This week’s tale takes us to sunny California! This case has recently gotten stirred up in the media again for two reasons . . . legally, there has been new information revealed, and it will be the next installment in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series “Monsters” which previously focused on Jeffrey Dahmer.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, today we will be talking about Lyle and Erik Menendez, two brothers who committed parricide in 1989. The case took the media by storm as two wealthy young men from a prominent family and picture perfect life brutally murdered both parents inside the family’s Beverly Hills mansion.
But how did we get there? What led to this terrible outcome?
Jose Menendez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1944 and moved to the US when he was 16. He met Mary Louise, who went by “Kitty”, in college and the two eventually married. Jose blazed a path in business through the music industry and eventually made it into movies and the Hollywood scene. He was known to be a ruthless business man. Kitty was a teacher and former beauty queen who later transitioned her focus into being a mother.
Joseph Lyle Menendez was born in 1968, but always went by his middle name. Two years later, Erik was born. At the time, the family was living in New Jersey, the brothers even attending Princeton Day School, a prestigious private school. Last year, tuition was listen over $40,000 a year, but the school is known for it’s academic excellence and ties to nearby Princeton University.
In 1986, Jose’s work meant the family had to move across the country to California. Lyle did go on to attend Princeton University, and Erik excelled at tennis. He even ranked 44th in US Junior Tennis and entered the 1989 Boys Junior National Tennis Championship. Erik also had a bit of a creative streak as he wrote a screen play with a friend, but it never went farther than that.
In mid-August of 1989, Jose and Erik had a conversation about college. Erik wanted to live in the dorm and taste a little freedom, but Jose insisted that Erik needed to live at home. At this point, Erik was so distressed he entered a deep depression and considered taking his own life.
While this may just seem like a sulky teenager pouting over not getting their own way, the truth is a lot darker. Throughout their childhood, the boys were physically and sexually abused by their father. Once, in 1976, they confided in a cousin Diane Vander Molen who talked to their mother, Kitty. It was ignored and never spoken of again.
Not long after Jose and Erik argued, Lyle and Kitty had a separate fight. Erik walked in to see their mother rip a hairpiece off of Lyle’s head. Apparently, Lyle’s hair loss was such a secret and considered so embarrassing that even his own brother didn’t know about it.
After this fight, Erik confided in Lyle that the abuse from their father had not stopped. Lyle told him, “Don’t worry, it will never happen again.” Lyle confronted their father, but instead of helping, it just led Jose to lash out at Erik. Jose tried to attack his son physically, but luckily was unsuccessful. Unfortunately, this was when Erik discovered his mother knew and just did nothing to stop it.
Lyle and Erik were now convinced their parents were going to kill them. They were certain that instead of letting anyone find out what was really happening in their home, they would just kill the boys and maintain their luxury lifestyle. If word had gotten out, the family would have lost everything.
On August 18, Lyle and Erik used a stolen ID to purchase guns for “protection”. They originally picked out something much smaller, but the store clerk recommended the Mossberg 12-guage shotgun instead for self-defense.
The next day, the family went out on their boat for a planned fishing trip. The crew mentioned that the dynamic was very off. The two brothers kept to themselves above deck at one end of the boat while the parents spent most of the trip below deck. And the only fishing was done by the crew.
In a documentary interview later, Erik said after they returned home, he ran to his room and locked the door behind him. He then spent the evening terrified, clutching the gun and convinced his father was going to break in and kill him.
The evening of August 20, the brothers decided to leave but instead a huge argument broke out. Jose and Kitty told them they were not allowed to leave, and Lyle ran upstairs and grabbed the guns. The brothers then went into the den where their parents were watching a movie and started firing. Descriptions of the crime scene stated that Kitty Menendez was so badly injured that she was unrecognizable.
After the brutal shooting, the brothers hopped in the car and drove around aimlessly trying to create an alibi.
Upon returning home, they expected police and emergency services. They expected someone heard the shots. But they returned to an eerily quiet house with two dead bodies in the den.
At this point, Lyle called 911. You can listen to this call on YouTube and he is in absolute hysterics. The dispatcher kept asking, “What’s the problem?” and sobbing he replies, ″Somebody killed my parents.″
Due to the demeanor of the brothers, the police did not suspect them. They weren’t even tested for gunshot residue. But after the murders, their behavior was suspect. The two spent over $700,000 which is $1.7million today. They even attended a New York Knicks game and were photographed courtside in the picture for Mark Jackson’s official trading card.
This spending raised red flags to police who started looking into them as suspects. They even had a friend of theirs, Craig Cignarelli, wear a wire at a lunch he had with Erik, but Erik denied being involved or knowing anything about his parent’s murder.
Erik did tell someone though, his long-term therapist Jerome Oziel. Breaking patient-client confidentiality, Oziel told his mistress about the confession. After they broke up, she went to police.
Due to this new information, Lyle was arrested on March 8, 1990. Erik was out of the country on a trip to Israel, but as soon as he returned to America, he turned himself in.
Their first trial was aired on Court TV in 1993. Family members corroborated the abuse, and the trial ended in two deadlocked juries. In the second trial, there was a media blackout with cameras not even allowed in the courtroom. The testimony and information about the sexual abuse was limited in this trial, and jury was no longer allowed to vote on manslaughter instead of murder.
Both were convicted of two counts of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Their sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole are still in place. At first, they were sent to different prisons, but later were transferred together.
Their 1998 appeal was denied. They have filed petitions of habeas corpus in 2003 and 2005 which were both denied.
Earlier this year, news and information has come public that has led the brothers to request another hearing. The NBC Docuseries Menendez + Menudo has revealed allegations that Jose Menendez also sexually assaulted an underage member of the 1980’s Peurto Rican boy band, Menudo. With more evidence of their father’s violent and abusive nature, they are trying to get a new hearing to possible overturn or adjust their conviction.
- https://youtu.be/egA8CafquPA – 911 call