Where Are the Menéndez Brothers Now? A Look at Their Lives in Prison Over 30 Years After Parents' Murder

The Menéndez brothers murdered their parents in 1989 and alleged that their father abused them

Nick Ut/AP Lyle, left, and Erik Menendez sit in Beverly Hills Municipal Court suspected in the murders of their millionaire parents, Jose and Mary Louise Menendez, March 12, 1990.
Nick Ut/AP Lyle, left, and Erik Menendez sit in Beverly Hills Municipal Court suspected in the murders of their millionaire parents, Jose and Mary Louise Menendez, March 12, 1990.

The Menéndez brothers, Lyle and Erik Menéndez, marked a dark anniversary on Aug. 20, 2023 — 34 years since they murdered their parents, José and Kitty Menéndez.

While José, an entertainment executive, and Kitty, a former teacher, watched TV in their Beverly Hills home on Aug. 20, 1989, Lyle and Erik shot them at point-blank range with shotguns — then called 911 themselves, saying they came home from a night out and found their parents' dead bodies. Intrigue in the case was almost immediate, with initial investigations looking into the mob as potential suspects.

But the notes from the brothers' therapist, a shotgun casing and a screenplay pointed to Lyle and Erik, whom prosecutors claimed were privileged, spoiled and eager to cash in on their father's $14 million fortune. Lyle and Erik had three separate trials, during which they alleged that José was physically, emotionally and sexually abusive and that Kitty was addicted to drugs and alcohol, physically abusive and an enabler of José.

The brothers were each convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, but their stories were far from over.

Their case and conviction have been the subject of several television projects over the years, from A&E’s The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All in 2017 to Peacock's Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed in 2023. Their chilling true story is also the subject of the forthcoming season 2 of Ryan Murphy's Netflix show Monster as well as the 2024 Fox Nation docuseries Menendez Brothers: Victims or Villains.

“I think looking back 34 years now on the trials, Erik and I and our family thought we were going into a manslaughter case with a district attorney that understood the traumatic impact that sexual violence creates in a person,” Lyle reflected in Menendez Brothers: Victims or Villains. “And we ended up with the same sentence as a serial killer.”

From their motives to their life sentences, here's everything to know about the Menéndez brothers and where they are now.

Who are the Menéndez brothers?

<p>VINCE BUCCI/AFP/Getty</p> Erik and Lyle Menendez pre-trial hearing, on December 29, 1992 in Los Angeles.


Erik and Lyle Menendez pre-trial hearing, on December 29, 1992 in Los Angeles.

The children of Hollywood executive José and former pageant queen Kitty, Lyle and Erik were born into wealth and privilege. After graduating from Beverly Hills High School in 1987, Lyle went to Princeton University, where he played varsity tennis. He was reportedly suspended for plagiarism after his first semester, but he returned in early 1989 and dropped out again later that year. During his year away from Princeton, he asked his father for money for a trip to Europe with a girlfriend; when José refused, Lyle's girlfriend paid his way.

Erik was an aspiring tennis player and had planned to attend UCLA; after the murders, he rescinded his enrollment. In 1987, he wrote a screenplay in which an 18-year-old murders his rich parents for their money.

Lyle and Erik claimed that José sexually abused them as children, which they cited as their reason for murdering José and Kitty in their Beverly Hills home.

What crimes did the Menéndez brothers commit?

AP Photo/Nick Ut Lyle and Erik Menendez August 6, 1990, Santa Monica Courtroom.
AP Photo/Nick Ut Lyle and Erik Menendez August 6, 1990, Santa Monica Courtroom.

The Menéndez brothers murdered their parents, José and Kitty, on the evening of Aug. 20, 1989, in their Beverly Hills home. Each armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, Lyle, then 21, and Erik, then 18, shot their parents more than a dozen times. They fired at José at point-blank range and kept shooting Kitty as she was trying to flee.

The brothers have maintained that they had fought with José before the slayings, with Lyle trying to protect Erik from their father's abuse.

After the murders, Lyle called 911, saying between sobs that he and Erik came home from seeing a movie to find their parents dead. Lyle later attributed his sobs on the phone to being "broken down with stress" and trauma. In the months after the killings, the brothers both spent money lavishly: Lyle purchased a café, a Rolex watch and expensive clothing, while Erik hired a full-time tennis coach to pursue the sport professionally.

The weapons were never recovered, but a friend of the brothers found a shell casing in Lyle's jacket pocket. It wasn't until police obtained recordings from Erik and Lyle's therapist, L. Jerome Oziel, that they had "crucial evidence" pointing to parricide.

Lyle was arrested in March 1990, and Erik was arrested at the airport three days later after flying home from a tennis tournament in Israel. The brothers were each charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Their first trials, which were conducted separately and broadcast on Court TV, ended in two hung juries. In a second trial, the brothers were tried together, resulting in their convictions, and they were both sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Why did the Menéndez brothers kill their parents?

<p>ABC</p> Jose and Kitty Menendez, parents of Erik and Lyle.


Jose and Kitty Menendez, parents of Erik and Lyle.

The prosecution's narrative is that Lyle and Erik murdered their parents for money, but the brothers, having admitted to killing them, alleged that it was due to ongoing physical, emotional and sexual abuse from their parents.

"There are, like, two to three hundred parricide cases a year, where a parent is killed by a child. And they are almost all related to abuse. And they are almost all settled. This case they picked out as different," Lyle told Dateline in 2017. "And I think that it was very easy, because it was Beverly Hills and my father had a lot of money, to sort of sell this headline that these brothers killed for money."

