Who Is Lyle Menendez? Everything You Should Know About Him

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  • Post last modified:November 25, 2021
Who Is Lyle Menendez? Everything You Should Know About Him

Lyle Menendez is one of the convicted murderers of the 1989 killings of Jose and Kitty Menendez. He and his brother, Erik murdered their parents with shotguns. Lyle and his brother received life sentences with no chance of parole.

The murder of Menendez became a national talk and the case ran for almost six years before the final verdict came. Although a criminal, Lyle went on to have significant media representation be it interviews, TVs, documentaries, or even movies.

He also got to have relationships while serving his time in prison. What’s more his brother also enjoyed the same opportunity. Surprisingly, the brothers are still married despite not having any physical access to their wives. Read all about Lyle’s life from his birth, youth, college life, murder, prison marriages to his current whereabouts.

Lyle Menendez Is The So Of A Cuban Father And An American Mother 

Joseph Lyle Menéndez was born on January 10, 1968. Lyle’s father, José Enrique Menéndez, was born in ’40s in Havana, Cuba.

Lyle Menendez went to Princeton University but was expelled because he copied other student's lab report.
Lyle Menéndez (far left) was born on January 10, 1968. His father, José Enrique Menéndez fled Cuba at age 16 and moved to the United States.

At age 16, he moved to the United States. Reportedly he fled the Caribbean nation shortly after the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. After migrating, José attended Southern Illinois University, where he met Mary Louise “Kitty” Andersen (1941–1989).

They married in 1963 and moved to New York City. There José earned an accounting degree from Queens College. Lyle Menéndez is Jose and Marry’s first son.

After Lyle’s birth, Kitty quit her teaching job. Then Jose and the rest of the family moved to New Jersey. There the couple welcomed their second son, Erik. In New Jersey, Lyle and his family lived in Hopewell Township in Mercer County. Both brothers attended Princeton Day School.

In 1986, Lyle’s father, José’s career as a corporate executive took the family to Beverly Hills, California.

He Allegedly Had A Difficult Upbringing

It was reported that Jose was a stern parent when raising Lyle. Tha father domineered and controlled what Lyle would eat, who he could associate with, what books and television show he could watch. Allegedly he even tried to control his son’s thoughts. Jose would question him about current events at the dinner table and berate him for unsatisfactory answers. This started in grade school.

Lyle, owing to the pressure reportedly developed a bed-wetting problem at the age of 14 and suffered from insomnia. In high school, he chose tennis as his father ordered him to find a sport at which to excel, one that didn’t involve being on a team. Lyle was the highest-ranked member of the tennis squad. But his grades were only average.

Lyle Menendez Went To Princeton 

After graduating high school he couldn’t get admission into Princeton University and attended a local community college.

Lyle then fell in love with a girl and wanted to open a restaurant. His parents, however, disapproved and their interfering also ended his first relationship.

He got admission into Princeton on his second try but shortly afterward the institution suspended him for plagiarism. The college reported Lyle copied another student’s psychology lab report.

After a while, Lyle fell in love with a model, but again his parents intervened.

How Lyle And His Brother Erik Murdered Their Parents 

On August 20, 1989, in the evening, José and Kitty were sleeping on a couch in the den of their house in Beverly Hills. Shortly, Lyle then 21, and Erik, 18 entered the den carrying shotguns.

Lyle and his brother Erik shot their father Jose in the back of the head and their mother several times in the arm, chest, and face.
Lyle and his brother Erik killed their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez in Aug 1989 in their Beverly Hills home. Source: Brian Anderson

The Menendez brothers shot their father José in the back of the head with a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun. Their mother, Kitty then woke up and got up from the couch. The sons shot her in the leg and she fell. Lyle and Erik then shot at their mother several times in the arm, chest, and face. As per the police reports, her face was unrecognizable.

What Happened After The Murder

Lyle and his brother reportedly fled the scene right after killing their parents. They returned home later that night. Lyle then called 9-1-1 and shouted, “Someone killed my parents!” When officers from the Beverly Hills police department arrived, the brothers told them that the murders happened while they were at a movie theater seeing Batman.

They also said they had gone to the annual “Taste of L.A.” festival at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The police did not ask the brothers to undergo gunshot residue tests to find out whether they recently used a firearm. At that time, there was no clear evidence that suggested they might have done it.

