The Menendez Brothers' Sexual Abuse Allegations Played A Large Role In Their Murder Trial

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A lot of people probably know at least a little bit about the infamous case of the Menendez brothers. In 1989, two brothers from an extremely affluent family murdered both of their parents with shotguns in their Beverly Hills mansion. Once the trial started, Lyle and Erik Menendez claimed they'd been sexually abused by their parents throughout their lives. Their lawyers argued that the parents' alleged actions made the brothers fear for their lives enough to take action. Several family members and friends have long denied the brothers' claims of abuse. Brian Andersen, Kitty Menendez’s brother, claimed to ABC News that the sexual abuse allegations were false. “The idea that Erik and Lyle were abused by my sister Kitty is absolute insanity,” he claimed to the outlet. Their defense ultimately failed and the brothers were sentenced to life in prison. Now, decades later, ABC is releasing a two-hour documentary special about the case called, Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers, which will focus on their lives before, during, and after their murder trial.

Lyle and Erik's parents were Jose and Kitty Menendez. Jose immigrated to the United States from Havana, Cuba, and worked hard to become a top video executive in Hollywood. According to the Los Angeles Times, he was executive vice president of Carolco Pictures. His wife, Kitty, was a stay-at-home mother.

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After being arrested for their parents' deaths, Lyle and Erik Menendez confessed to the crime, and, when the trial began, so did their sexual abuse allegations. According to the New York Times, Lyle took the stand and told the jury that both of his parents had allegedly molested him and his brother throughout their lives starting from when he was a young child. Lyle claimed that his father would force him to have oral sex with him and allegedly told him that it was "ritual male bonding." ABC News reported that Lyle claimed about Jose, “He used objects … a toothbrush and some sort of shaving utensil brush. He’d rape me.”

In court, Lyle claimed that he began imitating his father's alleged sexual abuse by abusing his younger brother. As for his mother, the LA Times reported that Lyle alleged that Kitty would touch him inappropriately in the bathtub and that while he slept in her bed, he would touch her "everywhere." Lyle claimed that "she was enjoying it," but that he was not.

Erik also testified about allegations of abuse. "My dad had been molesting me," he claimed in court, according to the LA Times. Throughout the trial and even now, the brothers claim that they killed their parents because they were simply afraid of them, according to the New York Times. They claim they just wanted the alleged abuse to end.

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As is often the case with allegations of this nature, there is no evidence to corroborate or disprove the brothers' stories. Family and friends were as split on the issue as the juries were (the New York Times reported that the first trial ended deadlocked and required a second trial in which the brothers were sentenced to life in prison for their parents' murders.)

As previously stated, Kitty Menendez's brother, Brian Andersen, told ABC News that the allegations that his sister abused them sexually or otherwise was "insanity."  A cousin of the brothers, Diane Vander Molen, spoke to ABC News in the same article and claimed that she believes that the abuse allegations are true. She claims that Lyle was scared to sleep in his own bed when she was staying there once, allegedly for fear that he would be touched inappropriately if he was alone.

We may never know what actually went on in the Menendez house or who is really telling the truth about the alleged abuse. The only people who know the truth are Lyle, Erik, Kitty, and Jose. But we do know that Lyle and Erik admitted to killing both of their parents and will be in jail for the rest of their lives. If you are interested in finding out more about this case, check out Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers, on ABC Jan. 5.