Defense witnesses corroborated that the brothers' upbringing was less than idyllic. Charles Wadlington, Lyle and Erik's childhood tennis coach of five years, alleged that José forced them to practice in rain, cold weather, on holidays and even when they were sick. "He was just a scary guy," Wadlington testified. "You could tell he had some kind of hold over them."

The main focus of the defense and the brothers' stated motive was the sexual abuse. Lyle testified that José began molesting him and showing him violent pornography when he was about 6 years old. Lyle also recalled that when he first told his mother Kitty about the abuse, she staunchly denied it.

"I told my mom to tell Dad to leave me alone, that he keeps touching me," Lyle said during the trial, according to The New York Times. "She told me to stop it, that I was exaggerating and my dad had to punish me when I did things wrong." Lyle also alleged that Kitty’s mental health had been "deteriorating" and that she later participated in the abuse, making him watch her undress and putting his face in his sheets when he wet the bed.

The brothers claimed that when Lyle was about 8 years old, José stopped sexually abusing him and began sexually abusing 6-year-old Erik.

"I was my father’s prized son," Lyle told PEOPLE in 2017. "At the same time I had been very brutalized by him and keeping his secret was a part of who I was. What I regret is not having our family somehow get this secret out earlier and maybe it could have been resolved without this tragedy and destruction."

In A&E’s 2017 docuseries The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All, Erik recalled his own experiences in harrowing detail.

"He would have me massage him, and he would have me perform oral sex on him. He would graphically describe to me how he would kill me if I ran away," Erik said.

Erik previously told PEOPLE that his childhood was far from the wealthy and spoiled life that the prosecution suggested he and Lyle had. "Oh, people say that I had everything, that I was rich and lived in Beverly Hills," he said. "But if you had photos of the events of my childhood, they would be crime photos. I was dying long before the night I killed my parents."

Where are the Menéndez brothers now?

<p>California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/AP</p> Erik Menendez in 2016 and Lyle Menendez in 2018.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/AP

Erik Menendez in 2016 and Lyle Menendez in 2018.

For more than 20 years, Lyle and Erik were imprisoned separately, with Lyle in Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California, and Erik about 500 miles away at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County. The brothers didn't speak for years, though they communicated in letters (and played chess through the mail). In February 2018, Lyle was transferred to another housing unit at Richard J. Donovan — and in April, Erik moved into the same unit as Lyle.

When the Menéndez brothers reunited, they burst into tears and Lyle whispered, "Finally," he told DailyMailTV. "It was just a remarkable moment," he added. "It was just something I wasn't sure was ever going to happen."

In 1999, Erik married his longtime pen pal, Tammi Ruth Saccoman, with whom he shares his stepdaughter, Talia. Tammi wrote a book, They Said We’d Never Make It: My Life with Erik Menendez, about their relationship and experiences. He also took up painting — and even gifted a portrait to comedian Kathy Griffin — and, with other inmates, made attempts at prison reform.

"Being arrested was such a relief. My life was over and I was glad," Erik told PEOPLE in 2005, adding that he was never motivated by money. "Once I was arrested and put into prison, that person who I was began to emerge again. I had to find it for myself."

Lyle served as president of inmate government at Mule State Creek Prison before being transferred and has worked in a support group for other prisoners who endured sexual abuse. From 1996 to 2001, he was married to Anna Eriksson. Two years later, he married Rebecca Sneed, with whom he has said he has a healthy relationship.

"I have a very steady, involved marriage and that helps sustain me and brings a lot of peace and joy," Lyle said in 2017. "It’s a counter to the unpredictable, very stressful environment here."

Will the Menéndez brothers ever get out of jail?

<p>Kim Kulish/Sygma/Getty</p> Erik and Lyle Menendez in Los Angeles.

Kim Kulish/Sygma/Getty

Erik and Lyle Menendez in Los Angeles.

The Menéndez brothers are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole, but there have been efforts to overturn their convictions. Attorneys for the brothers filed a petition with the court on May 3, 2023, citing Rosselló's allegations against José featured in the Peacock docuseries Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed as well as a newly discovered letter Erik wrote to one of his cousins describing his father’s sexual abuse just months before the murders.

"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 1988," the filing read in part, according to documents obtained by The Los Angeles Times. “Instead, the crime was manslaughter, not murder. The killings occurred in imperfect self-defense, after a lifetime of physical and sexual abuse from their parents.”

The filing also pointed out that in their second trial, evidence of the alleged sexual abuse they endured was excluded, with prosecutors accusing the brothers of fabricating the claims because they were never corroborated. Lyle and Erik's attorneys requested an evidentiary hearing or to vacate the brothers' convictions and sentences.

Does the Menéndez brothers' family support them?

Ted Soqui/Sygma/Getty LYLE and ERIK MENENDEZ trial
Ted Soqui/Sygma/Getty LYLE and ERIK MENENDEZ trial

Most of the Menéndez brothers' family members believe that they were sexually abused and reportedly "rallied around" Lyle and Erik after the slayings. One close family member told PEOPLE, "There are certain things in life people do not make up."

Kitty's eldest sister, Joan Vander Molen, echoed the sentiment, telling PEOPLE in 2017, "Our family tragedy should be a lesson to all on the destructive effects of child abuse and molestation, whether they are wealthy or not."

Lyle and Erik’s cousin Diane Vander Molen told ABC News that, in 1976, Lyle confided in her that José sexually abused him. She also recalled telling Kitty, who reportedly said that Lyle was lying and separated him from Diane — and that was the last Diane heard about it.

Kitty's brother, Milton Andersen, however, said the abuse allegations were "bull."

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.