Lyle and Erik Menendez

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Lyle Menéndez
Joseph Lyle Menéndez

(1968-01-10) January 10, 1968 (age 51)
Criminal statusIncarcerated
Anna Eriksson
(m. 1996; div. 2001)

Rebecca Sneed (m. 2003)
Parent(s)José and Mary "Kitty" Menéndez
MotivePhysical and sexual abuse
Criminal chargeFirst-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder
PenaltyLife with no possibility of parole
Partner(s)Erik Menéndez
DateAugust 20, 1989
CountryUnited States
Location(s)Beverly Hills
Target(s)José and Kitty Menéndez
WeaponsMossberg 12-gauge shotgun
Date apprehended
March 8, 1990
Imprisoned atRichard J. Donovan Correctional Facility[1]
Erik Menéndez
Erik Galen Menéndez

(1970-11-27) November 27, 1970 (age 48)
Criminal statusIncarcerated
Tammi Ruth Saccoman (m. 1999)
Parent(s)José and Mary "Kitty" Menéndez
Motivephysical and sexual abuse
Criminal chargeFirst-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder
PenaltyLife with no possibility of parole
Partner(s)Lyle Menéndez
DateAugust 20, 1989
CountryUnited States
Location(s)Beverly Hills
Target(s)José and Kitty Menéndez
WeaponsMossberg 12-gauge shotgun
Date apprehended
March 11, 1990
Imprisoned atRichard J. Donovan Correctional Facility[2]

Joseph Lyle Menéndez (born January 10, 1968) and Erik Galen Menéndez (born November 27, 1970) are American brothers from Beverly Hills, California, who were convicted in a high-profile criminal trial in 1994 for the 1989 murder by shotgun of their wealthy parents, entertainment executive José Menéndez and his wife Mary ("Kitty"). Though initially not regarded as suspects, the duo attracted the attention of authorities as they spent their deceased parents' fortune lavishly within weeks of the murders.

During the trial, the brothers claimed that the murders stemmed from years of sexual and emotional abuse that they had suffered at the hands of their parents. They were first tried by two different juries (one for each brother). Both juries deadlocked, which led to a mistrial. For the second trial, Erik and Lyle were judged by the same jury, who rejected the defense's claim. The brothers were sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.


José Enrique Menéndez, Lyle and Erik's father, was born in Havana, Cuba on May 6, 1944. At the age of 16, he moved to the US following the upheaval of the Cuban Revolution.[3] While attending Southern Illinois University, he met fellow student Mary Louise "Kitty" Andersen (1941-1989). The two married in 1963 and moved to New York City, where José earned a degree in accounting from Queens College.[4]

While living in New York, the couple began a family. Their elder son, Joseph Lyle Menéndez, who went by his middle name, was born January 10, 1968.[5] Kitty quit her job teaching after Lyle was born. The family then moved to New Jersey, where Kitty gave birth to their second son, Erik, November 27, 1970 in Gloucester Township.[6][7][6] In New Jersey, both brothers attended Princeton Day School.[8]

In 1986, José's career as a corporate executive took the family to Calabasas, California, where the boys lived during their adolescence.[6][8] The following year, Erik began attending high school in Calabasas, earning average grades and showing a remarkable talent for tennis, ranking 44th in the nation for 18-and-under players.[9] Lyle attended Princeton University, but during his freshman year, he was placed on academic probation for bad grades and discipline, and was eventually suspended for plagiarism for a year.


On the evening of August 20, 1989, José and Kitty were sitting on a couch in the den of the family's home at 722 North Elm Drive in Beverly Hills. Lyle, 21, and Erik 18, armed with shotguns, entered the den.[10] José was shot point-blank in the back of the head with a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun.[11] Kitty, awakened by the shots, got up from the couch and was shot in the leg as she ran towards the hallway. She slipped on her own blood and fell. While on the floor, she was shot several times in the arm, chest, and face, leaving her unrecognizable. Both José and Kitty were shot in the kneecap, in an attempt to make the murders appear related to organized crime.[12][13]

At 11:47 p.m., when the brothers returned home, Lyle called 911 and shouted "Somebody killed my parents!" The brothers told the police they had been at the movie theater to see Batman at the time of the murders. Afterward, they said they went to the annual "Taste of L.A." festival at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Although the brothers were considered suspects, the police did not order them to undergo gunshot residue tests to learn whether they had recently used a firearm.[14] A lack of evidence also prevented the police from looking into the brothers more thoroughly.

