Jose and Kitty Menendez Murders: How Did They Die? Who Killed Them?

Image Credit: ABC News/YouTube

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 gruesome homicide. Both ‘Blood & Money: The Case of the Menendez Brothers Today’ as well as ’48 Hours: The Menendez Brothers’ Fight for Freedom’ chronicle this horrific double murder and follow the investigation that brought the perpetrators to justice.

Jose and Kitty Menendez Were Shot at Close Range

A native of Cuba, Jose Menendez and his family moved to the US after Fidel Castro came to power around 1960. Once in the new country, he began attending Southern Illinois University, which is where he met Kitty for the first time. Although it wasn’t love at first sight, the duo 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.

Image Credit: ABC News/YouTube

However, by 1986, Jose and his family had relocated 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 received a frantic call for a possible homicide in the Menendez house.

Once first responders arrived at 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 while Jose had been shot 6 times, Kitty suffered a total of 10 such wounds, which led to their deaths. However, much to everyone’s surprise, police found no evidence of forced entry, indicating that the double homicide was an inside job.

Jose and Kitty Menendez’s Sons Lyle and Erik Menendez Were Behind the Crime

The initial investigation into Jose and Kitty’s murders was pretty challenging as officials 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, they came up empty-handed. Jose and Kitty’s adult sons, Lyle and Erik, 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 had only discovered their parents’ bodies after returning home.

Lyle Menendez

In fact, the brothers were the ones who’d called 911. Since they appeared quite devastated, investigators initially did not suspect them of any foul play. Yet, they soon got quite suspicious 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.

Erik Menendez

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 did try to get their conviction overturned multiple times, but the court has since rejected all of their petitions.

Read More: Where Are Lyle and Erik Menendez Now?