Why Did the Menendez Brothers Kill Their Parents? Here’s What They’ve Said About the Double-Murder
It’s been more than 30 years since Erik and Lyle Menendez brutally murdered their parents in August 1989. The infamous double homicide of Kitty and Jose Menendez has been revisited by news organizations and investigators and is now the central story at the heart of season 2 of Ryan Murphy’s anthology, Monsters: The Lyle and Erik Menendez Story. Keep reading for details about the murders, the brothers’ motivations and more.
What Happened During the Menendez Murders?
On the night of August 20, 1989, Lyle and Erik entered their Beverly Hills home armed with shotguns. Their parents, Jose and Kitty, were sitting on a couch in the den when the brothers approached them with the weapons. Using a 12-gauge shotgun, the brothers shot their father a total of five times, including to the back of the head. Lyle went back to their vehicle to reload, and reentered the home. He proceeded to hold the gun to his mother’s face, shooting her again through the cheek.
Why Did the Menendez Brothers Kill Their Parents?
Prosecutors believed that the Menendez brothers’ main motivation was greed, as the brothers proceeded to purchase real estate property, sports cars and Rolex watches in the weeks that followed the murders. In ABC’s Truth And Lies: The Menendez Brothers, a two-part special about Erik and Lyle’s gruesome crime, Kitty and Jose’s friend Karen Ferrell echoed this notion, saying that Lyle and Erik were scared of being written out of their parents’ will. At the time, Jose — a prominent music executive — and his wife were worth an estimated $14 million. Karen recalled a moment when Kitty was at the family computer updating her will and speaking openly about removing her boys’ names. “She said, ‘I don’t care. They know I’m not gonna give them any money,'” Karen remembered.
However, Lyle and Erik — who were 21 and 18 at the time, respectively — eventually said that they killed their mother and father because they were fearful of their own lives and claimed that both their parents had emotionally abused and molested the siblings from a very young age.
“My own childhood prepared me surprisingly well for the chaos of prison life. You feel that loss of freedom deeply,” Lyle said. “It’s shocking to think about that that happened. It’s still jarring. Like, it seems so far removed from who I am and who I was. It could have so easily not have happened.”
Did the Menendez Brothers’ Father Abuse Them?
In the time since the murders, the Menendez brothers have maintained that their father sexually molested them for years. Their claims were further bolstered by Roy Rosselló, a member of the 1980s boy band Menudo, who asserted that Jose assaulted him while an executive at RCA Records.
“I know what he did to me in his house,” Roy said while appearing on NBC’s Today ahead of the release of Peacock’s series Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed, claiming that he was just 14 years old at the time Jose allegedly drugged and raped him. “That’s the man here that raped me,” Roy said while pointing to a photo of Jose. “That’s the pedophile. … It’s time for the world to know the truth.”
Where Are the Menendez Brothers Today?
The Menendez brothers are currently serving life sentences at San Diego’s Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. They were previously jailed separately, with Lyle serving his sentence at Mule Creek State Prison from 1996 until 2018, and Erik at Pleasant Valley Prison for the same duration. The two reunited for the first time in 2018 after having not seen each other since September 10, 1996.
While in separate prisons, the brothers were not allowed to speak to each other on the phone, but rather would send letters back and forth to each other. Once reunited, Lyle and Erik “burst into tears immediately,” according to reporter Robert Rand who has covered the Menendez murders since 1989.
“They just hugged each other for a few minutes without saying any words to each other,” Rand told ABC News. “Then the prison officials let them spend an hour together in a room.”
What Have the Menendez Brothers Said About the Murders?
Over the years, the siblings have opened up in interviews about gunning down Kitty and Jose in their family’s Beverly Hills mansion.
In January 2017, Lyle told ABC News how he has learned to live with the crime. “I am the kid that did kill his parents, and no river of tears has changed that and no amount of regret has changed it,” he said at the time. “I accept that. You are often defined by a few moments of your life, but that’s not who you are in your life, you know. Your life is your totality of it.”
Erik is more press-shy, but during a 2005 interview with People, he suggested that a rough upbringing served as the catalyst for his decision to take his parents’ lives.
“I killed the two people I loved the most. I loved my dad. Listen, how much anger can you have toward someone after killing them? I loved my parents. And that is my real prison. I look forward to dying,” he explained. “Oh, people say that I had everything, that I was rich and lived in Beverly Hills. But if you had photos of the events of my childhood, they would be crime photos. I was dying long before the night I killed my parents.”
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