In the months after the murders, the brothers spent money lavishly, adding to investigators' suspicions that they were involved with their parents' deaths.[15] Lyle bought an expensive Rolex watch, a Porsche Carrera, and Chuck's Spring Street Cafe,[16] a Buffalo wing restaurant in Princeton, New Jersey. Erik hired a full-time tennis coach and competed in a series of pro tournaments in Israel. They left the North Elm Drive mansion unoccupied, opting to live in adjoining condos in nearby Marina del Rey.[17] 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 to London.[18] It is estimated that Lyle and Erik spent $700,000 in the months between the murders and their arrests.[19]

Erik confessed to the murders to his psychologist, L. Jerome Oziel. After being threatened by Lyle, Oziel told his mistress, Judalon Smyth, about the killings. Smyth then tipped off the police as to the brothers' involvement.[20] Lyle was arrested near the mansion on March 8, 1990, after the police received information that he was preparing to flee California. Erik, who was in Israel, surrendered himself three days later upon returning to Los Angeles. Both were remanded without bail and they were kept separate from each other.[21]

In August 1990, Judge James Albrecht ruled that the tapes of conversations between Erik and his psychologist were admissible because Lyle had voided doctor–patient privilege by threatening physical harm against Oziel. That 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, but not the tape of Erik discussing the murders.[22] After that decision, a Los Angeles County grand jury issued indictments in December 1992, charging the brothers with the murder of their parents.[23]


The Menéndez case became a national sensation when Court TV broadcast the trial in 1993. The younger brother's defense attorney, Leslie Abramson, became famous for her flamboyant defense, alleging that the brothers were driven to murder by a lifetime of abuse at the hands of their parents, including sexual abuse at the hands of their father, who was described as a cruel, callous perfectionist and pedophile, while Kitty was portrayed as a selfish, mentally unstable alcoholic and drug addict, as she had enabled her husband's abuses and was also sometimes violent towards the brothers.[24] The trial ended with two deadlocked juries.

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.[25] During the second trial, Weisberg did not allow much defense testimony about the sexual abuse claims,[26] and also would not allow the jury to vote on manslaughter charges rather than murder charges.[27]

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 chose sentences for the brothers of life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of imposing the death penalty on them. The jury later said that the abuse defense was not a factor in its deliberations and that it decided to not impose the death penalty because both brothers had no criminal record or history of violence prior to the murders of their parents. Unlike the juries in the previous trials, the jury in the penalty phase rejected the defense's theory that the brothers had killed their parents out of fear, as it is believed that they committed the murders in order to gain control over their father's considerable wealth.[28]

During the penalty phase of their murder trial, defense lawyer Abramson allegedly directed a defense witness, William Vicary, to edit his notes, but the district attorney's office decided that it would not conduct a criminal investigation.[29] 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.

On July 2, 1996, Judge Weisberg sentenced the two to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Judge Weisberg sentenced the brothers to consecutive sentences for the murders and the charges of conspiracy to commit murder.


As had been done during their pretrial detention, the California Department of Corrections separated the Menéndez brothers and sent them to different prisons. Both brothers were classified as maximum-security inmates and were segregated from other prisoners.

