All eyes on LA's millionaire trial: Brothers accused of murdering wealthy parents

(First Edition)

THE citizens of Los Angeles have long had an unusually salacious interest in the villainy or misfortunes of the wealthy. The curious can take a tour by hearse to explore the scenes of its most famous killings, and peer at the spots where Marilyn Monroe and Janis Joplin breathed their last. So the city is looking forward to this summer's bill of fare with considerable anticipation.

The trial of the rich, young Menendez brothers combines almost every element of vintage Hollywood intrigue. It is about murder (alleged), greed and extravagance, intense ambition and the (again alleged) abuse of children by a domineering, self-made parent. All eyes are fixed on the outcome.

Jose Menendez, the multi-millionaire chief executive of a music and video distribution firm, and his wife Kitty, a former beauty queen, were found dead in their eight-bedroom dollars 5m (pounds 3.5m) mansion in August 1989. Their injuries - 15 shotgun wounds - were so severe that they were barely recognisable.

The killings sent a shiver of horror through Beverly Hills, not least because Mr Menendez was a respected figure, an associate of the film star Sylvester Stallone and the singers Barry Manilow and Kenny Rogers.

At first, there were suspicions of a mob hit. But the police soon turned their attentions to the couple's sons, Lyle and Erik, then aged 18 and 21, who inherited their parents' dollars 14m estate. The brothers initially claimed to have been out at the time of the killings, but detectives were unconvinced.

In the months afterwards Lyle, an aspiring tennis professional, spent more than dollars 500,000 in a shopping spree which included a new Porsche, a gold Rolex and dollars 40,000-worth of new clothes.

Investigators also found that a computer file containing references to Jose Menendez's will had been mysteriously erased. The alleged murder weapons - two shotguns - had been purchased using the driving licence of a former room-mate of Lyle's.

In proper Hollywood tradition, Erik had penned a screenplay (which his mother helped to type) in which the protagonist murders his parents in order to inherit their fortune.

In an unexpected turn, the brothers recently altered their defence. They now claim that the killings were carried out in self-defence as they were abused by their father, a Cuban emigre who started out as a dishwasher and battled his way up the social ladder.

Jury selection in the case is now under way, beginning a trial that is expected to last for five months. A further twist is contained in an audio-tape made by a psychotherapist in which Erik Menendez allegedly confessed. California's supreme court has ruled that the tape is admissible evidence on the grounds that the privilege of confidentiality has been violated by threats to the therapist's life. As a result, the case will be heard by two juries as Erik's confession cannot be used against his brother.

As the lawyers prepare to begin the case, Hollywood and Beverly Hills look on in rapt fascination, knowing that if the brothers are found guilty they could go to the gas chamber.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests