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Police speak out on Robert Durst link to 1971 disappearance of Simsbury teen

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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Robert Durst, the wealthy New York real estate heir who was recently charged with murder in the death of a California woman, is now being investigated in connection to a local cold case.

Police in Middlebury, Vermont said they’re looking at a link between Durst and a Simsbury teen who disappeared in 1971 when she was attending Middlebury College in Vermont.

Lynne Schulze, 18, was last seen waiting at a bus stop in Middlebury on Friday December 10, 1971.

On Tuesday, Middlebury Police held a press conference on the case. Tom Hanley, the chief of police, and Kristine Bowdish, the lead investigator on the case, both spoke and answered questions. The two outlined the timeline of Schulze’s movements that day:

  • At 7:45 a.m. Schulze’s roommate left their dorm room, but Schulze was still sleeping.
  • At 12:30 p.m. Schulze was seen at the Court Street bus stop eating dried prunes from All Good Things–which was owned by Robert Durst at the time. She said she was trying to go to New York, but the bus left before she got there. She then walked back to campus.
  • At 12:45 p.m. Schulze was seen in her dorm room, and she didn’t want to talk to anyone about the final she was about to take. She was searching for her lucky pen.
  • At 12:55 p.m. Schulze left her dorm room, presumably heading to her final exam.
  • At 1 p.m. the final exam started, but Schulze never showed up.
  • Schulze was last seen around 2:15 p.m. at the Court Street bus stop, which was across the street from All Good Things.
  • Schulze was not reported missing until December 16, 1971. Her friends called her parents to say they hadn’t seen Schulze, and at that point her parents reported her missing.
  • All of Schulze’s belongings, including her wallet and ID, were found in her dorm room after her disappearance.
  • On the request of the Schulze family her disappearance was kept quiet and out of the public eye until January 24, 1972 when it was announced in a Burlington Free Press article.

After Schulze’s disappearance became public there were many reports of sightings of the 18-year-old, but none of them proved to be true sightings.

The case was reopened in 1992 when some information popped up in the National Crime Information Center, and it has been an active investigation ever since.

The connection to Robert Durst was discovered when it was learned that he moved to the Middlebury area in 1971, at which point he opened All Good Things–the store Schulze stopped in just before she was last seen. However, he only lived there for about two years.

Durst’s future wife, Kathie McCormack, lived with him in Vermont. Durst has long been suspected of causing her disappearance in 1982, and he was charged on March 14 with the murder of his friend Susan Berman in 2000. Berman supposedly knew things about  Kathie’s disappearance, and was contacted by New York State Police about the case shortly before her death.

Durst was not questioned at the time of the disappearance, and he had no legal issues while living in Vermont that police are aware of. There is also no proof of a connection between Durst and Schulze besides that she stopped into his store on the day of her disappearance.

Chief Hanley says Durst is not an official suspect, and he hesitated to call him a person of interest. Rather, Hanley says he is a person who is believed to have committed “nefarious” acts in his life and who is known to have been in the same area at the same time as Schulze’s disappearance.

Several other names have popped up over the years as possible suspects in the case, including ex-boyfriends.

A tip was called in to Middlebury Police in July of 2012 reporting that Durst owned the health food store All Good Things at the time of Schulze’s disappearance. The person who called the tip in didn’t have any firsthand knowledge of a connection between Durst and Schulze.

Last year Middlebury Police searched the home in which Durst lived in at the time of the disappearance. The home was not in Middlebury, but police refrained from saying where exactly he lived. Nothing was found in the home that related to the Schulze case.

Middlebury Police have not spoken to or interrogated Durst. He has a lawyer and is being investigated by several other agencies–which Middlebury Police are working with–so it may be some time before they speak to him, though Hanley said they would like to.

Currently, Durst is in Louisiana police custody facing murder charges in the death of a California woman.

In 2003 Durst was acquitted of the 2001 murder of Morris Black. The jury believed Durst’s story that Black threatened him with a gun, and during a struggle for the gun it discharged, killing Black. Durst was initially arrested when police found Black’s dismembered body parts floating in the Galveston Bay.

Besides being charged in the murder of Susan Berman and being a suspect in his wife Kathie’s disappearance, the recent arrest has also caused speculation that Durst may have been involved in the 1997 disappearance of Karen Mitchel in Eureka, California.

Durst’s life story was the center of an HBO documentary called “The Jinx,” which examines the murders of his wife and friends.

The original investigator and many of the initial detectives to work on the case have since died. Kristine Bowdish is now leading the investigation.

Bowdish acknowledges that the Schulze case doesn’t quite match up with the other cases Durst is a suspect in, but the proximity makes him someone police are quiet interested in.

Hanley said that he can’t say it’s a homicide for sure since there is no proof she is dead, but he can assume that foul play of some sort occurred based on how long she’s been missing. It is being investigated as a criminal matter.

In the early 1990s police obtained DNA samples from Schulze’s family members and dental records to help them identify any remains that might be found. Though both of her parents have passed away, her sibling are still hoping for resolution in the case.