Police Investigate Durst’s Link to Cold Case

Robert+Durst+on+set+of+The+Jinx%2C+a+six+part+documentary.

Robert Durst on set of The Jinx, a six part documentary.

By Ellie Reinhardt

Early this year, HBO released “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” a six-part documentary examining Robert Alan Durst, an alleged serial killer and person of interest in over four missing person cases. Recently it has been discovered that Durst is also connected to the College. Durst lived in Middlebury briefly and police are now labeling him as a person of interest in the 1971 case of a missing College student, Lynne Schulze.

The documentary delves into the complexities of Durst’s life as the son of New York City real estate tycoon Seymour Durst, his wife’s disappearance in the 1980s and his connection to a number of murders over the past half-century but does not mention the connection to Middlebury.

In 2012, the FBI contacted Middlebury Chief of Police Tom Hanley and for the first time, a link between Durst and Schulze was made. Schulze, a first-year at the College, was last seen at 2:15 p.m. on Dec. 10, 1971 at a bus stop in front of what is now the Dunkin Donuts in town. Schulze was supposed to take a final exam that afternoon, but never attended. Schulze, who was 18 when she went missing, has been presumed dead.​

The building where Schulze was last seen sits directly across from 15 Court Street where Durst and his then-girlfriend but soon-to-be wife, Kathleen, owned a health foods store from 1971-1972 called All Good Things. The home where Durst lived was searched, but nothing notable was discovered.

“They were in the same approximate place at the same approximate time. We don’t know if they ever had any personal contact,” Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley said of Durst and Schulze. “(Durst) is a person that is very interesting to us.”

The only mention of Schulze in The Middlebury Campus on Jan. 28, appeared over a month after her disappearance.
The only mention of Schulze in The Middlebury Campus on Jan. 28, appeared over a month after her disappearance.

During his time in Middlebury, Durst was an unsuspicious part of the community. Students at the College often visited Durst’s store and its advertisements appeared in a number of issues of the Campus in 1971 and 1972.

Middlebury resident Tim Brown has been a part of the Middlebury community his entire life and recalls meeting Durst on a number of occasions. Brown’s father purchased the building at 13 Court Street, which Brown now owns, in the 1920s and opened an auto shop.

In 1971, when Durst opened All Good Things, Brown was returning from service to help his father in business.  He recalls going into Durst’s store often because it had something he liked, “possibly some sort of nut,” he said.

“He was kind of a strange person. You could never really get close to him or talk to him. A minute or two and he was off doing something else,” Brown added of his interactions with Durst.

Brown also recalls seeing students in Durst’s store often. “It was very strange, that place,” he said.

Paula Israel, who owns the store Wild Mountain Thyme downtown with her husband, has a different memory of Durst. Her husband Allen was friendly with Durst and in 1976, she and her husband had dinner with Durst and his wife when they came back to Vermont for a visit.

“[Durst was] quirky, in a fun, sarcastic way. He was intelligent, in a New Yorker way… crabby too, in a funny way,” said Israel.

As new information about Durst is being released, his connection to Lynne Schulze seems to grow. However, in 1971, Durst seemed as innocent as Brown or Israel.

Schulze went missing on Dec. 10, 1971 and not until Jan. 28, 1972 was there a piece in The Campus about her whereabouts. In the bottom left corner of the first page, her photo was featured with a caption asking for information. Nothing about her disappearance appeared after that.

On the same day, the same picture of Schulze appeared in the Addison County Independent. However, a longer article and an editorial accompanied the photo. Mentions and inquiries about Schulze appeared in the Independent until mid-February and then there was nothing more said about the case, although the investigation has continued.  

The editorial that accompanied the first mention of Schulze in the Independent was written as a personal account by Celine Slator, Associate Editor of the Independent. She claimed to have seen Schulze at a restaurant, therefore raising questions about the validity of claims that Schulze was killed. Slator maintains that Schulze seems to have run away.

“I am well aware that whenever a lost person story breaks, you have reports of sightings from dozens of different sources. Most of them are based on a fleeting glance. I had far more than a fleeting glance, and that is why I noted a startling resemblance,” she wrote.

Durst’s lawyers have maintained that he had no involvement in the disappearance of Schulze. However, on the season finale of “The Jinx”, Durst was recorded in the bathroom saying, “There it is. You’re caught…What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

Durst is currently being held at a Louisiana prison and for federal and state gun charges.