Explosive letter unearthed: Menendez brother's correspondence affirms sexual abuse claims before tragic parental murder
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Lawyers for Erik and Lyle Menendez, who were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for fatally shooting their parents in 1989, have filed a petition for their release. Newly discovered evidence supports the brothers’ disturbing claims of sexual abuse by their father, Jose Menendez. The attorneys filed the petition in Los Angeles County court on Wednesday, May 3, presenting a letter written by Erik to his cousin, Andy Cano, which seems to corroborate the allegations of abuse.
The chilling letter describes Erik's attempts to avoid his father and his increasing fear of the abuse. The attorneys argue that this newly discovered evidence, including the letter, could have altered the outcome of the brothers' second trial, which resulted in a murder conviction. They assert that the defense's theory throughout both trials was that the killings were an act of imperfect self-defense following a lifetime of physical and sexual abuse by their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez.
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'I need to put it out of my mind!'
"I’ve been trying to avoid dad. It’s still happening Andy but it’s worse for me now. I can’t explain it. He so overweight that I can’t stand to see him," the chilling, hand-scrawled letter reads. "I never know when it’s going to happen and it’s driving me crazy. Every night, I stay up thinking he might come in. I need to put it out of my mind. I know what you said before but I’m afraid. You just don’t know dad like I do. He’s crazy! he’s warned me a hundred times about telling anyone, especially Lyle." The attorneys claim that the state's theory, which denied the existence of the sexual abuse, would have been challenged had the letter been presented to the jury.
Testimony from Cano during the first trial supported Erik's claims of abuse, but in the second trial, the judge limited the discussion of abuse allegations, and the prosecution dismissed them as fabrications. "The theory of defense at both trials was straightforward. Neither Erik nor Lyle denied the shooting. 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 petition states.
"The state’s theory in both trials was also straightforward. Erik and Lyle were lying about the sexual abuse. It never happened. They had killed their parents not in imperfect self-defense, but to inherit their parents’ money," the filing continues. "Had jurors seen the letter Erik Menendez wrote to Cano, and learned that Jose anally raped and orally copulated a 13 or 14-year-old boy in 1984, the prosecutor would not have been able to argue that 'the abuse never happened'," the attorneys argued.
Erik Menendez confides in Andy Cano about his abuse
During the first trial in 1993, Cano provided testimony that Erik, at the age of 13, confided in him about his father Jose touching and "massaging" his genitals, and asked if it was normal. Erik made Cano swear to keep it a secret and not tell anyone about the alleged abuse when Cano suggested asking his own mother about the situation. However, at the second trial, the judge restricted testimony related to the abuse allegations, and prosecutors asserted to the jury that the accusations were entirely false.
Cano died of a drug overdose in 2003, and the 1989 letter he received from Erik was only recently uncovered after his mother gave it to a journalist, who then shared it with the brothers' former counsel before reaching their current attorneys via a petition. The petition also references new evidence revealed in a documentary titled 'Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed', which features the account of former Menudo band member Roy Rossello. Rossello describes incidents of sexual abuse by Jose and suggests that the abuse continued until December 1988, supporting the defense's arguments. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, responsible for prosecuting the Menendez brothers in the 1990s, has not yet commented on the petition.
According to the Peacock documentary, a criminal defense lawyer stated that the allegations made by Rossello have provided the brothers with a "glimmer of hope" that it could potentially impact their case. In the documentary, both Erik and Lyle are heard discussing how the newly discovered evidence could have made an "enormous difference" in their trials. Erik said, "Frankly I feel horrible. It's sad to know that there was another victim of my father." "I always hoped and believed that one day the truth about my dad would come out but I never wished for it to come out like this, the result of trauma that another child has suffered and it makes me very sad."
'Erik and Lyle Menendez's devastating family tragedy!'
Lyle, a Princeton student at the time, and Erik, a professional tennis player, were 22 and 19 years old, respectively, when they killed their parents in their Beverly Hills mansion. In August 20, 1989, the Menendez brothers entered the den of their parent's Beverly Hills mansion, which was worth $5 million, and shot their father Jose in the back of the head at close range. They also shot their mother Kitty as she attempted to flee the room, hitting her in the leg.
Jose sustained five gunshot wounds, while Kitty was shot nine times. The police originally suspected the involvement of the mob in the killings but later arrested the brothers a year after the incident, when they spent extravagantly with their multi-million inheritance. The brothers argued that they were compelled to commit the murders due to enduring a lifetime of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse from their father, who allegedly threatened to kill them if they disclosed the abuse.
The defense argued during the trials that the killings were a form of self-defense and concern for their safety. According to Erik's testimony, he was first sodomized by his father at the age of six, while Lyle testified that Jose also forced him to engage in sexual acts with his own brother when they were younger. At their first trial, the brothers argued that they had confronted their father about the alleged abuse, and he had become enraged, leading them to kill him out of fear for their own safety.