What Led Police To Suspect Lyle Menendez And His Brother Erik 

In the months after the murders, Lyle and his brother started to live a lavish life. The elder brother bought a Rolex watch, a Porsche Carrera. Additionally, he became the owner of Chuck’s Spring Street Cafe, a Buffalo wing restaurant in Princeton, New Jersey. On the other hand, Erik hired a full-time tennis coach and competed in a series of tournaments in Israel.

It is believed that Lyle Menendez and Erik spent somewhere around $700,000 during the period between the murders and their arrests.
After Killing their parents, Lyle and Erik Menendez started to spend lavishly. Source: AP

They also had left the family mansion unoccupied and had begun living in adjoining condos in nearby Marina del Rey. Moreover, the siblings also drove around Los Angeles in their deceased mother’s Mercedes-Benz SL convertible, dined expensively, and went on overseas trips to the Caribbean and London. It is believed that Lyle and Erik spent somewhere around $700,000 during the period between the murders and their arrests.

The police eventually found it all suspicious and soon they started seeing the brothers as suspects. However, some members close to the Menendez family disputed the possibility. They explained the brothers’ extravagant lifestyle was there when their parents were still alive.

How The Truth Finally Came Out   

Amidst the initial phases of the investigation, the police tried to narrow their search to people who had motives to kill José and Kitty. They also investigated potential mob leads, but it didn’t lead to a definite conclusion. As the investigation continued, the investigators believed the brothers were most likely the perpetrators. They first speculated Jose’s wealth as one of the motives. Lyle and Erik’s liberal spending also added to the doubt.

The police convinced Craig Cignarelli, one of Erik’s close friends from high school and a tennis buddy, to wear a wire while having lunch with him at a local beachfront restaurant. However, when Craig asked Erik if he killed his parents, Erik said “no.” It was with his psychologist Jerome Oziel to whom Lyle’s younger brother confessed to killing his parents. Oziel then told Judalon Smyth, his mistress, about the murders. She later broke up with Oziel and reported to the police about the brothers’ involvement.

The police arrested Lyle on March 8, 1990, and Erik turned himself in three days later. He had returned to Los Angeles from Israel. The authorities held both the brothers without bail and kept them in a separate place.

What Happened In The Trial Of Lyle Menendez And His Brother  

In August 1990, Judge James Albrecht ruled that tapes of the conversations between Erik and Oziel were admissible evidence. It was on the ground that Lyle allegedly had threatened him and violated doctor-patient privilege, Oziel complained.

In Dec 1992, Los Angeles County grand jury charged Lyle and his brother with the murders of their parents.
Lyle Menendez and Erik Menendez during the trial of their parents’ murder. Source: AP

Lyle and Erik’s team appealed Albrecht’s ruling and they were able to delay the proceedings for two years. The Supreme Court of California ruled in August 1992 that most of these tapes were admissible. They tape in which Erik discussed the murders. In Dec 1992, after the aforesaid decision, a Los Angeles County grand jury issued indictments. They ultimately charged the brothers with the murders of their parents.

Lyle And Erik Said Their Father Sexually Abused Them 

The murder of Menendez soon became a national sensation when Court TV broadcast the trial in 1993. Defense lawyer, Leslie Abramson, defended Lyle and his brother, Erik. The perpetrators stated that it was the abuse from their parents that drove them to take such harsh measures. They said their father Jose had been abusing them since childhood.

Meanwhile, Lyle and Erik described their mother, Kitty as an enabling, selfish, mentally unstable alcoholic and drug addict. They added their mother encouraged her husband’s abuses and was also sometimes violent towards them.

Some handful of people from the Menendez family supported attested the aforesaid accusations with multiple witnesses testifying.

Furthermore, defense attorney, Leslie provided some nude and sexual photographs showing Lyle and Erik’s genitalia. Jose allegedly took them when his sons were children. The prosecution, however, argued that the brothers committed murders solely for financial gain. Erik’s prosecutor, Lester Kuriyama, stated Lyle’s brother is a homosexual, and that the sexual abuse was actually consensual.

What Lyle And His Brother Said Happened The Night Of The Killings

Lyle and Erik said the sexual abuse started again, leading to several confrontations in the family. This was a few weeks before the night of the murders. They added their father threatened to kill them if they let the abuse thing out.

