August 20, 1989 Jose and Mary “Kitty” Menendez were brutally murdered in their Beverly Hills mansion, with no lead suspects at the time. Lyle and Erik Menendez were reported to be the first witnesses at the crime scene, not yet considered suspects because of their physically altered states of mind. At 21 and 18 years old, the Menendez brothers walked away from murder. The disdain behavior the brothers acquired through negligent parenting were strong indicators in which investigators came to the conclusion that the brothers had murdered their parents through the collection of record evidences, and verbal confession.
Growing up the boys where privileged and lived the lives of the elite. Their father had become a high profile employee for RCA entertainments and through which his fame, money, and power skyrocketed. His controlling temper and endogenous attitude cost him thousands of dollars when it came to compensating for his children. Their mother was withdrawn; quiet and reserved. When Kitty came to realize her husband, since 19 years old, had been having an affair for the last 6 years of their marriage she broke apart.
She became bitter and depressed; she also became 100% dependent on her husband leading her to neglect her two young boys. They boys had an age gap of 3 years, but their emotional bond was sheltered. Lyle, the older brother grew up as an average student but as an outsider at school. He was known to have an aggressive temper and was controlling like his father. He also displayed signs of sociopathic behavior.
When the family moved to Calabasas after New Jersey, both the boys were extremely spoiled in which they splurged money on cars, designer clothes, etc. all things worthless to them. Originally desiring to play tennis at UCLA, Lyle accepted an offer to Princeton University and just after one year he had gotten suspended for plagiarism. Jose tried using his wealth to convince Princeton in letting Lyle return however, Princeton refused his plea. This only taught Lyle that in any given circumstance his father would be there to bail him out of his problems. During this time Jose forced Lyle to work for LIVE entertainment. However, his lack of interest and motivation ultimately led Jose to fire him.
For Erik, the influence Lyle had on him was less severe when he wasn’t around. Erik was an average student in high school like his brother, and had zero responsibilities because his mother would do his homework and his father paid for everything. The consequences these boys faced because of the lack of positive parenting was that their behaviors were conflicted, irritable, moody, and they also picked up poor social and cognitive skills almost sociopathic. When investigators look at the lengthy list of infringements committed by the brothers they begin to gather pieces of evidence.
Prior to the murder and after the plagiarism ordeal, the boys burglarized their friend’s homes stealing almost a hundred thousand dollars worth of cash and jewelry. This was enough to have them charged with Grand Theft Burglary. Upset yet unable to see his sons in prison, Jose hires an attorney and they worked out a deal where Erik would plead guilty and Lyle would be pardoned from the crime because of his previous offenses. After the judge agreed, Erik was sentenced to community service, both boys also had to attend counseling sessions, and Jose had to pay a hefty compensation to each of the victims.
During this time Lyle had returned to Princeton, yet was put on disciplinary probation because of his narcissistic attitude and behavior for wrecking school property. Drained by the boys’ lack of control over their behavior, Jose felt the boys might come back on track when he threatened them by claiming he would remove their names from the will. This for the boys may have been the trigger in which they began planning the murders of their parents. An article written and published on Psychology today, “Why Kids Kill Parents” by Kathleen M.
Heide, discusses psychological reasons to why kids murder their family and loved ones. Some reasons that correspond to the Menendez brother’s behavior include isolation, lack of parental support, negligence, intolerable family dynamics, and inheritance. On August 19, 1989, in retrospect to rekindle the family relationship, the entire family traveled together on a fishing trip. While on vacation, the crewmembers noticed that the behavior of the family was off, almost like they were miserable. The day of the murders, it was nighttime and a witness stood just a few doors down.
She noticed only a car and two men who were walking toward the home of the Menendez family. At this point in the investigation eyewitness accounts, and record evidence became very important when collecting sufficient evidence. Lyle was the first witness to call into the station claiming his parents had been murdered. The first responding investigators were Michael Buktus and John Czarnocki and head detective Les Zoeller. They saw the room was tousled with and noticed nothing had been stolen.
All in all, to the investigators it was clear that the victims must have known who their murderers were because there were no signs of forced entry into the home. The boys at this time had been questioned but where not considered as possible suspects of the crime because of their physical demeanor. During questioning the boys had insisted the murders where done by the mafia. Anyone in the investigation knew this could be valid because the mafia had a signature. Their signature is shooting the victims in their left knees. It was coherent to the investigation that the boys did their research.
