Inside the story of the notorious Menendez brothers case


The Menendez brothers were given life sentences for gunning down their own parents. Now they’re hoping new evidence could reopen the case. “48 Hours” contributor Natalie Morales reports in “The Menendez Brothers’ Fight for Freedom,” airing Saturday, March 2 at 10/9c on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

The question is not whether Lyle and Erik Menendez killed their parents. They admit that they did. Instead, the focus of the case has long been on why they did it. They say they killed out of fear and in self-defense after a lifetime of physical, emotional and sexual abuse suffered at the hands of their parents. Here’s a look at the case.

Aug. 20, 1989: Jose and Kitty Menendez are murdered

Jose and Kitty Menendez
Jose and Kitty Menendez photographed in New Jersey in the1980s.

Robert Rand

On the evening of Sunday, Aug. 20, 1989, Jose and Kitty Menendez were shot multiple times at close range with a shotgun while in the family room of their Beverly Hills mansion.

911 call: “Someone killed my parents”

The Menendez home
The Menendez home in Beverly Hills, California.

Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office

Officers responded to the scene after Lyle Menendez, then 21, called 911, screaming, “Someone killed my parents.”

The Menendez crime scene

First responders at Menendez home
First responders carry the bodies of Jose and Kitty Menendez outside the crime scene. 


Lyle and his then-18-year-old brother Erik Menendez later told investigators that they had arrived home to find their parents shot to death.

Who killed Jose and Kitty Menendez?

Menendez family portrait
A portrait of the Menendez family from October 1988, From left, Lyle, Kitty, Jose and Erik. 

Robert Rand

At the time of his death, Jose Menendez was working for a film studio, running its home video division. Investigators initially suspected that the killings may have been tied to his business dealings, but attention soon shifted to the couple’s sons, Lyle and Erik Menendez.

Lyle and Erik Menendez’ behavior draws scrutiny

Erik and Lyle Nenendez
Erik and Lyle Menendez pose for a photo outside their Beverly Hills home in November 1989. 

Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

In the wake of the crime, the brothers appeared to be spending their parents’ money, and lots of it. They purchased Rolex watches and real estate, and invested in businesses.

A tip leads to arrests

Judalon Smyth testifies in court.
Judalon Smyth testifies in court. 


While the brothers’ behavior in the wake of the crime may have seemed unusual, it wasn’t hard evidence. But then, about six months after the crime, in March 1990, police got a tip from an unlikely source: Judalon Smyth, the girlfriend of a psychologist who Lyle and Erik Menendez had been talking to. She told police that the brothers had confessed to the killings in therapy and there was an audiotaped recording of it. 

March 1990: Lyle and Erik Menendez charged in parents’ murders

Lyle and Erik Menendez August 1990 court hearing
Lyle and Erik Menendez at a court hearing in August 1990.

Associated Press

Days later, on March 8, 1990, Lyle Menendez was arrested by Beverly Hills Police outside the mansion where his parents were killed. Two days after that, Erik Menendez surrendered at Los Angeles International Airport upon returning from Israel where he had been playing tennis.

July 1993: Opening statements begin in the Menendez brothers’ trial

Lyle and Erik Menendez during their first trial.
Lyle, left, and Erik Menendez sit in court with their attorneys during their first trial. 


On July 20, 1993, the highly publicized trial of Lyle and Erik Menendez began. Although they were tried together, they had separate juries deciding their fate. The brothers faced the possibility of the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

Lyle Menendez testifies at the first trial

Lyle Menendez testifying at the first trial.
Lyle Menendez testifying at the first trial.

Associated Press

The defense argued that the brothers killed their parents in self-defense and that they were deserving of a lesser charge and punishment. 

Menendez brothers testify about sexual abuse

Erik, Jose and Lyle Menendez
Erik, left, and Lyle Menendez with their father Jose. 

Milton Andersen

Both brothers took the stand and described how they say they were abused. Lyle Menendez testified that he was sexually abused by his mother and father. He said his father began sexually abusing him when he was only 6 years old.

Erik Menendez testifies at the first trial

Erik Menendez testifying at the first trial.
Erik Menendez testifying at the first trial. 

Associated Press

While Lyle Menendez testified that his father stopped sexually abusing him when he was 8, Erik Menendez testified that it never ended for him and that he finally confided in his older brother Lyle days before the crime — at age 18.

The Menendez crime scene

Jose and Kitty Menendez crime scene
The crime scene at the Menendez home in Beverly Hills, California.

Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office

The brothers testified that Lyle soon confronted their parents — and in the days leading up to the crime, things grew so contentious that they believed their parents were going to kill them to keep the family secret from coming out. They said they believed their parents were going to kill them the night of the crime and that’s why they went into the family room and started shooting their parents.

Menendez brothers’ cousin shows support

Menendez cousin Alan Andersen
Alan Andersen is one of Lyle and Erik Menendez’s cousins who supports them.

CBS News

To bolster their claims of abuse, numerous relatives, friends, and acquaintances of the Menendez family testified for the defense about incidents of physical and emotional abuse that they said they observed. Alan Andersen, Lyle and Erik’s cousin, was one of those witnesses.

