REAL LIFE

that’s life! True Crime File: Rich kids tell ‘why we killed our parents’

The Menendez brothers have spoken out.
Getty Images

From the outside, the Menéndez family appeared to have it all.

José Menéndez was the executive vice-president of a film company. The self-made millionaire from Cuba lived in a Beverly Hills mansion with his wife, Kitty, and their sons, Lyle, 21, and Erik, 18.

The boys had been in their fair share of mischief, but their father’s status spared them any real consequences. So why then, on the evening of August 20, 1989, did Lyle and Erik shoot their parents as they sat watching TV?

Prosecutors claimed the spending spree the brothers went on proves they were motivated by the prospect of a $14 million inheritance, but Lyle and Erik tell a different story.

They say they suffered years of abuse at the hands of their father and their mother didn’t do anything to stop it. On that deadly night, the pair say they finally snapped.

After a lengthy trial, in March 1996 both were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. In September Lyle, still in prison, spoke to Today in the USA and maintained the murder was not premeditated.

‘There was no plan. It would be a crazy plan to use a shotgun in the middle of Beverly Hills,’ he said.

Although in different prisons, the brothers stay in contact through letters. Both men say they regret what they did.

‘There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about what happened and wish I could take that moment back,’ Erik admits.

For more, pick up this week’s copy of that’s life! – on sale now.

Related stories