As per the brothers, the brothers found out that their parents were hiding rifles in their bedrooms. This led them to buy their own shotguns for protection. They said during their last confrontation, their father closed the den’s door which they found unusual. Lyle and Erik said they became paranoid and afraid thinking that their father was about to kill them. So they admitted they went outside of the house to load their own weapons and eventually killed their parents.

Final Verdict On The Menendez Brothers 

The trial ended with two deadlocked juries. Resultingly Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti announced immediately that the brothers would be retried. The second trial didn’t get much media attention. Judge Stanley Weisberg did not allow cameras in the courtroom. During the second trial, Weisberg also did not allow much defense testimony about the sexual abuse claims. He additionally did not provide the jury to vote on manslaughter charges but on murder charges.

Eventually, both brothers received a conviction on two counts of first-degree murder and of conspiracy to commit murder. They then received life in prison without the possibility of parole. The jury said that the abuse defense was not a factor in its deliberations. They however decided not to impose the death penalty because Lyle and Erik had no criminal record or history of violence prior to the murders of their parents.

The jury in the penalty phase rejected the defense’s theory that the brothers killed their parents out of fear. They instead believed that they committed the murders in order to inherit their father’s wealth.

Lyle Menendez And His Brother Appealed Several Times 

Lyle and Erik later filed motions for a mistrial. They claimed that they suffered irreversible damage in the penalty phase as a result of possible misconduct and ineffective representation by Abramson.

On July 2, 1996, Weisberg, nonetheless sentenced the brothers to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Moreover, he sentenced them to consecutive sentences for the murders and the charges of conspiracy to commit murder.

Other appeals happened in Feb 1998, March 2003, and September 2005.

Lyle Had Several Girlfriends While In Prison; He Also Married Whilst In Jail 

On Judge Nancy Brown’s permission, Lyle married Anna Eriksson on July 2, 1996. The attendees were Lyle’s lawyer, Abramson, and his aunt Marta Menéndez. The couple though divorced on April 1, 2001, after Eriksson discovered that Lyle was allegedly cheating on her with another woman, Rebecca Sneed.

While in prison Lyle went on to have relationship with Anna Eriksson, Rebecca Sneed. His other girlfriends include Traci Baker and Jamie Pisarcik.
Lyle Menendez with his wife, Rebecca Sneed. They married in Nov 2003 when Lyle was still serving his life sentence. They are still married. Source: Los Angeles County Prison

In November 2003, Jose and Kitty’s eldest son, Lyle married Sneed at a ceremony in a supermax prison visiting the area of Mule Creek State Prison. They knew each other for around ten years before their engagement.

Lyle also had a relationship with his one of former girlfriends, Traci Baker. She too had taken the stand and told a strange tale of a family dinner she had had in the Menendez home. She insinuated Lyle’s mother was trying to poison the family during an evening fest.

His other girlfriend was Jamie Pisarcik who also had served as one of his witnesses.

Where Are Lyle Menendez And Erik Now?

In 2018, the court ordered Lyle to move into the same housing unit as his brother, Erik. The brothers reunited for the first time since they began serving their sentences. The inmates in their can participate in education and rehabilitation programs, without creating disruptions.

And when reported in Jan 2019, both men were serving time at the R.J. Correctional Facility in San Diego, according to CBS News.

Other than that, Lyle and Erik’s case hasn’t seen much development.

Does He Have Regret?

In September 2017, when Fox News reporter, Megyn Kelly asked Lyle if he regrets killing his parents, he answered,

“I completely regret—uh, I don’t think that you know, I want in any way looking back to be the judge and jury of my father’s actions or my mother’s.”

He admitted that it is a regret every day. Jose’s son though said he can’t escape what happened ever again.

What Happened To His Brother, Erik Menendez?

As mentioned Lyle is together with his brother in the same unit. They both received the same sentences. Erik too developed a relationship with a woman whilst still serving his sentence. Her name is Tammi Menendez (Tammi Ruth Saccoman). They married on June 12, 1999, in Folsom State Prison in a waiting room. The couple is still married though they do not have children. Tammi, nonetheless, has two daughters from her previous relationships.

Other Facts

  • During the trial, Lyle wore a toupee.
  • Lyle also said his mother Kitty often used to be topless when he was around 11.