades, becoming a member of the National Honor Society and dating the captain of the football team. James, who was always Jim to Kathie, became a surrogate father to her, as he drove her to modeling jobs at Roosevelt Field, the largest shopping mall on Long Island.
“She was always very open, happy, confident and accomplished,” recalled Cheryl Catranbone, Kathie’s high school classmate and later big city roommate. “I could watch her sit down with Vogue magazine, admiring a dress. She’d walk out, buy the material and make it. No pattern. She was also an amazing cook.”
Cheryl and Kathie became fast friends when they worked for a dentist, a relative of Catranbone. After high school graduation, Kathie tried to figure out her next steps. When Cheryl, a year younger, finished high school in 1971, the two decided to move to the “city,” meaning the intoxicating and dangerous streets of Manhattan. Kathie got a job as a dental assistant to a dentist in the famed Plaza Hotel, while occasionally picking up extra money working at Saks Fifth Avenue. Cheryl worked for a dentist in Rockefeller Plaza.
After paying the rent, they did not have a lot of money to spare. A big Saturday night out, Catranbone recalled, was walking to Brasserie, a restaurant in the Seagram Building at Park Avenue and 53rd Street, and ordering a bowl of onion soup. But they were on their own, outside the suburban nest. “We were free and independent,” said Catranbone.
On a Sunday afternoon in the fall of 1971, Catranbone bumped into a neighbor, Stewart Altman, who lived one floor up from her at 253 E. 52nd St. and Second Avenue. She accepted his invitation to a get-together at the Manhattan apartment of his lifelong friend, Robert Durst, who was then primarily living in Vermont. She left a note asking Kathie to join them, which she did. Kathie, then 19, was drawn to Durst, who was 28 and back on the East Coast after attending graduate school at UCLA.
“It was a mutual attraction, a chemistry,” Mary McCormack Hughes, Kathie’s sister, said in an interview. “She told me she loved him; he loved her. She didn’t know about the money” at first. “He was very handsome. He had a magnetism. Kathie had the same thing.”
Their romance moved very quickly. After two dates, Bob asked her to join him in Middlebury, VT, a small college town where he had bought a health food store called All Good Things. She moved to Vermont in January 1972, gradually taking on more and more responsibility for running the store. Showing up on time and sticking to a schedule were not Bob’s strong suit. He had already developed a lifelong habit of getting high on pot every day.
Bob and Kathie, as well as their friends, referred to it as their back-to-the-land, hippie life. “He was like Prince Charming and she was like Cinderella in the very beginning,” Jim McCormack recalled.
By the end of the year, however, Bob was ready to move on. He sold the store. From Vermont, the couple headed to Katonah, a wooded countryside community north of New York City where Bob’s father Seymour had bought a mansion to use as a family gathering place. Later, Bob’s brother Douglas and his family moved into the mansion, creating a fraught living arrangement as the two brothers had never gotten along. Meanwhile, Seymour was hoping his eldest son Bob would join him at the Durst Organization, the family real estate business, which included land and buildings in Times Square and on the East Side of Manhattan, now worth an estimated $8 billion.
But Bob was not ready to do that. The couple spent March of 1973 driving through the South. When they returned to New York, Kathie brought up the idea of marriage.
They exchanged rings on Bob’s birthday, April 12, 1973, at a ceremony in nearby Bedford, NY, where the only attendees were Kathie’s mother, Ann, and Bob’s father Seymour. Kathie had agreed, at Bob’s insistence, that they would not have a fancy wedding reception. Ann paid the tab for the dinner that followed the ceremony. Afterwards, the couple piled into a van for a six-month long cross-country tour of America, camping and staying in motels.
During the trip, Bob confessed that his claim to have gotten a PhD in economics at UCLA was a lie. He had withdrawn from school in 1969 without completing the work. He asked her not to tell his family.
When newlyweds Kathie and Robert Durst returned to New York from their six month tour of America in late 1973, Bob had decided to claim his birthright as the heir apparent to the family business. After years of resisting, he joined the Durst Organization. But being Bob, he did so in his own fashion. He rarely got to work before noon. With Kathie on his arm, he occasionally attended the kind of soirees where the prince of a major real estate family is expected to mingle, at the Real Estate Board of New York or the Broadway Association.
