Where Are Lyle and Erik Menendez Now?

Two convicted brothers, Lyle and Erik Menendez, were imprisoned to life for the murder of their parents but when some new evidence surfaced more than three decades later, they became hopeful for a reduced sentence. With the help of some exclusive interviews with people closely related to the Menendez brothers and this case, the episode titled ‘The Menendez Brothers’ Fight for Freedom’ of CBS’ ’48 Hours’ takes us back in time and recounts all the events that led Lyle and Erik to their conviction in the court, as well as their vehement decades-long fight for freedom.

Lyle and Erik Menendez Were Convicted of Killing Their Parents

While Joseph Lyle Menéndez was born on January 10, 1968, in New York City, New York, Erik Galen Menéndez was brought into the world on November 27, 1970, in Blackwood, New Jersey. Both were the sons of José Enrique Menéndez and Mary Louise “Kitty” Menéndez. Growing up in Hopewell Township, the two brothers had a close-knit bond with each other and went to the same school for education — Princeton Day School. The elder one, Lyle, then went to Princeton University for higher studies but he got poor grades and was eventually suspended for plagiarism.

On the other hand, Erik scored average grades while studying at Beverly Hills High School. But on the sports front, he showed great potential in tennis, managing to get a ranking of 44 in the States as a junior. Though as per his claims, he was subjected to molestation by his own father since the early age of six. In fact, in the summer of 1976, even Lyle had allegedly confessed about their father’s sexually abusive nature to cousin Diane Vander Molen while she was paying them a visit. When she told the brothers’ mother Kitty, according to her narrative, the latter took her husband’s side and told her that Lyle was lying.

At 17, Erik reportedly tried to resist Jose’s advances but it got even more violent as he got thrown on the bed before a knife was threateningly held to his throat. He then joined the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1989 in the hopes it would give him a break from his father’s alleged abuse. But Jose demanded he spend some nights in the house every week. On the other hand, Erik still participated in the 1989 Boys’ Junior National Tennis Championship and reached the second round of qualifying in the Boys’ 18 singles. However, when things did not get better with their father, Erik and Lyle resorted to some extreme measures that forever altered their and their family’s lives.

On the evening of August 20, 1989, the Menendez brothers, strapped up with shotguns, came in bursting through their family’s Beverly Hills mansion, and began firing shots at their parents. Jose suffered six bullet wounds, including a fatal one to the head, while Kitty faced 10 gunshots before she finally succumbed to her fatal injuries. Leaving a gruesome crime scene at their wake, Lyle and Erik then worked on covering their tracks and making up an alibi that involved a movie theater visit. At first, authorities suspected it was an organized crime hit considering the family’s wealth and business but when they found out about the ensuing extravagant purchases by the brothers, including a Porsche, a restaurant, and foreign trips, they pondered if the $14 million estate served as motivation for them.

Traumatized by the events, Erik found comfort in therapy and confessed about what he and his brother had done to his psychologist, whose mistress heard the same and informed the police, leading to their arrest in March 1990. During the trial, various relatives attested to the brothers’ claims of sexual abuse against their father but prosecutors alleged they’d lied about it to distract everyone from their greed-driven actions. While the first trial occurred separately for Lyle and Erik, the second one was a joint trial in 1996.

After a mistrial and several appeals, the jury convicted both brothers of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, resulting in them being handed down a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Lyle and Erik were sent to different prisons and kept segregated from other inmates as they were reputed as maximum-security inmates. Lyle was kept behind bars in Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California, whereas his brother was incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.

Nevertheless, the brothers eventually managed to continue on with their lives. Lyle tied the knot with Anna Eriksson on July 2, 1996, in the attendance of Abramson and his aunt Marta Menendez. But when Eriksson found out about Lyle’s alleged adultery, they got divorced on April 1, 2001. A couple of years later, in November 2003, he married Rebecca Sneed in the visiting area of Mule Creek State Prison. Meanwhile, on June 12, 1999, Erik got married to Tammi Ruth Saccoman at Folsom State Prison in a prison waiting room.

New Evidence in Lyle and Erik Menendez’s Case Sparks Hope For a Retrial

Even after the passage of several years, the bond between Lyle and Erik Menendez is still extremely tight. Shedding light on it in a jail interview with People in 2017, the former explained that they exchanged letters and even played chess via mail. Then, over two decades following their conviction in different prison facilities, they were shifted to the same prison for the first time in February 2018. Prison records indicate that Lyle was moved over 500 miles from Mule Creek Prison in Ione to Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, where Erik had already been serving his sentence. While the brothers weren’t in contact with each other initially as they were holed up in different units, they finally reunited when they were ordered to move into the same unit.

It has also since been reported that the brothers participated in educational activities and rehabilitation programs inside the prison walls. A few years down the line, in May 2022, journalist Robert Rand interviewed Lyle and provided an update on their condition. “In general, Lyle is doing well and he looks great,” he said before going on to talk about the brothers’ contribution to the prison community. “Lyle is very involved in prison reform activism; both brothers are working together on a large mural being painted on the gray concrete walls at the prison,” he stated. “Erik leads several self-help groups every week at Donovan, including a mindful meditation group, and has started a hospice group at Donovan.”

The month of May in 2023 then saw a surprising turn of events for the Menendez brothers as their lawyers filed a habeas petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court stating the purported emergence of two new pieces of evidence that they believe is sufficient to prove that the pair is not guilty of murder for greed but manslaughter allegedly committed in self-defense. The attorneys mentioned that they got hold of a letter dating back to December 1988 that likely serves as a corroboration of the allegation that Erik endured sexual abuse at the hands of his father. As per the court document, the letter was addressed to his cousin, Andy Cano, and was discovered by Marta Cano, Jose’s younger sister and Andy’s mother.

The petition also highlighted the claims Roy Rossello, a former member of the popular Latin boy band Menudo, made on the Peacock documentary ‘Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed’ alleging that Jose Menendez raped him in the 1980s while Jose was an executive at RCA Records. Requesting the court to vacate the conviction or enable an evidentiary hearing, the motion read, “In short the new evidence not only shows that Jose Menendez was very much a violent and brutal man who would sexually abuse children, but it strongly suggests that – in fact – he was still abusing Erik Menendez as late as December 1988. Just as the defense had argued all along,”

In June 2023, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office sent the petition for review. As of writing, the authorities are conducting an investigation into the credibility and admissibility of the shreds of evidence to determine whether or not the case needs a retrial. Meanwhile, Lyle and Erik’s attorneys are holding on to the hope that the convictions will be vacated. Coming to the brothers, until their case goes further, they remain incarcerated at the medium to maximum security Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County, California.

Read More: Rebecca and Tammi: Where Are Lyle and Erik Menendez’s Wives Now?