What’s Happened To The Menendez Brothers Since They Killed Their Parents?

The sensationalized 1989 murders and the siblings’ subsequent trials mesmerized the nation.

August 20, 2021
The Menendez Brothers mugshots

Photo by: Erik Menendez (left) and Lyle Menendez (right) [California Department of Corrections]

Erik Menendez (left) and Lyle Menendez (right) [California Department of Corrections]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

Lyle and Erik Menendez became infamous after the brothers murdered their parents, José and Mary “Kitty” Menendez, in the family’s home in Beverly Hills, California, on August 20, 1989.

Lyle and Erik, then 21 and 18, went into the den where their parents were watching television and used 12-gauge shotguns to shoot their father point-blank in the head and blast their mother in the torso and face. The siblings reportedly fired at José and Kitty a total of 15 times.

In their first separate trials, both Lyle and Erik claimed self-defense, alleging their father, a Cuban-American businessman, sexually abused them while their mother turned a blind eye. Prosecutors countered the pair were greedy and committed the grisly crimes in an attempt to inherit their wealthy parents’ fortune and go on a lavish spending spree funded by a $500,000 insurance payout.

Both juries deadlocked, resulting in mistrials. In 1996, however, each brother was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive life terms without parole. Officials separated the siblings and sent them to prisons on opposite ends of California.

In 2018, after over a 20-year separation, the Department of Corrections approved Lyle’s request to be moved from Mule Creek State Prison in the northern part of the state to San Diego’s R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility, where his brother, Eric, had been serving his sentence. The two are now incarcerated together.

“It has been a long torturous ordeal but never did I feel hopeless,” Lyle wrote at the time on a Facebook page managed by family and friends.

Lyle, 53, and Erik, 50, are also both currently in relationships with women they met while in prison.

Lyle, who was married to his first wife, Anna Eriksson, until their 5-year marriage ended in 1996, has been wed to Rebecca Sneed since 2003.

“Our interaction tends to be very free of distractions and we probably have more intimate conversations than most married spouses do, who are distracted by life’s events,” Lyle told People in a 2017 interview, noting she came to visit him in prison nearly every weekend and constantly kept in touch.

“We try and talk on the phone every day, sometimes several times a day,” he explained. “I have a very steady, involved marriage and that helps sustain me and brings a lot of peace and joy. It’s a counter to the unpredictable, very stressful environment here.”

Erik has been with his wife, Tammi Menendez, since 1999. “Having someone who loves you unconditionally, who you can be completely open with, is good for anybody — to know this person loves me as I am,” he shared with the publication.

The brothers’ longtime supporter and advocate, journalist Robert Rand, recently told Los Angeles Magazine that even though Lyle and Erik have exhausted all their appeals, they hope to be able to overturn their convictions, especially with the introduction of possible new evidence and the encouragement of supporters, including younger generations who are just learning about the sensationalized case now.

“I would never diminish the ability of a movement to gain legal traction,” celebrity criminal defender Mark Geragos told the magazine.

He added: “Times change. People start to recalibrate. The law moves, and I’m a big believer that movements can have an effect.”

For exclusive details about the Menendez Brothers' murder case, stream this episode of The Crimes That Changed Us now on discovery+.

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