They remained in separate prisons until February 2018, when Lyle was moved from Mule Creek State Prison, in Northern California, to the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility[30]in San Diego, which has nearly 3,900 male inmates in several housing units. From February until April, they were housed in separate units. On April 4, 2018, Lyle was moved into the same housing unit as Erik, reuniting them for the first time since they began serving their sentences nearly 22 years earlier. Both brothers burst into tears, and embraced, at their first meeting in the housing unit. They are free to visit each other as any two inmates are in this housing unit. The unit where they are housed is reserved for inmates who agree to participate in educational, and other rehabilitation, programs without creating disruptions.[31][32][33]


On February 27, 1998, the California Court of Appeal upheld the murder convictions, and on May 28, 1998, the Supreme Court of California voted to uphold the murder convictions and the 'life without parole' sentences, with none of the Supreme Court justices voting to review the case.[34]

Both brothers filed habeas corpus petitions with the Supreme Court of California, 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 the denial of the petitions.[citation needed] The district court adopted the 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.[35]

Marriages and interviews in prison[edit]

Mug shots of Lyle (left) and Erik Menéndez (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 longtime pen pal Anna Eriksson 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,[34] after Eriksson discovered that Lyle was allegedly cheating on her with another woman. In November 2003, Lyle, then 35, married Rebecca Sneed, a 33-year-old magazine editor from Sacramento, at a ceremony in a supermax prison visiting area of Mule Creek State Prison. Lyle and Rebecca had known each other for around ten years before their engagement.[36][37]

In 1997, Erik was married in a telephone ceremony at Folsom State Prison. On June 12, 1999, Erik, 28, married Tammi Ruth Saccoman, 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."[38][39] 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."[40] In 2005, Tammi also self-published a book, They Said We'd Never Make It – My Life With Erik Menéndez, but she said on Larry King Live that Erik "did a lot of editing on the book."[41]

In a 2005 interview with People magazine, she stated, "Not having sex in my life is difficult, but it's not a problem for me. I have to be emotionally attached, 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 stated that she and her 10-year-old daughter drive the 150 miles (240 km) every weekend to see Erik, and her daughter refers to him as her "Earth Dad."[38]

Regarding his sentence of life in prison without the possibility of 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."[38]

In 2010, A&E released a documentary on Tammi, Mrs. Menéndez.[42] In late 2017, A&E aired a five-part documentary, titled The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All, in which Erik, via telephone, recalls the murders and the aftermath. The series also provides never-before-seen photos and new interviews with prosecutors, law enforcement, close family, friends and medical experts.[43]

In popular culture[edit]

The Menéndez brothers were featured in a 2017 documentary titled Truth and Lies: The Menéndez Brothers — American Sons, American Murderers on ABC, as well as on an episode of Snapped in 2016. The murders are the subjects of multiple docu-dramas, including the Lifetime movie Menendez: Blood Brothers (2017), as well as the 1994 television film Menendez: A Killing in Beverly Hills on CBS, and Honor Thy Father and Mother: The True Story of the Menendez Murders on Fox the same year. The media hype surrounding the first trial was parodied in the 1996 dark comedy film The Cable Guy. The Menéndez brothers were also the subject of the weekly satire podcast The Last Podcast on the Left in 2016. They were also depicted in the film Natural Born Killers.

The Menendez brothers' story is also represented in Barbara Walters Presents: American Scandals, Season 1, Episode 4, "Menendez Brothers: The Bad Sons".

In the episode of The Larry Sanders Show "Hank's Sex Tape" Jeffrey Tambor's character Hank Kingsley plans with his assistant to kill Larry after being humiliated by him. He says that he'll get a couple of shotguns and that one of them will be Erik while the other will be Lyle.

In an episode of NBC's 30 Rock titled "Gavin Volure", Tracy Jordan is worried that his kids are going to "Menendez" him because they are acting strangely, going as far as to use a Japanese sex doll of his likeness to fool his children, and eventually, Gavin Volure in the episode's conclusion; in another episode ("Nothing Left to Lose"), main character Jenna Maroney is revealed to have a tattoo on her forearm that says "Free Lyle Menendez."... that she had tattooed in 2007.