However, they were messy. They didn’t realize that cleaning up the shell casing wasn’t something the mafia would do. They mob takes pride in their crimes and they don’t clean up after themselves, so why would they now? This behavior was suspicious to investigators but not enough to open a case on the brothers. The collection of evidence came to a halt when distraught Erik Menendez confessed to his therapist, Jerome Oziel, that he and his brother had murdered their parents. Lyle soon found out and threatened to kill Oziel if the confession had ever leaked.
At this point the patient confidentiality can be broken when either the therapists or clients life becomes endangered. Oziel told his girlfriend everything, but he did not go to the police, and instead he continued to work with the brothers. In every investigation, when a girlfriend or loved one comes to know the truth about a situation, that exact information should be processed seriously because these witnesses have no reason to lie. When Oziel’s girlfriend professed to the investigators the information she had known the Menendez brothers official file finally opened.
They collected record evidence of bank statements that stated the boys had spent approximately 1 million dollars within 6 months of the murders. Investigators also found that the boys had hired a computer expert to clear out their hard drive; and most importantly they deleted the latest version of their parents will. That will stated the boys would inherit all of the family’s fortune. Lastly, they found a receipt that indicated the boys had bought shotguns. The boys made a haste decision, which resulted in a victory for investigators when they found the name of a friend signed at the bottom of the receipt.
When the uthorities contacted the Donovan Jay Goodreau, the man on the receipt, his alibi checked out when he said he was away for work in New York City and that the signature on the receipt was nothing close to his real signature. This was the moment investigators finally had physical evidence which was probative enough to arrest the boys on the counts of murder. Thus, from the gathering of background information on the family, the psychological evidence of why the boys may have acted the way they did, and finally physical evidence, authorities were able to build a case strong enough to indict the boys for first- degree murder.
From the process of which this investigation took place, the case of Stacey Lannert also involved a situation in which a friend had implicated her. Stacey Lannert was sexually abused by her father and for years felt confused, shameful, and guilty. Eventually people in her immediate family came to know of her abuse like her mother, cousin, babysitter, and psychologist. The day her mother came face to face with her husband assaulting her daughter, she left her entire family behind with her husband. As she moved on in her life, Stacey still faced the abuse.
One day Stacey had enough and began imagining a world in which her father was dead. The day of the murder Stacey shot her father in the collarbone then finally in the head. According to the M’Naghten rule Stacey knew right from wrong when she stepped back after panicking and confessed to having thoughts like “he doesn’t deserve to live” (Montaldo, 2). The day after, Stacey gave her friend the rifle she used to kill her father to hide. She then came up with a plan almost similar to the Menendez brothers in which she and a friend would go back home and find the body of her dead father.
After cleaning out the car, her friend called the police and confessed that Stacey had murdered her father. Stacey believed that by killing him she would inherit his estate worth over a hundred thousand dollars and he would be out of her life for good. For Stacey, she got a life without her father but at what consequence when she lost everything she had dreamt of. During the Menendez brother’s investigation, the lack of physical evidence like DNA and fingerprints were hard to come by because the boys too lived at the house Jose and Kitty were murdered, making that evidence faulty.
If there were another way to investigate this specific crime it would be by talking to immediate family and friends and building up a players list of the people who came in and out of the house. This would provide some support as to why there was no forced entry in the house and or if the family had any enemies. Secondly, investigators should have used the boys alibi story and overlapped it with the timeline of the crime alongside any interviews of the witnesses who may have seen the boys at the specific times they indicated.
Third, investigators should never have let the boys go without checking their hand and clothes of gunpowder residue. Typically the first responders to the crime scene should be cleared first. In this case the boys were the first to find the bodies and yet the investigators didn’t think to use associative evidence and link the crime scene to the boys. This is not saying to automatically assume the boys are indeed the perpetrators, but rather consider the possibilities based on the calm demeanor of Lyle when being interviewed.
Lastly, if the investigators truly could not link the crime to any particular suspect, a psychological profile could have been used. This doesn’t replace any form of evidence collected by the investigators however; it could provide a sense of emotion from interpreting the crime scene and possibly providing a lead. In this case there was definite over kill in which the boys wanted their mother and father to suffer. If by exercising these methods of investigation, they may have been able to accelerate the process and convict the boys sooner than later.