During my time as a correspondent for People Magazine my NY bureau chief Maria Eftimiades would call with an assignment. It wasn't really "do you want to do this story," but more like a command from above (she once talked me into surveilling Jerry Seinfeld's apartment on a Christmas Day because he was getting married. Saying no was not an option, but it did come with the promise of a nice bonus).
I received one of those many calls from Maria in October 2000. This one was about Robert Durst, the heir to a NY real estate fortune who was under investigation, again, for the disappearance of his first wife Kathie. The five-page story (long by People standards) ran on Dec. 5, 2000. A month later, I received a call from a screaming, crying source saying that Susan Berman, a friend of Durst's, had been murdered in Los Angeles. Thus began my 17-year journey with the Durst story. It was Maria who suggested I do a book (my first), and she even connected me with her agent. A Deadly Secret was first published in hardcover in 2002, and then in paperback in 2003, and republished again in 2015 following the airing of HBO's The Jinx.
Thanks to the access I had to Kathie's family and friends and the NYPD files, A Deadly Secret became the bible of the Durst case, read by the various law enforcement agencies that have investigated Durst, Hollywood types (The Jinx's Andrew Jarecki, who I first sat down with in 2005), and by Durst himself, who had two copies in his Houston condo when he was arrested in 2015.
The film version of A Deadly Secret will air on Lifetime on Saturday, Nov. 4. Bettina Gilois wrote the screenplay and it stars Katharine McPhee and Daniel Gillies. It centers on the Kathie/Robert Durst relationship and follows two police investigations and...won't say any more.
BROKEN ARROW - We said goodbye to Sharon Marshall in June. Her name here in Oklahoma had been "Tonya," and that was what was on her tombstone. But I always referred to her as Sharon. It was the name she had used during her high school years at Forest Park, Georgia in the 1980s when she was at her best. Of course, even that name was a fraud, stolen from somewhere like the other names she had been given by the man who had taken her as a child.
I first visited Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in 2003, and it was then when I saw the tombstone that said "Tonya." I had already spent nearly a year doing my research and interviews for what would become A Beautiful Child, and seeing the gravesite here in Broken Arrow with only a first name, and a stolen one at that, left me with a very unsettled feeling. By that time, having visited Florida and Georgia first, I knew Tonya as Sharon Marshall, and throughout the years that's what I always called her.
On June 3, we said goodbye to Sharon, and unveiled a new tombstone with her real name, Suzanne Sevakis. How that came about, the discovery of her real name, and the new friends and family found since the publication of A Beautiful Child, will be told as part of the new book, now scheduled for 2018. Will keep you posted.
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