Morris Black: How Did He Die? Who Killed Him?

New York City real estate heir Robert Durst leaves a Houston courtroom Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. Durst is charged with criminal mischief for urinating on a counter at a Houston drug store, his hearing has been reset for next month. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

While there’s no denying the murder of Morris Black was brutal to the core, the actual motive behind it has sadly never been clear considering the perpetrator’s proclivity to tell lies. This much has actually even been explored in HBO’s ‘The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst’ plus ‘The Jinx: Part Two,’ both of which delve deep into every aspect of this titular figure’s reality. After all, it is believed he was behind the unsolved 1982 disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen “Kathie” Durst, the 2000 murder of his longtime friend, Susan Berman, as well as this entire matter.

Morris Black Was Shot and Dismembered

At the age of 71, Massachusetts native Morris was reportedly leading a stable life in Galveston, Texas, as a retiree. It has since been deemed he was a complex loner with a tendency to be confrontational, yet no one could’ve ever imagined everything would turn upside down in the blink of an eye. That’s because despite his seeming faults, he was human just like the rest of us, and we have a tendency to believe people might show compassion, which sadly didn’t come into play on September 28, 2001. We mention this specifically because he was dismembered post-mortem.

According to reports, since Morris was quite a loner, nobody truly realized he’d been missing until a little boy who was fishing with his father in Galveston Bay noticed a limbless torso. This duo then spotted a few floating trash bags too, propelling them to contact authorities and for the latter to identify his remains through a piece of a newspaper (with the delivery address on it) inside one of the bags. It was then ascertained this 71-year-old had been shot to death before being mutilated into pieces so as to be disposed of; though it’s unclear precisely where he was shot since his head was never found. It is believed the head was slashed out of a bag after it was clear it wouldn’t sink.

Morris Black Was Allegedly Killed in Self-Defense

Because Robert Durst was living as a mute woman named Dorothy Ciner in the $300-a-month apartment in Galveston, officials couldn’t immediately connect him to Morris’ demise. In fact, it wasn’t until they were searching the communal trash in the back of their apartment building that they discovered a receipt from a local optician for Robert and then made the connection. There wasn’t a Robert on the tenant list, so they had to go carefully through them before they found out he and Dorothy were the same person – he’d taken up this fake name, remembering it from a former classmate since he was on avoiding authorities revisiting his first wife’s 1982 disappearance.

This was actually integral because investigators had also realized that the murder weapon was a .22-caliber pistol, one that was registered under real estate heir-turned-developer Robert’s name. That’s when they made requests and set up surveillance, ultimately leading to his arrest from the same aforementioned eyeglass shop after the owner called the police once he walked in. But alas, this then-56-year-old managed to flee and skip his bond hearing, just to later be arrested in Pennsylvania and then extradited – he pled not guilty, leading to a trial.

It was only when Robert’s trial for the murder of Morris rolled around in 2003 that the former’s theory of self-defense was carefully elaborated. According to his own testimony, he returned home on September 28, 2001, to find his neighbor sitting inside without an invitation, watching television and looking extremely angry. Per his narrative, the 71-year-old had a “kind of look on his face,” which he took to mean that “he was angry with me,” but he never elaborated on why this could be or if he’d done anything.

Instead, Robert then went on to state that he immediately began fearing Morris and hence went to grab the safety weapon he kept inside his oven, only for the latter to already have it in his hand. “I was concerned that Morris was going to shoot the gun, most likely at my face,” he said, so he tried to make a grab for the barrel, just for it to trip them both over in an uncontrollable manner. The weapon hence went off without him ever having touched the trigger, he asserted, and it turned out it’d shot Morris in the face – “I pushed myself up on my left hand, and I saw blood on the side of Morris’ nose.” He asserted it was accidental.

Though what’s strange is that instead of directly calling 911, Robert claimed he rushed to his upstairs neighbors for some help, and when they didn’t answer their door, he started cleaning up. “I wanted to get a doctor. All I could think of was getting a doctor,” he testified. “I walked around his Morris’ body. I saw how his head was in kind of a pool of blood right around his head. I walked around his body and I went into the bathroom to wash my hands.” That’s where he apparently began thinking of how terrible the whole picture would look to the authorities and decided it would be a safer option for him just to dispose of the remains.

“Well, I kept going over the situation in my mind that Morris was shot in the face with my gun in my apartment, and I had rented this apartment disguised as a woman,” Robert contended. “And the police would — I mean, even before I got to the point where the police were immediately going to look into who am I, Robert Durst, who happened to rent this apartment as Dorothy Ciner and find out that I am this wealthy guy who rented the apartment well below his means and there is all this media attention on him back in New York. I just didn’t think I would be believed. I didn’t think they would believe me.”

Robert thus left again to grab tools from Morris’ own apartments (a paring knife, two saws, and an axe) as well as plastic garbage bags from a local hardware store before returning home, dismembering the body, diving to Galveston Bay, and ditching the evidence for good. But alas, despite his own admittance, the claim of self-defense was taken into deep consideration, along with the fact there was no clear forensic evidence tying him to the matter, resulting in the jury acquitting him of murder on November 11, 2003. In the end, he only pled guilty to two counts of bail jumping as well as one count of evidence tampering (dismembering) in connection to this whole ordeal, for which he was just handed down a sentence of five years, only to be paroled on July 15, 2005.

Read More: Kathie Durst’s Family is Still Trying to Attain Justice for Her