Money & Power
The Menendez Brothers Describe the Moment They Killed Their Rich Parents
"It's chaos-you're not even really sure what you're shooting at," Menendez says in a new interview.
IMAGE GETTY/TED SOQUI / SYGMA
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Twenty-eight years after Lyle and Erik Menendez killed their parents Kitty and José in the family's Beverly Hills mansion, the case still has enough appeal to carry a Law & Order True Crime miniseries on NBC.

In an interview that aired Friday night on Dateline, Lyle, now 49, spoke with correspondent Keith Morrison by telephone from Mule Creek State Prison in California, where he's serving a life sentence for the murders. Morrison, who called Lyle "confident, articulate" and "still eager to explain why he and his brother killed their parents," asked the Menendez brother about when he and Erik decided to kill their parents.


Lyle and Erik Menendez at a 1992 court appearance

"We didn't decide," Lyle said. "It was, we finally, just kind of got overwhelmed with this panic and emotion and made the decision to run into that room."

He went on to describe the scene: "It was dark and as soon as you start firing it's also just an explosion of gun residue in your face in a small room, and there is no—it's chaos, you're not even really sure what you're shooting at."

Lyle reportedly reloaded his shotgun and fired a final shot (there were more than a dozen in total) at his mother's face as she was crawling to get away. He told Morrison he wasn't thinking clearly.

"I certainly in the room wasn't making decisions in a chaotic situation like that," he said. "But reflecting afterwards it haunts me, it does haunt me."

Following the murder, Lyle called 911 and sobbed hysterically. "They killed my parents," he cried to the dispatcher.

But in the Dateline interview, he admitted he wasn't actually "grief-stricken" at all. "Both of us were just in such a state of trauma and I just, it just poured through on that call," Lyle said. "It made it very easy to make that call, really."

Convicting the brothers of the murders wasn't so easy though. The prosecution accused of committing the murders out of a desire for control of their parents' reported $14.5 million estate.

"We got overwhelmed with this panic and emotion and made the decision to run into that room."

In the six months following the murder, Lyle and Erik reportedly blew through $1 million on parties, travel, and shopping. Lyle spent more than $15,000 on three Rolex watches the day before his parents' funeral, witnesses and he would later testify, and in addition to thousands of dollars in gambling losses, Erik had also hired a tennis coach for $60,000 a year in the hopes of going pro.

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But the brothers' lawyers, including Leslie Abramson, argued that José and Kitty Menendez subjected their sons to years of emotional and sexual abuse.


Dateline correspondent Keith Morrison

"I would trade my entire defense for a 30-second video of my father raping me," Lyle told Morrison. "I would trade my whole case for it because I think it's so sanitized and so easy to use the word 'abuse,' [and say] 'Oh the abuse wasn't so bad.'"

He believes he and Erik should have received a plea deal.

"There are, like, two to three hundred parricide cases a year, where a parent is killed by a child. And they are almost all related to abuse. And they are almost all settled. This case, they picked out as different," Lyle said. "I think that it was very easy, because it was Beverly Hills, and my father had a lot of money, to sort of sell this headline that these brothers killed for money."

After two deadlocked jury trials, a third jury finally found the brothers guilty on April 17, 1996. Lyle hasn't seen his brother Erik since 1996 and says he misses him every day (Erik declined Dateline's interview request). Both brothers married while in prison.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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