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Middlebury Police Eye Robert Durst In Student's 1971 Disappearance

Gerald Herbert
Robert Durst, arrested in New Orleans last week, is of interest to Middlebury Police in the 1971 disappearance of Middlebury College student Lynne Schulze.

The New Orleans arrest last week of multi-millionaire Robert Durst on charges of first-degree murder heightened Vermont investigators’ interest in Durst in connection with the 1971 disappearance of Middlebury College student Lynne Schulze.

“Durst is a person who is very interesting to us,” Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley said in a press briefing Tuesday in a room packed with reporters from local and national media outlets. “It is classified as a missing person case, but we’ve opened it as a criminal investigation.”

A 2012 tip regarding Durst’s whereabouts at the time Schulze vanished led Middlebury police to take a look at Durst. The tipster had no connection to Schulze or Middlebury. Police will not release information about the caller or the nature of the tip.

“We saw things that needed follow-up,” Hanley said. “An adult disappeared and (after all these years) we can assume wrongdoing. It is a potential homicide. We have two adults who were in the same approximate location at the same time.”

Credit Middlebury Police / AP File
AP File
Lynne Schulze disappeared in 1971 from Middlebury College. It is the longest, active missing-persons case in Middlebury's history.

Durst owned the All Good Things health food store close to the Middlebury campus in 1971 and 1972. Detective Kris Bowdish, who is leading the investigation, said police do not know if Durst and Schulze had a relationship, but it is known that she was at or near his store Dec. 10, 1971, the last time she was seen.

“We do not know if Durst was present that day,” Bowdish said.

At 12:30 p.m. the Middlebury College student was seen in front of the Court Street store eating prunes she had purchased from inside. At 2:15 p.m. she was seen across the street from the store, standing near Keeler’s Gulf Station. Schulze has not been seen since then.

Other information putting Schulze and Durst in potential proximity includes Schulze telling friends she was buying a bus ticket to New York that day. The bus station was located in the same building as Durst’s store, which was on the first-floor north entrance; the bus station was also on the first floor south entrance, according to Bowdish, who added that they do not know if Schulze ever purchased that ticket.

Following the 2012 information, police searched Durst’s former residence last year.

“We have been to the property,” Hanley said, not revealing its location. “We have not served any search warrants at this time; everyone has been cooperative.”

Dredging up 44-year-old recollections is a challenge, the chief said, but he hopes this recent media attention will spur new leads in the case.

“This week following the latest news with Durst might get memories going,” he said.

Many unanswered questions remain, he said, and Middlebury Police are working with several law enforcement agencies, including the Vermont State Police.

“We are following a fact line,” Hanley said. “We are happy to speak to anyone with information.”

Since 1971 there have been many tips, suspects and even alleged sightings of Schulze.

“We’ve had several over the years,” Hanley said. “Nothing panned out and Durst is our most interesting lead.”

"Even if you think the information is not important, contact us." - Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley

He said there are patterns of facts, but police need more information to make sense of these patterns.

Durst is being held in New Orleans on charges of possession of a firearm by a felon and illegally carrying a weapon with a controlled substance.

He is awaiting extradition to California to face a charge that he killed his longtime friend and crime writer Susan Berman. She allegedly had information about the disappearance of Durst’s wife Kathleen in 1982.

As for the missing Middlebury College woman, the investigation is ongoing and investigators said they hope this information will bring more people forward.

“Even if you think the information is not important, contact us,” Hanley said. “We will continue to investigate all leads in this case until Lynne can be found and resolution can be given to her family.”

This story was originally published by the Rutland Heraldand reprinted under a partnership with the Herald.

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