If you came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, or if you're well-versed in the grisly history of high-profile American murder trials, then the names Erik and Lyle Menéndez likely need no introduction. Both brothers were sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for the brutal murder of the their parents, Kitty and Jose Menéndez, the two brothers stand as perhaps the most famous perpetrators of parricide in the modern American consciousness. And if you've been curious how at least one of them now reconciles his crime, this Lyle Menéndez update, courtesy of an upcoming ABC News special examining the case, will surely be of interest to you.
The special in question is titled Truth and Lies: The Menéndez Brothers — American Sons, American Murderers, and is set to air the first week of January. In other words, if you're looking for a thorough refreshing of the case, its central players, and the brothers' lives as they stand now, you'll probably want to check it out.
ABC News interviewed the elder brother Lyle, via a phone call to the Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California, where he's currently imprisoned. Lyle, breaking a 20-year silence on the matter, reportedly said his childhood "prepared me surprisingly well for the chaos of prison life," and acknowledged "I am the kid that did kill his parents."
I am the kid that did kill his parents, and no river of tears has changed that and no amount of regret has changed it. I accept that. You are often defined by a few moments of your life, but that’s not who you are in your life, you know. Your life is your totality of it … You can’t change it. You just, you’re stuck with the decisions you made.
Lyle freely admits that he and his brother were the ones who murdered their parents ― they were both slain by shotgun blasts. But he still continues to claim that the crime was motivated by a supposed history of familial abuse, allegedly sexual abuse, as he testified to during his first trial.
I'm the older brother so I find myself trying to protect Erik quite a bit through childhood, but pretty much trying to survive. It was pretty crushing to in the end to realize that I had not been able to protect to or save him from such horrible abuse as I thought. I thought we had sort of survived early childhood pretty well and that turned out not to be true.
As the ABC News report notes, Lyle's uncle Brian Andersen, the brother of his mother Kitty, denies that any such abuse took place, claiming instead that the killings were motivated solely by the brothers' alleged desire to inherit their parents' fortune. In a statement to ABC News, Anderson claimed:
"There was certainly no indication of any kind that there was ever any abuse. It just didn’t happen. It just didn’t happen. I think the motive was strictly money."
That was also the prosecution's theory of the case decades ago, which ultimately convicted both Lyle and Erik despite suffering a deadlocked jury in the first trial. That first one was hugely consequential within American culture, however ― even though it didn't end with a unanimous verdict, it was the first truly high-profile televised court trial, one that presaged the O.J. Simpson trial just years later. Make no mistake, it's a fascinating history, if a rather disturbing one. If you want to watch the ABC News special, you can catch it on Thursday, Jan. 5 at 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC.