Lyle and Erik Menendez

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Lyle Menéndez
Born Joseph Lyle Menéndez
(1968-01-10) January 10, 1968 (age 49)
New York, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Criminal charge First-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder
Criminal penalty Life without parole
Criminal status Incarcerated
Spouse(s) Anna Eriksson (m. 1996; div. 2001)
Rebecca Sneed (m. 2003)
Parent(s) Jose and Mary "Kitty" Menéndez
Motive Undetermined, possibly inheritance or sexual abuse from his father
Partner(s) Erik Menéndez
Killings
Victims 2
Date August 20, 1989
Country United States
State(s) California
Location(s) Beverly Hills
Target(s) Jose and Kitty Menéndez
Killed 2
Weapons Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun
Date apprehended
March 8, 1990
Imprisoned at Mule Creek State Prison
Erik Menéndez
Born Erik Galen Menéndez
(1970-11-27) November 27, 1970 (age 46)
Blackwood, New Jersey, U.S.
Nationality American
Criminal charge First-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder
Criminal penalty Life without parole
Criminal status Incarcerated
Spouse(s) Tammi Ruth Saccoman (m. 1999)
Parent(s) Jose and Mary "Kitty" Menéndez
Motive Undetermined, possibly inheritance or sexual abuse from his father.
Partner(s) Lyle Menéndez
Killings
Victims 2
Date August 20, 1989
Country United States
State(s) California
Location(s) Beverly Hills
Target(s) Jose and Kitty Menéndez
Killed 2
Weapons Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun
Date apprehended
March 11, 1990
Imprisoned at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility

Joseph Lyle Menéndez (born January 10, 1968) and Erik Galen Menéndez (born November 27, 1970) are American brothers from Beverly Hills, California, known as Lyle and Erik Menéndez, were convicted in a high-profile trial in 1994 for the 1989 murders of their wealthy parents, entertainment executive Jose and his wife Mary "Kitty", by shotgun. During the trial, the brothers claimed the murders stemmed from years of sexual and psychological abuse by the parents. The defense was rejected by jurors, who sentenced the brothers to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Their story has been retold in movies and in popular culture.

Background[edit]

The Menéndez brothers' father, Jose Enrique Menéndez, was born in Havana, Cuba, and moved to the United States when he was 16 years old, following the upheaval of the Cuban Revolution. While attending Southern Illinois University, he met Mary Louise "Kitty" Andersen. The two married in 1963 and moved to New York, where Jose Menéndez earned a degree in accounting at Queens College.[1] The couple had two sons: Joseph Lyle Menéndez (who went by his middle name, Lyle) was born in New York City, New York on January 10, 1968.[2] Erik was born on November 27, 1970, in Gloucester Township, New Jersey.[3] Kitty Menéndez quit her schoolteaching job after Lyle was born.[3] In New Jersey both brothers attended Princeton Day School.

Jose's career as a corporate executive took the family to Calabasas, California, where the boys spent their adolescence.[3] During 1987 Erik attended high school in Calabasas, earning average grades but showing a remarkable talent for tennis, as did Lyle. Lyle attended Princeton University but was placed on academic probation for poor grades and discipline, and was suspended for a year after allegations of plagiarism in his freshman year. In 2017 interviews the brothers stated they had been sexually molested by their father since a young age, saying they had shared this information with a friend at ten years old.[4]

Crimes[edit]

On August 20, 1989, Lyle and Erik were 20 and 18 years old, respectively. The murders occurred that evening in the den of the family's home in Beverly Hills at 722 North Elm Drive. Jose and Kitty were tired that summer evening because the family had been shark fishing on a chartered yacht, Motion Picture Marine, until midnight the previous day. With Lyle and Erik out for the evening, Jose and Kitty went into their den to watch the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me.

Neighbors later reported hearing loud bangs about 10 p.m. but dismissed them as nothing to be concerned about, thinking the noise was local kids playing with firecrackers. Jose was shot point-blank in the back of the head with a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun. Kitty, awakened by the shots, sprang from the couch and ran for the hallway but was shot in the leg. She slipped in her own blood and fell, then was shot several times in the arm, chest, and face, leaving her unrecognizable. Both Jose and Kitty were then shot in the kneecap in an attempt to make the murders appear related to organized crime. The brothers then drove away and dumped their shotguns on Mulholland Drive. They later told police they had left home that evening to see the new James Bond movie, Licence to Kill, but since the lines were too long, they saw Batman instead. Afterward, they said, they went to the annual “Taste of L.A.” festival at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.[5] At 11:47 p.m., when the brothers returned home, Lyle telephoned 911 and cried, "Somebody killed my parents!" The police considered the brothers suspects but did not have any evidence, nor did they order the brothers to undergo gunshot residue tests to see if they had recently used a firearm.[6] During their trial, Erik said he spotted a shotgun shell they had left on the floor and removed it when the policeman talking to him looked away.

Security at the home had been good. The Mediterranean mansion was rented previously to musicians Prince as well as Elton John. Jose frequently left the alarm system off and the gates open, even after his Mercedes-Benz 560SEL was stolen from the front semi-circular driveway of the house, just weeks before the murders. Kitty, on the other hand, was agitated in the time just prior to the murders, constantly locking her bedroom door at night and keeping a rifle in her wardrobe.

During the months after the murders, the brothers spent money lavishly, adding to investigators' suspicions that they had been involved with their parents' deaths.[7] Lyle bought an expensive Rolex watch, a Porsche Carrera, and Chuck's Spring Street Cafe,[8] a Buffalo wings restaurant in Princeton, New Jersey. Erik also hired a full-time tennis coach and competed in a series of pro tournaments in Israel. They left the North Elm Drive mansion unoccupied and lived in two separate penthouse apartments in nearby Marina del Rey. They drove around Los Angeles in their late mother's Mercedes-Benz SL convertible, dined expensively, and went on overseas trips to the Caribbean and London. Prosecutors later alleged that the brothers spent about $1 million during their first six months as orphans. Erik confessed the murders to his psychologist, Dr. Oziel, who told his girlfriend about the killings after being threatened by Lyle. After Oziel and his girlfriend broke up, she told the police. Lyle was arrested near the mansion on March 8, 1990, after police received information that he was preparing to flee California. Erik, who was in Israel at the time, surrendered himself three days later upon returning to Los Angeles. Both were remanded without bail, and were separated from each other.

In August 1990, Judge James Albrecht ruled that the tapes of conversations between Erik and his psychologist would be admissible because Lyle had voided doctor–patient privilege due to threatening physical harm against Oziel. The ruling was appealed, delaying the proceedings for two years. After the ruling was initially overturned on appeal, the Supreme Court of California declared in August 1992 that several tapes were admissible, though not the tape on which Erik discussed the murders. This finally allowed a Los Angeles County grand jury to issue indictments in December 1992 on charges that the brothers had murdered their parents.[citation needed]

Trials[edit]

The Menéndez brothers and the murder of their parents became a national sensation when Court TV broadcast the trial during 1993. The younger brother's defense attorney, Leslie Abramson, became famous with her flamboyant defense, alleging that the brothers were driven to murder by a lifetime of abuse from their parents, including sexual abuse from their father, Jose, who was described as a cruel, callous perfectionist and pedophile, while Kitty was portrayed as a selfish, mentally unstable, alcoholic drug addict who enabled her husband's abuse and was also sometimes violent to them.[9] Despite the defense theory, the past criminal records of the brothers stood in contrast to the "escape from parental abuse" theory. The trial ended with two deadlocked juries.[10]

Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti announced immediately that the brothers would be retried. The second trial was somewhat less publicized, partly because Judge Stanley Weisberg refused to allow cameras in the courtroom.[11]

Both brothers were convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. In the penalty phase of the trial, the jury did not endorse death sentences for the brothers but instead returned recommendations of life in prison. The jury later said that the abuse defense was never a factor in their deliberations and that the jury rejected the death penalty because neither brother had a felony record or a history of violence. Unlike the previous trials, the jury unanimously rejected the defense theory that the brothers killed their parents out of fear, but believed rather that the murders were committed with the intent of gaining control of their parents' considerable wealth.[12]

On July 2, 1996, Judge Weisberg sentenced Lyle and Erik Menéndez to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Judge Weisberg sentenced the brothers to consecutive sentences for the murders and the charge of conspiracy to commit murder. As had been done during their pretrial detention, the California Department of Corrections separated the Menéndez brothers, sending them to different prisons. Both were classified as maximum-security inmates and were segregated from other prisoners.

Of note, during the penalty phase of the murder trial for Erik and Lyle Menéndez, defense lawyer Leslie Abramson allegedly directed a defense witness, Dr. William Vicary, to alter his notes, but the district attorney's office decided that it would not investigate the infraction.[13] Both brothers filed motions for a mistrial, claiming that they suffered irreparable damage in the penalty phase as a result of suggestions of possible misconduct and ineffective representation by Abramson.

Appeals[edit]

On February 27, 1998, the California Court of Appeal upheld the murder convictions, and on May 28, 1998, the California Supreme Court voted to uphold the murder convictions and life-without-parole sentences, with none of the Supreme Court justices voting to review the case.[14]

Both brothers filed habeas corpus petitions with the California Supreme Court, which were denied in 1999. Having exhausted their appeal remedies in state court, the brothers filed separate habeas corpus petitions in the United States District Court. On March 4, 2003, a magistrate judge recommended that the petitions be denied.[15][16] The district court adopted the magistrate judge's report and recommendation. The brothers then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. On September 7, 2005, a three-judge panel issued their ruling affirming the denial of both brothers' petitions for habeas corpus.[17]

Life in prison[edit]

Mug shots of Lyle (left) and Erik Menendez (right)

Since entering prison, both brothers have married, even though California does not allow conjugal visits for those convicted of murder or for those serving life sentences.

On July 2, 1996, Lyle married long-time pen pal Anna Eriksson, a former model, in a ceremony attended by Abramson and Lyle's aunt Marta Menéndez and presided over by Judge Nancy Brown. The two were divorced on April 1, 2001,[14] after Eriksson reportedly discovered that Lyle was "cheating" on her by writing to another woman. In November 2003, Lyle, then 35, married Rebecca Sneed, a 33-year-old magazine editor from Sacramento, at a ceremony in a maximum security visiting area of Mule Creek State Prison. Lyle and Rebecca had reportedly known each other for about ten years prior to their engagement.[18][19]

In 1997, Erik was reportedly married in a telephone ceremony at Folsom State Prison. In June 1999, Erik, age 28, married Tammi Ruth Saccoman, age 37, at Folsom State Prison in a prison waiting room. Tammi later stated, "Our wedding cake was a Twinkie. We improvised. It was a wonderful ceremony until I had to leave. That was a very lonely night."[20][21] In an interview with ABC News in October 2005, she described her relationship with Erik as "something that I've dreamed about for a long time. And it's just something very special that I never thought that I would ever have."[22] Tammi Menéndez also self-published a book during 2005 titled They Said We'd Never Make It - My Life With Erik Menendez, though Tammi said on Larry King Live that Erik "did a lot of editing on the book".[23]

In an interview with People magazine, Tammi Menéndez stated that "Not having sex in my life is difficult, but it's not a problem for me. I have to be physically detached, and I'm emotionally attached to Erik... My family does not understand. When it started to get serious, some of them just threw up their hands." Tammi also noted that she and her 10-year-old daughter drive the 150 miles (240 km) every weekend to see Erik, whom her daughter refers to as her "Earth Dad".[20]

Regarding his sentence of life without parole, Erik has stated: "Tammi is what gets me through. I can't think about the sentence. When I do, I do it with a great sadness and a primal fear. I break into a cold sweat. It's so frightening I just haven't come to terms with it."[20]

As of 2008, both men are incarcerated in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation system. Lyle is being held at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione. Erik was incarcerated at the Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga.[24] He was later transferred to Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.[25] Under the terms of the sentences for their multiple crimes, the brothers are expected to spend the remainder of their lives behind bars. According to Erik, on the same Larry King Live, he and his older brother have not spoken to each other for more than ten years.[23][not in citation given]

In 2010, A&E released a documentary on Tammi Menendez, titled Mrs. Menendez.[24]

In popular culture[edit]