While Andersen never saw Lyle and Erik Menendez being sexually abused, he did recall something he says was odd. He told “48 Hours” that growing up, Jose Menendez would take showers with Lyle and Erik and that Kitty Menendez wouldn’t let him go near the room.

Former DA reviews the case for “48 Hours”

Jackie Lacey
Jackie Lacey was a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles at the time of the Menendez murders. Lacey reviewed the case and spoke to “48 Hours.” 

CBS News

Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey didn’t work on the case, but reviewed it at “48 Hours'” request.

“After they killed their parents, they went around and picked up the expended shotgun shell casings so that their fingerprints wouldn’t be discovered on those shells. …There was a lot of thought and deliberation that went into it,” Lacey said.

Prosecutors pushed back against the brothers’ claim of self-defense. They pointed to money as the motive and argued the killings were premeditated since the brothers purchased shotguns days in advance. They said that even if the brothers were abused, it didn’t give them the right to kill.

The judge declares a mistrial

Lyle Menendez in court.
Lyle Menendez in court. 

Associated Press

When deliberations began, they stretched on for weeks before both juries determined they were divided over whether the brothers should be convicted of murder or manslaughter. A mistrial was declared.

October 1995: The second trial begins

Erik Menendez, center, and his brother Lyle, far right, sit with their attorneys during the opening statements of their retrial in Van Nuys, Calif., on Oct. 11, 1995. 

AP Photo/Gus Ruelas

Prosecutors decided to retry the Menendez brothers. At the retrial, which began in October 1995, and consisted of only one jury instead of two, prosecutors argued the brothers were lying about the abuse. They referred to the brothers’ defense as “the abuse excuse.” The prosecution also successfully objected to the admission of a large amount of defense evidence. And, this time, Lyle Menendez declined to take the stand.

Evidence: The crime scene

Menendez crime scene photo
One of the Menendez crime scene photos entered into evidence. 

Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office

The state placed more of an emphasis on the brutality of the crime.

Lyle and Erik Menendez found guilty of first-degree murder

Erik and Lyle Menendez at second trial
Erik, left, and Lyle Menendez sit next to each other in court during their second trial.

Associated Press

The jury deliberated for days before finding Lyle and Erik Menendez guilty of first-degree murder. At the jury’s recommendation, the brothers were later sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.      

2023: New evidence in the Menendez case

Menendez defense attorney Cliff Gardner
Menendez defense attorney Cliff Gardner

CBS News

Almost three decades after their convictions, Cliff Gardner, one of the brothers’ appellate attorneys, tells “48 Hours” that new evidence has come to light proving that Lyle and Erik Menendez were telling the truth about being abused. In May 2023, Gardner filed a habeas petition asking  that the brothers’ convictions be vacated.

“The boys were abused as children. They were abused their whole life. …And this is a manslaughter case, not a murder case. It’s just that simple,” Gardner says.

Had the brothers been convicted of manslaughter, they would have received a much shorter sentence and been out of prison a long time ago.

Evidence: The letter

New Menendez  brothers case evidence
The new evidence includes a letter written by Erik Menendez to his cousin, Andy Cano, in December 1988, about eight months before the crime. 

Superior Court of the State of California, Los Angeles County

The first piece of new evidence is a letter that attorney Cliff Gardner says was written by Erik Menendez to his cousin Andy Cano in December 1988, about eight months prior to the killings. The letter reads, in part, “I’ve been trying to avoid dad. It’s still happening Andy but it’s worse for me now… Every night I stay up thinking he might come in.” Gardner says this is proof the abuse took place.

Evidence: A new witness

Jose Menendez, Edgardo Diaz and Menudo members
Jose Menendez, top row, second from left, is pictured with former members of Menudo in 1983, including Roy Rossello, bottom right. Also pictured is the band’s one-time manager, Edgardo Diaz, top row, second from right.

Sony Music/RCA Records

The other new evidence involves a witness named Roy Rossello, pictured bottom right, who has come forward in a sworn affidavit alleging that he was sexually abused by Jose Menendez too.

Rossello says the abuse took place in the early 80’s when he was a member of the Puerto Rican boy band Menudo. Jose Menendez, top row, second from left, worked as an executive at RCA Records at the time and RCA signed Menudo to a recording contract.

Lyle Menendez awaits judge’s ruling

Lyle Menendez
Lyle Menendez at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego in March 2018. 

K.C. Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune via ZUMA Wire

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office told “48 Hours” that it is investigating the claims made in the habeas petition. Ultimately, it will be up to a judge to decide whether the convictions should be vacated. If they are, then it would be up to the D.A’s office as to whether they would retry the case. As Lyle Menendez awaits a judge’s ruling, he spoke to “48 Hours” contributor Natalie Morales.

He told Morales that when he heard about the new evidence, he was happy. “‘Cause it’s a burden to be telling what happened to you and just have so much doubt in the public air,” he said.


Share this news on your Fb,Twitter and Whatsapp

File source

Times News Network:Latest News Headlines
Times News Network||Health||New York||USA News||Technology||World News

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button