How Robert Durst went from deaf mute woman to wanted man

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Long before Manhattan millionaire Robert Durst made international headlines, he lived on Galveston Island and pretended to be a deaf, mute woman by the name of Dorothy.

"I met Robert Durst through working at Garza's Kon-Tiki way back when," said Clair Schuler, who goes by the stage name Cici Ryder.

Schuler is a popular female impersonator in Galveston and he said he met Durst in the early 2000s. Schuler remembers Durst was intensely shy, but a generous tipper, who became a regular at Island drag shows.

"He was very infatuated with the drag queens that performed, and their hair and their make-up, especially the hair and the make-up," said Schuler.

Schuler said when he first met the real estate mogul, Durst was pretending to be a deaf, mute woman. Schuler said Durst even carried around a tablet to communicate his thoughts.

"When you saw him in drag honey, eww, it was not pretty. It was blue eye-shadow and red lips, not pretty," said Schuler.

Schuler said Durst was particularly interested in learning how to apply make-up, making a wig look like natural hair and how to curl hair.

"As they say, 'The lady that taught the lady to be a lady,'" said Schuler.

Schuler said during those learning moments, Durst never let anyone touch him, take pictures and never opened up about his personal life. Months later, Durst's name was splashed across the headlines after he was arrested for killing and dismembering his neighbor, Morris Black, at a Galveston boarding house. Police and reporters then showed up to talk with Schuler.

"'Hey, we're here to interview you about the Robert Durst situation.' And I was like, 'Who is Robert Durst?'" said Schuler.

Schuler said he thought Durst was just an older divorcee coming to grips with his sexuality and never believed he was a deaf, mute woman. Schuler said looking back there were some red-flags, but nothing that indicated violence.

"Not as a flag, 'Hey, I'm here to kill you and chop your head off, there you go, thanks, bye-bye,'" said Schuler.

Durst was found not guilty of Black's murder in 2003. As Durst now sits in jail awaiting trial in another murder case, Schuler said he is still haunted by a time when he unwittingly helped a deaf, mute by the name of Dorothy craft a disguise.

"It just really freaked me out that I had any part in this man's life, as to make him a facade of his life to go on and do what he did," said Schuler.

Durst is facing a drug and weapons charges in New Orleans. He is awaiting extradition to Los Angeles, where he faces charges for the 2000 murder of Susan Berman, who police believe had information on the still unsolved 1982 disappearance of Durst's first wife.

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