The Robert Durst defense: Harlem killer appropriates infamous Houston resident'sstrategy
Homicide covered up by bizarre body bending and murky claims of self defense defined the story of Robert Durst's 2003 murder of neighbor Morris Black in Galveston. Bobby D snuck away with a clean record, which may have inspired a recent scandal in the Houston resident's hometown of New York City.
On Tuesday, a Harlem man confessed to striking a woman with a frying pan, strangling her with an electrical cord and stuffing her body in a suitcase, reports New York Daily News.
Video surveillance shows the alleged murderer, 55-year-old Hassan Malik, wheeling the suitcase-shrouded body down East 114th Street in Harlem. What makes his story curious is that Malik claims his victim, Betty Williams, 28, attacked him with a frying pan, which he rescued and used as a weapon. After clubbing her twice on the head, he cut off her circulation with the cord and packed the dead body into a piece of luggage.
Indeed, the story isn't so different from Durst's claim that his neighbor was shot, chopped into pieces and distributed into trash bags (which later washed ashore) entirely out of self defense and a resulting panic. With his massive wealth, Durst was able to hire a top attorney and he won the case (although it did inspire an episode of Law & Order andthe movie All Good Things.)
Malik may not be so fortunate. The suitcase was uprooted last week by a man sifting through rubbish in East Harlem, and Malik was arrested north of NYC on Monday after cell phone records were used to track him down. Court records show that he has been on probation since January of 2009 after admitting to attempted robbery.
His current story that the murder of Williams was a matter of self defense doesn't match up to police forensic evidence. There's even suspicion that Williams was hired by Malik as a prostitute, and when she asked for extra money, he went in for the kill. Malik has been charged with second-degree murder.
The story's not glamorous enough to spawn a movie staring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, but there's no telling how many copycat defenses will follow.