“She said many times she would’ve been happy staying in Vermont,” said Stanley White, who met Kathie years later as her marriage was splintering. “He decided he had to be a big shot, the totally opposite of what they were doing. She’d be dragged to deadly dull real estate dinners.”
The McCormacks, particularly Jim and Mary, tried to get to know the eccentric man their baby sister loved. Bob and Kathie visited her mother on Long Island and made the 100-mile trek to Lake Teddyuskung in the Pocono Mountains, where the family owned a cabin. “I was buddy-buddy with Bob Durst,” said Mary’s husband, Tom Hughes, a retired firefighter. “Smoked pot with him.”
Jim recalled attending a big party at the Dursts’ Katonah mansion, where they met Judy Licht, an entertainment reporter, and Jerry Della Femina, an advertising executive and restaurateur. At one point, Jim McCormack, Tom Hughes and Bob Durst bought a racehorse named Backdraft from a friend who was a breeder. Bob’s interest they said was less in the sport than in the financial advantages when they subsequently dissolved their partnership. “He heard it was a tax deduction,” Hughes told me. “I think he liked that part of it.”
Bob could be friendly, but was more often curt and aloof, disappearing for hours at a time. He would burp loudly and without apology or, by his own account, talk about the couple’s sex life in front of Kathie’s mother. Bob would later tell the producers of the 2015 HBO documentary, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” that he found these encounters with the average American family tedious.
“He didn’t lack for social skills,” Jim said. “He just didn’t employ those skills, but he’s very intelligent.”
Bob did introduce Kathie to a world of ballet, fine restaurants, discotheques and powerful people whose names appeared in newspapers and gossip columns. They went to the front of every line. Bob would order meals for both of them. Vacations in the 1970’s took them to St. Croix, Northern Europe, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Greece, Turkey and Cancun.
Bob, who could be frugal, often drove a Volkswagen bug, while Kathie preferred an old Mercedes. He gave Kathie $100 to $200 a week in “pocket money,” as well as the use of several credit cards. But he could get very angry sometime at “minor purchases,” she would later tell a divorce lawyer.
Kathie, never a wallflower, increasingly sought her own path. She did not want Bob ordering for her at restaurants anymore or controlling her every move. In the fall of 1974, she started the nursing program at Western Connecticut State College, not far from Katonah. In her application essay, Kathie recounted her father’s illness. “It was a difficult time for us all, but I participated in his care during daily visits,” she wrote. “This afforded me an intimate view of doctors and nurses working together for a very sick man and instilled in me the value and worth of a career in medicine. No one in my family had ever had a professional career and the financial costs were prohibitive.”
She excelled and quickly made friends, ultimately earning the highest grades in her class and election to the school’s curriculum committee. She and classmate Eleanor Joy Schwank twice successfully challenged school regulations, including the requirement that nursing students wear the old-fashioned starched white caps. “She was very articulate, conscientious,” Schwank told me in 2001. “She was gaining a lot of self-esteem. She wasn’t the poor little Catholic girl who married Bobby Durst.”
She was, however, still loyal to Bob, describing him in glowing terms and expressing hope for his success in the family business. “Kathie was very protective of Bob,” Schwank told me. “She wanted him to excel.”
The support does not appear to have been mutual. After her first year in the nursing program, Bob unilaterally decided that he no longer wanted to commute to work from the suburbs. He moved the couple to Manhattan, effectively forcing her to transfer to New York University, a move that made her so despondent that she sought counseling. Kathie, nevertheless, made the Dean’s List at NYU.
But she also wanted to go back to Western Connecticut for her third year in the nursing program. In the summer of 1975, Kathie found the couple a new home, a one-bedroom stone cottage on Lake Truesdale in South Salem, NY, a short drive from school. She also tried to appease Bob.
