Nearly 30 years after the Menendez brothers first made headlines for murdering their parents at their Beverly Hills mansion, Lyle Menendez maintains that their father’s alleged sexual abuse was what ultimately caused them to snap.
“Once I found out what was happening with my brother, I confronted my father, [and] he reacted with threats,” Lyle told Today’s Megyn Kelly in an interview Wednesday following the Tuesday premiere of a four-part NBC miniseries, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers.
“In the midst of that, my mother got involved [in it],” he continued. “We found out the extent of what she knew about it – and she made – it was just a bunch of arguments about it … [it was an] overwhelming emotional situation, and for me, it’s hard to almost go back and put myself in that situation.”
Asked what emotions he experiences thinking back on the lead-up to his parents’ murder, Lyle responded, “just, just anger, and just, you know, hopelessness.”
Lyle and his younger brother Erik shot and killed their father, Jose, and mother, Kitty, at their Beverly Hills mansion on August 20th, 1989. The brothers, who were 21 and 18 at the time, tried to at first blame the attacks on the Mafia or a business deal gone wrong. They spent their inheritance on Rolex watches, high-end condos and expensive cars in the following months.
Then, in early 1990, Erik, consumed by guilt, confessed his therapist that he and his brother were the ones who were responsible for their parents’ deaths, and they were promptly arrested that March.
Lyle claimed in his interview with Kelly Wednesday that the brothers didn’t necessarily plan the murders. “I mean, there was no alibi, no plan,” he said. “It would be a crazy plan to use a shotgun in the middle of Beverly Hills. The houses are literally 10 yards apart and the police station is a quarter mile away. There’s no sane person who would have a plan like that.”
The brothers were tried twice: first, in 1993, in a court case that was broadcast live on Court TV before a pair of juries, one for each brother, that ultimately both deadlocked. They were tried again in 1995 without cameras by a single jury; they were both convicted of murder.
Lyle, now 49, is currently serving a life sentence at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California, and Erik, now 46, is serving a life sentence at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. According to Lyle, the pair haven’t seen each other in 17 years, though they maintain contact through family and through letters.
One of the bright spots in his life right now is his wife, a woman from New Jersey whom he met through email. “I get a lot of joy from my marriage,” he said. “I can talk to her on the phone a great deal, visit with her. For me in here, it’s more about just trying to find more meaning in life than just mere survival.”