Born in New Jersey on November 27, 1970, Erik Menendez and his older brother, Lyle, grew up privileged under the tight rein of a domineering father. In August 1989, Erik's parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, were found shot to death in their Beverly Hills home. The brothers were eventually arrested in 1990 for the killings, and in 1996, both were found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Notorious murderer Erik Menendez was born on November 27, 1970, in New Jersey. He and his older brother, Lyle Menendez, grew up with wealth and privilege under the tight rein of a domineering father. While Lyle was described as aloof and witty, Erik was seen as sensitive and quiet. Erik grew up emulating his older brother and for a time lived in the shadow of Lyle. Both brothers were considered mysterious loners, known for laughing at their own private jokes.
Jose and Kitty Menendez Murdered
In August 1989, Erik's parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, were found shot to death in their Beverly Hills home. Lyle had called 911. Not long after police officers arrived at the home, both Erik and Lyle became suspects in the case.
Enjoying access to the family funds, the brothers went on shopping sprees not long after the brutal deaths of their parents. While he savored his newfound riches, Erik also seemed to struggle with the aftermath of these gruesome killings. He eventually confessed his crimes to his therapist. His brother Lyle also met with the therapist, and Lyle threatened the therapist's life if he ever revealed the truth. The therapist did share the Menendez's brutal crimes with his girlfriend, and she later told the authorities.
The brothers were eventually arrested in 1990 for the murder of their parents. Some of the therapist's tapes were allowed to be used as evidence in Erik and Lyle's criminal trials. In July 1993, Lyle and Erik were tried by different juries, each claiming self-defense for the murders, saying that they had survived years of psychological and sexual abuse from their mother and father. The prosecution sought the death penalty, and in January 1994, mistrials were declared when neither jury could reach a verdict. The retrial took place in October 1995, when both brothers were tried by one jury.
In March 1996, Lyle and Erik were each found guilty of first-degree murder. They avoided the death penalty, and were both sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Life Behind Bars
Erik Menendez spent years seeking a new trial after his 1996 conviction. He and his brother Lyle fought their way through the California courts, but they were denied at every turn. In 2005, the case reached a federal appeals court, which refused to grant the Menendez brothers a new trial.
Around this same time, his wife Tammi Menendez published They Said We'd Never Make It: My Life with Erik Menendez, a book about his experiences in prison and their life together. (The couple had married in Folsom State Prison in 1999.) The two corresponded for some time before deciding to wed. In 2005, Tammi and Erik Menendez gave several interviews to promote her book. During an interview with MSNBC's Rita Cosby, Erik expressed his regret over his parents' murders. He called his crimes "my real prison." Menendez found religion in prison and has led prayer groups, according to a 2005 People magazine article. He told People's reporter, "People view me as this dark guy, a killer. It's been a struggle for me to realize I'm the nation's villain. I'm really not. I'm a good person."
Erik Menendez is currently serving his life sentence at the Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California.
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