The Menéndez brothers were recently featured in a 2017 documentary called Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers — American Sons, American Murderers on ABC. As well as Snapped in 2016. The murder is the subject of the 1994 television film Menendez: A Killing in Beverly Hills. The media hype surrounding the first trial was parodied in the 1996 dark comedy film The Cable Guy. They are also mentioned in Law & Order, Dumb & Dumber, "Married... with Children", The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Wayans Bros., 30 Rock, and Last Man Standing[citation needed], in the 4th season of Arrested Development and in the pilot episode of Gilmore Girls, as well as the first season of Everybody Hates Chris. They were also depicted in the film Natural Born Killers.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnson, John; Soble, Ronald L. "The Menendez Brothers: Jose Menendez Gave His Sons Everything. Maybe Even a Motive for Murder.". latimes.com. p. 3. 
  2. ^ Pergament, Rachel. "The Menendez Brothers". crimelibrary.com. Crimelibrary.com. Retrieved 2014-11-18. 
  3. ^ a b c "Erik Menendez Biography". biography.com. 
  4. ^ Lyle and Erik Menendez's Cousin Who Testified About Their Sexual Abuse Speaks Out for 1st Time
  5. ^ Joseph Poindexter (1990-03-26). "A Beverly Hills Paradise Lost". People Magazine. Retrieved 2017-02-08. 
  6. ^ Dunne, Dominick (October 1990). "Nightmare on Elm Drive". Vanity Fair. Beverly Hills police claimed to have been suspicious of the Menéndez brothers from the beginning ... But there was no proof, nothing to go on, merely gut reactions. 
  7. ^ Dunne, Dominick (October 1990). "Nightmare on Elm Drive". Vanity Fair. 
  8. ^ "Chuck's Spring Street Cafe in Princeton, NJ - location, details and more". Princetonsrestaurants.com. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  9. ^ "The Menendez Brothers". Archived from the original on October 12, 2012. Retrieved December 3, 2012. 
  10. ^ Brandon, Karen (April 18, 1996). "L.a. Jury Spares Menendez Brothers". chicagotribune.com. 
  11. ^ Chiasson, Lloyd (1997). The Press on Trial: Crimes and Trials as Media Events. p. 200. Retrieved June 3, 2015. 
  12. ^ Abrahamson, Alan (April 3, 1994). "Little Remains of Menendez Estate, Records Show : Courts: Inheritance of $14.5 million was lost to taxes, lawyers' fees and inflated real estate appraisals, probate files reveal". latimes. 
  13. ^ "Menendez Lawyer Won't Face Investigation", New York Times, October 12, 1997. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  14. ^ a b Pergament, Rachel. "The Menendez Brothers". crimelibrary.com. Crimelibrary.com. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  15. ^ http://www.pdf-archive.com/2014/05/10/lyle-magistrate/lyle-magistrate.pdf
  16. ^ http://www.pdf-archive.com/2014/05/10/erik-magistrate/erik-magistrate.pdf
  17. ^ http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2005/09/07/0355863.pdf
  18. ^ Should single guys trade their pinstripes for prison stripes? (Dan Abrams), MSNBC.com January 18, 2006 (retrieved on September 2, 2008)
  19. ^ Parent killer Menendez marries in Calif. prison, MSNBC.com, November 23, 2003 (retrieved on September 2, 2008)
  20. ^ a b c "Life & Love Behind Bars" by Bill Hewitt, People Magazine, November 07, 2005 Vol. 64 No. 19.
  21. ^ "Convicted murderer Erik Menendez marries in prison". CNN. June 16, 1999. Retrieved 2008-07-19. 
  22. ^ "Erik Menendez's Life Behind Bars". ABC News. October 25, 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-19. 
  23. ^ a b "Interview With Tammi Menendez". CNN. December 20, 2005. Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  24. ^ a b "Menendez brothers convicted in parents' murder 16 years ago". latimes.com. March 20, 2012. 
  25. ^ "State of California Inmate Locator". ca.gov. 

Further reading[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Davis, Don (1994) Bad Blood: The Shocking True Story Behind the Menendez Killings St. Martin, New York, ISBN 0-312-95334-8
  • Menendez, Lyle; Novelli, Norma; Walker, Mike; and Spreckels, Judith (1995) The Private Diary of Lyle Menendez: In His Own Words! Dove Books, Beverly Hills, California, ISBN 0-7871-0474-4
  • Menendez, Tammi (2005) They Said We’d Never Make It: My Life With Erik Menendez NewGalen Publishing, Santa Clarita, California, ISBN 0-9768744-0-7
  • Soble, Ronald L. and Johnson, John (1994) Blood Brothers: The Inside Story of the Menendez Murders Onyx, New York, ISBN 0-451-40547-1
  • Thornton, Hazel; Wrightsman, Lawrence S.; Posey, Amy J. and Scheflin, Alan W.Hung jury: The Diary of a Menéndez Juror Temple University Press, Philadelphia, ISBN 1-56639-393-0

External links[edit]