“She kind of jumped to his demands,” said Dr. Marion Goodman Watlington, a former nursing instructor at Western Connecticut, in a 2000 interview. “She probably felt somewhat guilty about abandoning him for her studies. I didn’t get the sense that he was terribly understanding.”
Indeed, Kathie’s pregnancy in February, 1976, became a turning point in her relationship with Bob. Her indignant husband forced her to get an abortion, saying that he had made it clear to her early on that he did not want to be a father. He told her that if she went through with the pregnancy, he would divorce her.
A couple months later, Kathie discovered that Bob was having an affair when a set of Polaroids tumbled from a book she took from a shelf in their apartment. When she confronted Bob with the photographs of the medicine cabinet and her bedroom closet, she recounted in a memo for a divorce lawyer, “he told me he was involved with a woman and would change the apartment to look as if he was single.”
“Much trust had left our marriage by this time but we still maintained a façade of a ‘loving couple,’” Kathie wrote.
In the summer of 1976, Bob’s brother Douglas, who was also working at the Durst Organization, told Kathie that Bob was embezzling funds from the family business. When she confronted Bob about it, Kathie said he denied everything. But she later found business checks in his briefcase that he intended to deposit into his own account. Kathie told Bob that she would leave him if he didn’t stop, according to the memo for her divorce lawyer.
In July, 1978, Kathie McCormack Durst celebrated graduation from nursing school at a party at the couple’s stone cottage on Lake Truesdale with Bob, her friends, and family. A small band that sounded like Simon & Garfunkel played in the background. That fall, Kathie started medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. Despite graduating magna cum laude from nursing school, Kathie’s scores on the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, were below average. But the school’s evaluator found her a, “dedicated and strongly motivated young woman with a great capacity for work and growth combined with her sensitivity and maturity makes Kathleen an exceptional candidate.”
She and Bob rented apartment 1520 at 12 E. 86th St., just off Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, which made it easier to get to Albert Einstein in the Bronx. Med school is grueling for most students, but Kathie also had to contend with her unraveling marriage. While she attended classes and studied at night, Bob was out on the town with friends Doug Oliver, Nick Chavin and Susan Berman. Chavin occasionally double-dated with Bob and his girlfriend of the moment.
As Bob and Kathie began leading separate lives, they acquired a penthouse overlooking the Hudson River in a building at Riverside Drive and 76th Street on the Upper West Side.
Beginning in the late 1970’s and continuing into the 1980’s, Kathie reluctantly told friends about how the couple’s heated arguments would be punctuated by Bob slapping or hitting her. Decades after she disappeared, Bob told The Jinx that “by 1982, our life was half arguments, fighting, slapping, pushing, wrestling.”
At Einstein, Kathie was known as a diligent student and a relatively private person. “She was serious,” Dr. Alicia Landman-Reiner testified at Durst’s trial in May. “She would come in every day on time. Nicely put together. She had her notebooks and pens ready and would sit in the front row.”
In the spring of 1980, Eleanor Schwank visited Kathie at her apartment on a Friday evening. Bob was asleep in another room as the two old friends talked into the night. At about 3 a.m., Bob rose to angrily demand that Schwank leave. Bob’s behavior towards Schwank does not appear to have been unique to her. Other friends of Kathie told me that they sometimes heard Bob growling in the background as they talked to her on the phone.
By the dawn of the 80s, the once-storybook romance between Robert and Kathie Durst had collapsed. In June of 1980, Kathie asked Bob to move out of their apartment at 12 E. 86th St., according to a letter Bob sent to Kathie asking permission to remove his belongings. “You told me you wanted your own space,” he wrote. But with their separation dragging on, he added, “divorce seems the only possibility.”
But it was never that simple. They still saw each other. When Kathie contacted a divorce lawyer, Bob resisted. She tried to focus on school, but Bob refused to fix the air conditioner in the VW she drove to Einstein every day. Later, he would cut off credit cards and refuse to pay tuition, forcing Kathie to obtain loans in order to stay in med school. The physical violence in their marriage seemed to be escalating.
Between the mounting tensions in her marriage and the pressures of medical school, Kathie began using cocaine, which seemed to be everywhere at that time. There was often a glass of red wine on the bedside table before she went to sleep. Kathie also had a discreet series of affairs.
