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Why did the Menendez brothers murder their parents? ID investigates

Menendez mugshots
Erik (left) and Lyle Menendez were convicted of murdering their parents at their Beverley Hills home. Pic credit: California Dept of Rehabilitation and Correction

Investigation Discovery is examining the case of the Menendez brothers, which infamously rocked a generation and was described as the crime of the century when they murdered their parents in 1989.

The Menendez family appeared to have it all. The father, Jose Menendez, was a Cuban immigrant who had embraced the American dream and his wife Kitty was the all-American girl. They had a beautiful home in Beverly Hills and two sons approaching adulthood, Eric and Lyle, who were athletic and handsome.

However, on August 20, 1989, Lyle, 21, and Eric, 18, murdered their parents by firing multiple rounds from two shotguns. Jose was hit at point-blank range in the back of the head, and Kitty was shot in the torso.

The brothers later spoke about how they were surprised that none of their neighbors had called the cops despite hearing 12 shots ring out. They eventually dialed 911 themselves.

Menendez brothers expected to be arrested on the night of the murders

The brothers later told how they fully expected to be arrested that night and were surprised when the police treated them as victims. The police initially suspected that the mafia was to blame due to the brutality of the crime scene.

However, after the killings, the two brothers’ behavior was deemed strange; they did not act like two men who’d just lost their parents. They spent money lavishly and like it was going out of fashion by buying fancy cars and exotic holidays.

They were finally arrested in 1990 after Erik confessed to his therapist. Their doctor-patient confidentiality was voided when Lyle threatened to kill the therapist. The pair then made a full confession to the police, and the question then shifted to why they had done it.

The first trial began in 1993 and became a public sensation when it was broadcast on TV. The prosecution argued that the brothers had murdered to get their hands on their parents’ inheritance, which included a $5 million life insurance policy.

The defense argued that the Menendez brothers had been subject to a lifetime of sexual and emotional abuse, especially from their father. The defense revealed a household full of lies, deceit, and emotional turmoil that was far removed from their perceived image of the ideal American family.

The brothers were initially tried separately, and both juries ended in deadlock. A second trial saw them tried together, and they were both found guilty of murdering their parents and were sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

The brothers were reunited two years ago in a San Diego prison for the first time since 1996.

More from Investigation Discovery

Follow the links to read about more crimes profiled on ID.

Last month, ID examined the bizarre case of the McMartin Preschool in California, which became the subject of an investigation into child sex abuse. The trial, which lasted a whopping five years, became known for its outlandish accusations and ended without any convictions.

The disappearance of the young Lyon sisters from a Washington DC suburb in 1975 shocked the nation. Was Lloyd Lee Welch the murderer, and was his whole family involved?

The Menendez Brothers: the Crimes That Changed Us airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.

Jerry Brown


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