Documentary series from Court TV (now TruTV) MUGSHOTS: Menendez Brothers - Blood Brothers episode (2000) at FilmRise.[44][45][46]

Law & Order True Crime: The Menéndez Murders, premiered on NBC in September 2017.[47]

HLN launched the new series How it Really Happened with Hill Harper with the Menéndez brothers story. The episode is titled "The Menéndez Brothers: Murder in Beverly Hills", Series 1; Episode 1, original air date: January 27, 2017. The episode ends with a telephone interview of Erik Menéndez from jail with Chris Cuomo.[48]

Lyle and Erik Menendez appear in the background of the 1990–91 NBA Hoops Mark Jackson basketball card in which the New York Knicks point guard is depicted making a bounce pass, in which they appear to be sitting courtside behind Jackson.[49] In December 2018, eBay began pulling auctions in which the Menendez brothers are mentioned in the listing's title. The New York Knicks played 28 games during the period in which the Menendez brothers went on what has been referred to in court as a spending spree after the murders of their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, on August 20, 1989. Some eBay sellers have continued selling the card without mentioning the Menendez brothers in the title, and some have altered the images accompanying the listing so that they are not visible.[50]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CDCR - State of California Inmate Locator
  2. ^ CDCR - State of California Inmate Locator
  3. ^ "Jose Menendez". IMDb. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  4. ^ Johnson, John; Soble, Ronald L. "The Menendez Brothers: Jose Menendez Gave His Sons Everything. Maybe Even a Motive for Murder". Los Angeles Times. p. 3.
  5. ^ Pergament, Rachel. "The Menéndez Brothers". Crime Library. Archived from the original on November 2, 2014. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c "Erik Menéndez Biography".
  7. ^ "Kitty Menendez". IMDb. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  8. ^ a b JOHNSON, JOHN; SOBLE, RONALD L. (1990-07-22). "THE MENENDEZ BROTHERS : Jose Menendez Gave His Sons Everything. Maybe Even a Motive for Murder". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  9. ^ "A look back at the story — and coverage — of the Menendez murders". Community News. 2017-09-26. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  10. ^ "Lyle Menendez Finally Speaks From Prison, 27 Years After Killing His Parents". Us Weekly. January 4, 2017. Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  11. ^ "True Crime Revisited: The Menendez Brothers Case". Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  12. ^ "Remembering the Insanity of the Menendez Brothers Murder Case". E! Online. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  13. ^ Joseph Poindexter (1990-03-26). "A Beverly Hills Paradise Lost". People. Retrieved 2017-02-08.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Dunne, Dominick (October 1990). "Nightmare on Elm Drive". Vanity Fair.
  16. ^ "Chuck's Spring Street Cafe in Princeton, NJ - location, details and more". Retrieved 2010-09-27.
  17. ^ "Here's How Much The Menendez Brothers Spent On Their Spree". Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  18. ^ "This Menendez Brothers Murder Map Puts the Crazy Story in Perspective". E! Online. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  19. ^ Dunne, Dominick. "Nightmare on Elm Drive". Vanities. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  20. ^ ABRAHAMSON, ALAN (1993-11-16). "Menendez Therapist's Ex-Lover Testifies : Trial: She says Oziel wanted the brothers to confess on tape so he could 'control' them. Calls that the woman secretly recorded of the stormy affair are also played in court". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  21. ^ "The Arrest". Crime + Investigation. 2017-06-29. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  22. ^ "Menendez v. Superior Court (People) (1992)". Justia Law. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  23. ^ McMILLAN, PENELOPE (1992-12-30). "Menendez Brothers Plead Innocent in Killings : Court: Grand jury indictment means trial in the deaths of their parents could begin in March". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  24. ^ "The Menéndez Brothers". Archived from the original on October 12, 2012. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
