On August 20, 1989, Jose Menendez and his wife, Mary Louise “Kitty” Andersen, were murdered in their Beverly Hills home. Their sons, Erik and Lyle, were later convicted and charged with their murders.
Tonight, in a new two-hour ABC documentary titled “Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers”, imprisoned murderer Lyle Menendez will speak out about his role in his parents’ murders for the first time in 20 years, and will discuss his life behind bars.
Read on to learn more about Jose and Kitty Menendez.
1. Jose Was a Wealthy Entertainment Executive
Jose Menendez was a Cuban emigre who was raised by “well-to-do business people and star athletes”, according to the LA Times. He moved to the US when he was 16, and met Mary Louise “Kitty” Anderson at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
The two married in 1963, and moved to New York, where Jose worked for Coopers & Lybrand accounting firm. Within a matter of months, he was hired by Lyon’s Container Service in Illinois to be conptroller, and three years later, Menendez was named the company’s president.
In 1980, Jose began working for RCA as the chief operating officer, and made roughly $500,000 a year, reports the LA Times. At the time, an entertainment attorney and friend of Jose told the outlet, “His attitude was, ‘I’m a winner. I’m going to take this dog company and make it No. 1.'” Jose eventually uprooted his family to Calabasas, California, in 1987, where he worked as the CEO of LIVE Entertainment. Kitty, meanwhile, was a homemaker and “socialite”.
2. Jose Has Been Described as Overbearing and Tyrannical
Jose has been described as demanding, overbearing, and tyrannical, and during the trials, the defense interviewed six former teachers, six relatives, five neighbors, four tennis coaches, a swim coach and a soccer coach, who all recounted “unpleasant memories of the victims”, writes the New York Times in 1993.
The outlet describes one witness who testified in trial– a guest who sat near Jose during a banquet, and claims that at one point, Jose turned to Lyle and said, “Shut up, you dummy.”
Investigative journalist Dominick Dunne covered the Menendez brothers trial and wrote an article for Vanity Fair in 1990 titled “Nightmare on Elm Drive.” In the article, Dunne details a trip he took from New York to LA, during which he met a teenage boy who was “returning to California after a sojourn in Europe.” He struck up a conversation with the boy, and learned he lived in the same general area as the house where Kitty and Jose were shot. When Dunne asked the boy if he knew the Menendez brothers, the boy responded no, as they were older than him. Dunne commented on the terrible nature of the murders, and the boy responded, “Yeah, I heard the father was pretty rough on those kids.”
In a 1996 interview with Barbara Walters, Erik said his relationship with his father was, “Brutal. Painful. Torturous… And yet, I admired him.”
3. Kitty Was Shot Several Times in the Face and Torso
Erik was 18 at the time of the murders, and Lyle was 21. According to ABC News, Kitty was shot several times in the face and torso on the night of August 20, 1989, and was unrecognizable by the time police arrived at the scene. Jose, meanwhile, had been shot point-blank in the back of the head.
On October 24, 1995, (the retrial of Lyle and Erik Menendez) Amanda Grier testified that she had sold Erik two 12-gauge Mossberg shotguns two days before the murders. Grier said that Erik used fake identification to purchase the guns, reports CNN.
The brothers were arrested in 1990. The first trial, which ended on January 13, 1994, resulted in a hung jury, and the second trial, in 1995, resulted in a first-degree murder conviction. In his interview with ABC, Lyle says, “You’re not living in the reality of what has occurred and why it occurred with anyone in your life… Emotionally you’re a ghost. You’re just living like a ghost among people that are alive.”
4. They Lived in a $5 Million Mansion in Beverly Hills
At the time of their deaths, Jose and Kitty lived in a $5 million Beverly Hills mansion, that was once home to Elton John and Michael Jackson, according to the Los Angeles Times.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that the brothers murdered their parents to inherit their family’s fortune– according to the NY Times, Jose and Kitty’s will made their sons the sole beneficiaries of a $14 million estate.
The defense, meanwhile, said the brothers acted in self-defense, and had been abused by their father for years. During the trial, Erik took the stand to testify that he and his brother feared Jose, and had been sexually abused by him.
5. A Neighbor Testified in Trial That Kitty Seemed “Strange” Three Weeks Before Her Death
A 1993 article in the LA Times described Kitty as “needy, pathetic, athletic, disorganized, suspicious and spacey”, and reported that in trial, a former neighbor, Alicia Hercz, testified that she had been acting strange the three weeks before being killed by Erik and Lyle.
Hercz also said that Kitty would constantly speak of a trip she was taking to visit family in South America, where she had no known relatives or family. “It was the strangest I had ever seen her,” Hercz said.
According to a memorial bio written by Kit Benson (a Law Enforcement Officer and Detective in NC for ten years) and Morgan Benson (a member of the Civil Air Patrol, The Retired Officers Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Society of American Military Engineers), Kitty was born on October 14, 1941, in Cook County, Illinois. She was the youngest of four children and her father owned a heating and air-conditioning company. She was a senior at SIU when she met Jose, and received her BS degree in communications.