Residents of Beverly Hills, California, were left shocked when corporate executive Jose Menendez and his wife, Mary Louise “Kitty” Menendez, were murdered inside their home in cold blood. The police arrived to find the couple unresponsive and bleeding profusely while the TV was still on. Besides, even though the scene initially looked like a robbery gone wrong, authorities soon found evidence that indicated a gruesome homicide. ‘Blood & Money: The Case of the Menendez Brothers Today’ chronicles the horrific double murder and follows the investigation that brought the perpetrators to justice. Let’s delve into the details surrounding the crime and find out more, shall we?
How Did Jose and Kitty Menendez Die?
A native of Cuba, Jose Menendez and his family moved to the US after Fidel Castro came to power. Once in the new country, Jose began attending Southern Illinois University, which is where he met Kitty for the first time. Although it wasn’t love at first sight, Jose and Kitty soon started dating before tying the knot and settling in New York City. However, Jose subsequently earned an accounting degree from Queens College and took up work as a corporate executive, following which, he, his wife, and their children, Joseph Lyle and Erik Menendez, moved to New Jersey.
Yet by 1986, Jose and his family shifted to Beverly Hills, where they settled in a friendly neighborhood. People who knew the Menendez family described them as kindhearted and generous people who loved helping others. Besides, they were also known to be good parents, which made their sudden demise all the more shocking. On August 20, 1989, 911 operators in Beverly Hills received a frantic phone call in which the caller informed them about a possible homicide in the Menendez house.
Once first responders reached the scene, they found Jose and Kitty Menendez lying unresponsive while bleeding profusely from what looked like close-range shotgun wounds. Later, an autopsy determined that Jose was shot 6 times, while Kitty suffered a total of 10 gunshot wounds which led to their deaths. However, much to everyone’s surprise, the police found no evidence of forced entry, indicating that the double homicide was an inside job.
Who Killed Jose and Kitty Menendez?
The initial investigation into Jose and Kitty’s murders was pretty challenging as the police did not have any leads or witnesses to work with. Although they thoroughly searched the crime scene and even canvassed the area around the house, detectives came up empty-handed. Jose and Kitty’s adult sons, Lyle and Erik Menendez, were present in the house when first responders arrived on the scene. However, the pair claimed they were away watching a movie as well as attending a festival at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and only managed to discover their parents’ bodies after returning home.
In fact, the brothers were the ones who called 911. Since they appeared quite devastated, the police did not suspect them of any foul play. Nevertheless, the police soon got quite suspicious of Lyle and Erik Menendez as they began misusing their parents’ wealth by spending it on unnecessary and costly things. On top of it, they even went on several overseas trips and bought two neighboring houses in the community of Marina del Rey. Meantime, authorities had finished interviewing the neighbors, one of whom claimed she saw two male figures entering the Menendez house shortly before Jose and Kitty were murdered.
Yet, the investigation came to a standstill as the neighbor was not able to describe the perpetrators. Still, the police received a significant breakthrough when a woman named Judalon Smyth approached detectives and claimed she knew who killed Jose and Kitty Menendez. Judalon’s then-boyfriend, Dr. Leon Jerome Oziel, was Erik Menendez’s therapist, and the younger Menendez sibling had reportedly confessed to murdering his parents along with his elder brother.
Even Dr. Oziel was ready to testify against the Menendez brothers, and the authorities soon learned that the shotguns were purchased in San Diego under Donovan Goodreau’s name. Interestingly, Donovan, who was Lyle’s friend from Princeton, claimed his ID was stolen before the double homicide, and once detectives found the same ID in the Menendez brothers’ possession, they arrested Lyle and Erik before charging them with murder.
Initially, Erik and Lyle were tried separately, and although they both admitted to shooting their parents, they accused their father of sexually abusing them during their childhood. Hence, the trials ended in a hung jury, and the prosecution chose to hold a single retrial for both accused. The second trial had a different outcome as Erik and Lyle were convicted on two counts, each of first-degree murder as well as of conspiracy to commit murder, and the judge sentenced them to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1996.
Following their sentencing, the Menendez brothers tried to get their conviction overturned multiple times, but the court rejected all of their petitions. However, the brothers have since married their prison pen pals and are currently incarcerated at the RJ Donovan Correctional Facility in unincorporated southern San Diego County, California, where they have reportedly earned some special benefits as “Group A” prisoners.
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