Dr. Alan J. Schreiber, then chief medical resident at Einstein, met Kathie when she was among the students on his ward at Jacobi Hospital. Her first day on the ward, Kathie showed up wearing an obviously expensive outfit that seemed out of place at Jacobi Hospital, one of the busiest hospitals in New York City, where, he said, “everyone was desperately ill.” Initially, Schreiber said, Kathie seemed “overmatched.”
But much to his surprise, she was soon sweating through the long days in her scrubs, “never showering, just focused on patient care.” On Monday nights, when the team headed to a bar to relax, Kathie “was like one of the guys,” he said, engaged in the loud banter and, “cursing up a storm.”
“She went from being a diva to, like the rest of us, saving lives,” Schreiber told me. “She became the best med student on the ward. Most importantly, she really cared about the patients and her performance.”
After she left his service, Schreiber said he and Kathie began an affair that lasted until late 1980, when he moved to Colorado. “As time went on, we became pretty close,” he said. “I really never talked to her about her husband.”
During the Christmas holidays around this time, Bob and Kathie spent the day at her mother’s house on Long Island. During pre-dinner cocktails in the living room, Bob suddenly announced it was time to leave. He went outside to warm up the car, but when he returned Kathie was still talking with her family. Bob then grabbed her, snagging some of her hair as he yanked her off the couch. Kathie assured her stunned family that she was alright. “We all looked at each other,” Jim said. “What was that all about?”
A few months later, Bob’s rage was even more apparent. A large group of friends had gathered at the E. 86th Street apartment. They talked about taking cabs over to Xenon, a disco in a building owned by the Dursts. Bob and some others departed, but Kathie and a small group of friends decided instead to return to the apartment.
When Bob returned, he burst through the door, charging at the only man in the room, Peter Schwartz. He angrily kicked Schwartz in the face, breaking his right orbital bone. Kathie took Schwartz to the hospital and reported the incident to the police. A month later while on vacation in Puerto Rico, Kathie confided to a nursing school friend, Gilberte Najamy, that she wanted a divorce. But, her friends say, she did not want to leave her marriage “empty-handed,” nor did she want to be accused of abandonment, giving Bob leverage in any settlement talks.
The dual pressures of a failed and violent marriage and med school were taking a toll. She repeatedly missed days of her rotations, usually month-long clinics in areas such as radiology, cardiology and emergency medicine. A dean contacted her offering help and urging her to get back on track.
Kathie often called her sister Mary late at night to rant about Bob. Mary would listen as she laid in bed and Kathie’s monologue dragged into the early morning hours.
Meanwhile, Bob had become infatuated with someone he met while walking his dog: Prudence Farrow, sister of actor Mia Farrow and the person who inspired the Beatles to write the song, “Dear Prudence.” Farrow would occasionally call Kathie on the phone “torturing” her, Kathie told her friends.
By the end of 1981, Kathie had made up two of the three rotations and gotten glowing evaluations. But that did not mean the tension had subsided in her marriage. One evening in September, 1981, Ann Anderson-Doyle, was startled to find her neighbor, Kathie Durst, pounding on her terrace window in a driving rain. The Dursts lived in the adjoining penthouse at 37 Riverside Drive.
Kathie, who was in her “little pajamas,” was cowering and sobbing, Anderson-Doyle told the jury in the Durst case. Kathie “was terrified” by her husband, who had been threatening her that night. “They’d had a massive fight,” Anderson-Doyle said. “He wanted her to sign papers saying she wouldn’t get any money. I thought that was another way of saying, if you leave me, you’ll have nothing. You’ll be a nobody.”
On January 6, 1982, Kathie checked into the emergency room at Jacobi Hospital with contusions on the left side of her face and head. Dr. Leslie Hain, who treated Kathie that night, testified that the black eye and bruises were consistent with being punched or slapped in the face, although Kathie did not say at the time who had hit her.
