In the 20-plus years since Erik and Lyle Menendez killed their parents, José and Kitty, the boys say they’ve rarely talked about that fateful August night, yet they’ve never changed their story. Since they were first accused of killing their parents — which many believed was a vain attempt to inherit their parents’ money — the now-adults have always insisted that they did so in self-defense, explaining that they felt murder was the only way to escape the years of sexual abuse they experienced, particularly at the hands of their father (they claimed their mother also touched them inappropriately).
“He used objects…a toothbrush and some sort of shaving utensil brush. He’d rape me,” Lyle said when he took the stand back in the early ‘90s. In his first interview in more than 20 years, Erik shared his remorse about that night — and reiterated why it happened in the first place. “From the moment after, I wanted to go back in time and take back everything that Lyle and I did. It was so wrong. I didn’t want my parents dead — I just wanted the abuse to stop.”
However, in the years since the trial many people — including those closest to the brothers — have had vastly differing opinions about claims that both their parents abused them sexually. Their late mother’s brother, Brian Andersen, dismissed the idea that their mother did anything wrong, telling ABC News, “The idea that Erik and Lyle were abused by my sister Kitty is absolute insanity.” However, some relatives have come to believe the brothers.
Their cousin Diane Vander Molen — who testified at the trial about how the brothers confronted Diane, nine years Lyle’s senior, about the abuse when she lived with her LA-based family for one summer — told ABC News that she “strongly” believes her cousins’ claims. “I know that they would never, ever have done what they did unless they felt they had no choice — that it was either them or their parents,” she explained earlier this year. “I know for 100 precent that there was [abuse in the family]. Their privacy was everything to them. They were completely different people when nobody was around. And then José and Kitty would turn on the charm when they had people over, which wasn’t very often.”
In light of the varying opinions of their story, Lyle has come to accept those dubious of his claims. “There’s always going to be skepticism,” he said earlier this year. “People think I just hopped on the witness stand and told a story that a sleazy defense attorney made up. But many people knew there was a sexual abuse in this family.”