What would it take for a person to pull the trigger on a 12 gauge shotgun while it is aimed at their father? What about their mother? How about both? It’s impossible to say why a person would do that, let alone two sons in the same family.
Jose Menendez was originally from Cuba but moved to the United States in 1960. Mary Louise ‘Kitty’ Andersen was from Illinois and married Jose in 1963. They would eventually move to New York and welcome their son Joseph Lyle in 1968. In 1970 Erik Galen was born and Kitty was no longer teaching but raising their two children. Jose, as a corporate executive relocated his family to Beverly Hills in 1986.
The idyllic family existence was shattered on August 20, 1989. Lyle and Erik had been out to a movie and the annual Taste of LA Festival, and upon their return home they discovered the bodies of Jose and Kitty, shot to death.
Lyle called police yelling that “Someone killed my parents!”
When police arrived, Lyle and Erik were not suspected and they were never tested to see if they had handled or fired a gun recently. Jose had been shot once in the back of the head from where he had slept on the sofa. Kitty who was next to him rose from the first gunshots and was shot in the leg. She fell from this and was shot several more times in the arm, chest, and face. This left her unrecognizable.
In the months after the deaths of their parents, the Menendez brothers spent lavishly, but not according to other relatives. They did go on vacations, purchased a new home each and even bought other property and luxury items. The police suspected this spree was connected to the murder of their parents.
In March 1990 the brothers were arrested days apart for the murder of their parents. The pre trial proceedings took over two years and their brothers were tried separately and both ended in a hung jury.
The second trial, they were tried together. The brothers claimed that they had murdered their parents because they feared for their lives. They had lived with emotional, physical, and sexual abuse by their father their whole lives. Their mother enabled their father and was drug addicted, an alcoholic, and mentally unstable.
The sexual abuse had started again and weeks before the murder their father had threatened to kill them if they didn’t keep it a secret. In his first trial Erik had been accused of being homosexual and that the alleged sexual abuse was in fact consensual. While in Lyle’s trial the prosecution stated that “Men could not be raped because they lack the necessary equipment to be raped.”
The two brothers learned their parents had rifles hidden in their bedroom, and fearing for their lives they purchased two shotguns. On that day in August, a final confrontation would occur.
The Menendez brothers fired their shotguns at their parents killing them both. Was it justified? Would they have been better off contacting police about the abuse instead? We will never know.
At the second trial the judge did not allow much defense testimony on the abuse allegations and never instructed the jury that they could vote on manslaughter charges instead of murder charges. The jury felt that the brothers killed their parents not out of fear, but out of greed for the inheritance that was almost $15 million.
As a result Lyle and Erik Menendez were convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They were both sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The brothers are now housed in the same prison after 22 years of being in different institutions. They are in the Richard J Donovan Correctional Institution in San Diego CA.
Be strong, make good choices, be safe