By then, some of Kathie’s classmates surmised that Kathie was in trouble. Dr. Helen Bloch, who described Kathie as a “very bright, very nice person,” saw Kathie in the school cafeteria wearing large, dark sunglasses. “She took them off,” said Bloch, who had been a rape counselor in college. “She had a huge black eye. It was a big cue something was wrong.”
The students at the table were concerned. “We all said, ‘Don’t go back to him,’” Bloch testified. “She said she’s not staying with her husband; she’s in a safe place.”
Another classmate, Dr. Peter Halperin, who did not know Kathie very well, also noticed something amiss. They were among 10 students who met with the attending physician in a radiology clinic in late December 1981. Kathie, looking “extremely anxious and frightened,” failed to answer a question from the supervisor. Kathie shrugged him off when Halperin asked her if anything was wrong.
But that night, Kathie made a call to him that Halperin would later describe as “disturbing.” Kathie said that she was very frightened because she thought that her husband might hurt her. She said that there were problems in the marriage and things had escalated to the point that she felt unsafe.
Dr. Halperin, now a psychiatrist, offered to let her stay with him and his wife. But, he testified, “She said that she felt that she would be jeopardizing a settlement financially in divorce hearings if she were to leave.”
Despite her myriad problems, Kathie was busily applying to a dozen different residency programs and preparing for graduation in June 1982. She was also clearly scared. She told several of her friends, including Gilberte Najamy, that if anything were to happen to her, “don’t let Bob get away with it.”
On Jan. 25, 1982, Kathie contacted Karen Minutello, the property manager at 12 E. 86th St., asking if there were other apartments available in the building. “She was hesitant to come out and say why,” Minutello recalled at trial. “Then, she said, ‘to get away from [Bob].’ She was frightened.”
On the last weekend in January, Kathie accompanied Bob on the 50-mile drive north to their stone cottage on Lake Truesdale in South Salem, NY. They woke Sunday morning, Jan. 31, to a frigidly cold day. Their neighbor, Ruth Mayer, brought over a wool ski cap for Kathie. An old friend, Janet Fink-Shaw, called to cancel plans to get together because the roads were icy.
In the afternoon, Kathie went to see her friend from nursing school, Gilberte Najamy, in Newtown, CT, 27 miles away. Gilberte, her sister Fadwa, their parents and another couple were getting ready to sit down to dinner when Kathie showed up unexpectedly. Kathie and Gilberte — who has since died — went into the kitchen to talk, annoying her father who expected dinner on the table at 5 PM.
“Gilberte was trying to calm her down,” Fadwa testified. Kathie “was talking fast, at a loss for what she should do. Something had happened between her and her husband.”
Later, Kathie spoke on the phone to Peter Schwartz, the man who Bob had kicked in the face, breaking his orbital bone. Kathie learned that the criminal case against Bob for the incident had been dropped. As they talked, Kathie’s speech accelerated as her agitation grew. Schwartz added that he had settled his civil lawsuit. Kathie lamented that Schwartz’s decision to drop the charges against Bob may have scuttled any hope of her using the criminal and civil matters as leverage in her potential divorce proceedings.
A short time later, Kathie was back on the kitchen phone talking to Bob. He wanted her to come home. “I could only hear what Kathie said,” Fadwa testified. “I hear her tell him she was on her way home in a pleasant voice and that she loved him.”
Prosecutor Habib Bailian asked Fadwa, who now counsels prison inmates, if she found it surprising given her background that Kathie said she loved him, after having been so agitated about Bob earlier. “No,” she responded. “That’s what victims of domestic violence have to do. It’s a coping mechanism.”
Kathie drove back to South Salem that night. There was a “pushing, shoving argument,” Bob has since acknowledged. Bob later told police that Kathie wanted the car so she could return to Manhattan that night because she had a clinic rotation the next day. But that would have left Bob, who was staying in South Salem, without a car. He refused. Five days later, Bob reported Kathie missing at a police precinct in Manhattan. He told NYPD Det. Mike Struk that he had driven Kathie to the train station in Katonah that evening and then returned to the cottage.
The 29-year-old soon-to-be doctor was never seen again.