Oakland police dismiss Robert Durst as Modafferi suspect

Oakland police said Wednesday no evidence exists connecting eccentric millionaire Robert Durst — recently charged with murdering a woman in Los Angeles in 2000 — with the disappearance of an Oakland woman who disappeared in 1997 when she was only 18.

Kristen Modafferi, a college student from North Carolina, was staying in the Bay Area for only a short time when she was last seen inside the Crocker Galleria in San Francisco on June 23, 1997, police said.

Durst, 71, an heir to a real estate fortune, was recently arrested and charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of his friend Susan Berman, a 55-year-old journalist and author, in Los Angeles on Dec. 24, 2000. He’s also the subject of a recent HBO series called, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”

In the summer of 1997, Modafferi, who had a four-year academic scholarship at North Carolina State University and had just completed her first year of college, lived at 274 Jayne Ave. near Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland and worked at Spinelli’s Coffee Shop at the Crocker Galleria in San Francisco.

Oakland police said that when Modafferi was last seen inside the Crocker Galleria, she was walking with an unknown white, blond-haired woman and was wearing a “Spinelli Coffee” T-shirt, beige pants, and a blue plaid shirt. They said she was white, had long brown hair and brown eyes, was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed about 140 pounds.

Police said Modafferi had told co-workers that she was headed to Baker Beach in San Francisco but it can’t be confirmed if she ever made it there. They noted that Baker Beach is notorious for rough surf and a strong undertow.

Oakland police said they have received “local and national inquiries regarding the recent arrest of Robert Durst and a possible connection to the 1997 disappearance of Kristen Modafferi.”

They said that with the assistance of the FBI they conducted “an open and active investigation” into Modafferi’s disappearance for several years.” But Oakland police said, “At this time we do not have any evidence that indicates Robert Durst was involved in her disappearance.”