Lyle and Erik Menendez

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Lyle Menendez
Born Joseph Lyle Menendez
(1968-01-10) January 10, 1968 (age 48)
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" Menendez
Motive Undetermined
Partner(s) Erik Menendez
Victims 2
Date August 20, 1989
Country United States
State(s) California
Location(s) Beverly Hills
Target(s) Jose and Kitty Menendez
Killed 2
Weapons Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun
Date apprehended
March 8, 1990
Imprisoned at Mule Creek State Prison
Erik Menendez
Born Erik Galen Menendez
(1970-11-27) November 27, 1970 (age 45)
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" Menendez
Motive Undetermined
Partner(s) Lyle Menendez
Victims 2
Date August 20, 1989
Country United States
State(s) California
Location(s) Beverly Hills
Target(s) Jose and Kitty Menendez
Killed 2
Weapons Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun
Date apprehended
March 11, 1990
Imprisoned at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility

Joseph Lyle Menendez (born January 10, 1968) and Erik Galen Menendez (born November 27, 1970) are brothers who are known for their conviction in 1994, as a result of a much-publicized trial, for the shotgun murders of their wealthy parents, entertainment executive Jose Menendez and his wife Mary "Kitty" Menendez of Beverly Hills, California, in 1989. They were sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.


The Menendez brothers' father, Jose, 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 Menendez earned a degree in accounting at Queens College.[1] The couple had two sons: Joseph Lyle Menendez (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 Blackwood, New Jersey.[3]

The Menendez brothers grew up in Princeton, New Jersey,[4] where their father was a corporate executive for The Hertz Corporation; after losing a chance to become CEO of Hertz he eventually was reassigned to RCA (which at the time owned Hertz).[1] Kitty Menendez was a school teacher who quit her job to be a full-time homemaker after Lyle was born. Jose worked hard to reverse the dwindling fortunes of RCA, which at the time had high overhead, high performer salaries and few hits, but this failed to prevent a stock slide. Through connections made in the entertainment business, Jose was elected CEO of LIVE Entertainment, best known for Carolco Pictures, and the family moved to Beverly Hills, California, where the boys spent their adolescence. In New Jersey, both brothers attended Princeton Day School for grade school, and Lyle attended Princeton University. After the family relocated to California during 1987, Erik attended high school in Calabasas, California, with average grades, but showing remarkable athletic skills in tennis, as did his brother Lyle. Lyle was placed on academic probation at Princeton for poor grades and disciplinary problems, and after allegations of plagiarism in his freshman year, he was suspended for one year.


On August 20, 1989, Lyle and Erik were 21 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 retired to the den to watch the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. Neighbors later reported hearing loud bangs about 10 p.m., but dismissed it as nothing to be concerned about, chalking it up to 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, causing it to break. 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 and bought tickets at a local movie theater, intending to see the film Batman as an alibi, but due to it being sold out at the box office they saw the James Bond film License to Kill instead. Following the film the brothers met with friends at the Cheesecake Factory to cement their alibi and gain potential witnesses. 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.[5] 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 the musician Prince and to 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.[6] Lyle bought an expensive Rolex watch; a Porsche Carrera; and Chuck's Spring Street Cafe,[7] a Buffalo wings restaurant in Princeton. 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, who, after being threatened by Lyle, told his girlfriend about the killings. After they broke up, the girlfriend 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 segregated 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 confidentiality due to threatening physical harm against Dr. 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]


The Menendez 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.[8] 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. (Although the brothers were tried together, each had a separate jury.)[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

On July 2, 1996, Judge Weisberg sentenced Lyle and Erik Menendez 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 Menendez 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 Menendez, 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.[12] 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 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.[13]

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.[14][15] 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.[16]

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 Menendez and presided over by Judge Nancy Brown. The two were divorced on April 1, 2001,[13] 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.[17][18]

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."[19][20] 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."[21] Tammi Menendez 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".[22]

In an interview with People magazine, Tammi Menendez 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".[19]

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."[19]

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.[4] He was later transferred to Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.[23] 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.[22][not in citation given]

In 2010, A&E released a documentary on Tammi Menendez, titled Mrs. Menendez.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Johnson, John; Soble, Ronald L. "The Menendez Brothers: Jose Menendez Gave His Sons Everything. Maybe Even a Motive for Murder.". p. 3. 
  2. ^ Pergament, Rachel. "The Menendez Brothers". Retrieved 2014-11-18. 
  3. ^ "Erik Menendez Biography". 
  4. ^ a b c "Menendez brothers convicted in parents' murder 16 years ago". March 20, 2012. 
  5. ^ Dunne, Dominick (October 1990). "Nightmare on Elm Drive". Vanity Fair. Beverly Hills police claimed to have been suspicious of the Menendez brothers from the beginning ... But there was no proof, nothing to go on, merely gut reactions. 
  6. ^ Dunne, Dominick (October 1990). "Nightmare on Elm Drive". Vanity Fair. 
  7. ^ "Chuck's Spring Street Cafe in Princeton, NJ - location, details and more". Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  8. ^[dead link]
  9. ^ Brandon, Karen (April 18, 1996). "L.a. Jury Spares Menendez Brothers". 
  10. ^ Chiasson, Lloyd (1997). The Press on Trial: Crimes and Trials as Media Events. p. 200. Retrieved June 3, 2015. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ "Menendez Lawyer Won't Face Investigation", New York Times, October 12, 1997. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  13. ^ a b Pergament, Rachel. "The Menendez Brothers". Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Should single guys trade their pinstripes for prison stripes? (Dan Abrams), January 18, 2006 (retrieved on September 2, 2008)
  18. ^ Parent killer Menendez marries in Calif. prison,, November 23, 2003 (retrieved on September 2, 2008)
  19. ^ a b c "Life & Love Behind Bars" by Bill Hewitt, People Magazine, November 07, 2005 Vol. 64 No. 19.
  20. ^ "Convicted murderer Erik Menendez marries in prison". CNN. June 16, 1999. Retrieved 2008-07-19. 
  21. ^ "Erik Menendez's Life Behind Bars". ABC News. October 25, 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-19. 
  22. ^ a b "Interview With Tammi Menendez". CNN. December 20, 2005. Retrieved 2015-06-13. 
  23. ^ "State of California Inmate Locator". 

Further reading[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]