  25. ^ Chiasson, Lloyd (1997). The Press on Trial: Crimes and Trials as Media Events. p. 200. ISBN 9780313300226. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  26. ^ "Legal Loophole Could Give Murderous Brothers Erik And Lyle Menendez Chance For New Trial". CBS Los Angeles. November 17, 2016.
  27. ^ "Tammi Menendez on Loving Erik". ABC News. September 27, 2002.
  28. ^ Abrahamson, Alan (April 3, 1994). "Little Remains of Menéndez Estate, Records Show : Courts: Inheritance of $14.5 million was lost to taxes, lawyers' fees and inflated real estate appraisals, probate files reveal". latimes.
  29. ^ "Menendez Lawyer Won't Face Investigation". The New York Times. October 12, 1997. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  30. ^ State of California Inmate Locator - CDCR
  31. ^ "Menendez brothers who killed parents reunited in California prison" (newspaper) (Saturday, April 7, 2018). Detroit Free Press. April 7, 2018. p. 3C. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  32. ^ Sommerfeldt, Chris (2018-04-06). "Parent-killing Menendez brothers 'burst into tears' upon reuniting for first time since sentencing". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  33. ^ "Menendez brothers convicted of killing parents reunite in jail". April 7, 2018.
  34. ^ a b Pergament, Rachel. "The Menéndez Brothers". Archived from the original on May 6, 2007. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
  36. ^ Should single guys trade their pinstripes for prison stripes? (Dan Abrams), January 18, 2006 (retrieved on September 2, 2008)
  37. ^ Parent killer Menéndez marries in Calif. prison,, November 23, 2003 (retrieved on September 2, 2008)
  38. ^ a b c "Life & Love Behind Bars" by Bill Hewitt, People Magazine, November 7, 2005 Vol. 64 No. 19.
  39. ^ "Convicted murderer Erik Menéndez marries in prison". CNN. June 16, 1999. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
  40. ^ "Erik Menéndez's Life Behind Bars". ABC News. October 25, 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
  41. ^ "Interview With Tammi Menéndez". CNN. December 20, 2005. Retrieved 2015-06-13.
  42. ^ "Menéndez brothers convicted in parents' murder 16 years ago". March 20, 2012.
  43. ^ "The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All" at The Futon Critic
  44. ^ "MUGSHOTS: Menendez Brothers". FilmRise. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  45. ^ "Mugshots (TV Series 2000)". Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  46. ^ "Mugshots: Menendez Brothers - Blood Brothers: Ellen Goosenberg Kent: Amazon Digital Services LLC". Retrieved November 9, 2017.
  47. ^ Lowry, Brian (September 26, 2017). "'Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders' review". CNN. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  48. ^ "How It Really Happened with Hill Harper | The Menendez Brothers: Murder in Beverly Hills". HLN. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. January 27, 2017. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
  49. ^ Skiver, Kevin (10 December 2018). "Menendez brothers appear in background of Mark Jackson basketball card". CBS Sports. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  50. ^ D'Angelo, Bob (8 December 2018). "Double Take: Infamous Menendez Brothers and the 1990-91 Hoops Mark Jackson". Sports Collectors Daily. Retrieved 13 December 2018.

Further reading[edit]


  • Davis, Don (1994) Bad Blood: The Shocking True Story Behind the Menéndez Killings St. Martin, New York, ISBN 0-312-95334-8
  • Menéndez, Lyle; Novelli, Norma; Walker, Mike; and Spreckels, Judith (1995) The Private Diary of Lyle Menéndez: In His Own Words! Dove Books, Beverly Hills, California, ISBN 0-7871-0474-4
  • Menéndez, Tammi (2005) They Said We'd Never Make It: My Life With Erik Menéndez NewGalen Publishing, Santa Clarita, California, ISBN 0-9768744-0-7
  • Soble, Ronald L. and Johnson, John (1994) Blood Brothers: The Inside Story of the Menéndez Murders Onyx, New York, ISBN 0-451-40547-1
  • Thornton, Hazel; Wrightsman, Lawrence S.; Posey, Amy J. and Scheflin, Alan W. (1995) Hung Jury: The Diary of a Menéndez Juror Temple University Press, Philadelphia; new "20 Years Later" edition updated with new material, Graymalkin Media (2017) ISBN 978-1631681622

External links[edit]