Robert Durst Arrest Prompts Questions in Unsolved Missing Girl Case

He lived relatively close to Karen Mitchell when she vanished.

March 18, 2015, 11:24 AM

— -- Robert Durst's arrest in connection with the 2000 murder of his friend in California has prompted another unsolved case to be re-examined.

The arrest of Durst, whose first wife went missing in New York in 1982 and who was acquitted of killing his neighbor in Texas 2001, has raised flags about another open case because he lived near where a teenage girl vanished in 1997.

Karen Mitchell was 16 years old when she went missing on Nov. 25, 1997 after getting into a car when she left her aunt's store at a mall in Eureka, California, police said.

Durst was living in the California town of Trinidad at the time, which is 25 miles north of the Bayshore Mall where Mitchell was last seen.

Investigators never arrested anyone in connection with Mitchell's case, though they do believe she "met foul play."

"We are certainly interested in any information that may or may not come out of interviews with Mr. Durst," Eureka police chief Andy Mills told ABC affiliate KAEF. "If information comes to us that allows us to further our investigation we will certainly take the opportunity to do that."

That said, he warned against making a direct link between the two cases.

"I caution people about reaching too far too quickly," Mills said.

PHOTO: Karen Mitchell is seen in this undated photo distributed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Karen Mitchell is seen in this undated photo distributed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Eureka Police handed over the Mitchell case to the Humboldt County District Attorney's office.

Dave Parris, a detective who worked on Mitchell's case from 1997 to 2006, told KAEF that detectives initially ruled Durst out because he was believed to be out of town at the time she went missing. Parris also noted that the other cases that Durst is connected to only involved people that he knew rather than strangers.

Durst appeared in court twice this week following his arrest at a New Orleans hotel where he was checked in under an alias and used cash to pay his bill, ABC News has confirmed. He is currently being held at the Elayn Hunt Correctional facility, which is equipped to handle the mentally ill.

His attorney wants to have Durst extradited to California to face the murder charge in the case of his friend Susan Berman, though he now is facing additional weapons and drug possession charges since he was found with a gun and marijuana when he was arrested on Sunday.

"Bob Durst didn't kill Susan Berman and he doesn't know who did," Durst's attorney Dick DeGuerin told reporters on Tuesday. "That being said my concern that the warrant that was issued in California was issued because of a television show and not because of facts.

"We want to contest the basis for his arrest because I think it's not based on facts, it's based on ratings. So we will continue to fight for Bob. We want to get to California as quickly as we can so that we can get to a court of law and try the case where it needs to be tried," DeGuerin said.

ABC News' Matt Gutman contributed to this report.

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