Menendez Brother Explains Why He Didn't Accuse Parents of Abuse When He Initially Confessed to Killings

Lyle Menendez spoke to CBS' "48 Hours" about new evidence related to the abuse he and his brother, Erik, claimed they suffered

<p>Kim Kulish/Sygma via Getty</p> Lyle Menendez

Kim Kulish/Sygma via Getty

Lyle Menendez

Lyle and Erik Menendez do not dispute that they shot and killed their parents, but in an interview with CBS News’ 48 Hours, Lyle discusses new evidence that could corroborate claims of abuse, which served as the centerpiece of the brothers’ defense during their infamous murder trials in the 1990s.

The Menendez brothers were convicted of the 1989 shotgun murders of their parents, Jose and Kitty, in their Beverly Hills mansion. In 1996, they were sentenced to life in prison without parole, following their second trial. At the time of the murders, Lyle was 21 and Erik was 18.

Their defense hinged on claims that they shot their parents in self defense after being subjected to years of sexual abuse at the hands of Jose and enabled by Kitty, making it manslaughter rather than first-degree murder.

“There’s just never been a case of guilt or innocence,” Lyle Menendez tells 48 Hours’ Natalie Morales in an interview set to air Saturday at 10 p.m. “It was always about why it happened.”

Lyle Menendez
Lyle Menendez

Prosecutors did not buy the abuse claims, pointing to the fact that when they confessed to the killings in therapy, they didn’t mention the alleged abuse.

But in his interview, Lyle says why they didn’t share those claims at the time.

“Just shame,” he claims. “Just not wanting it to be public.”

In May, attorneys for the brothers filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Los Angeles Superior Court, reviewed by PEOPLE, citing evidence unearthed in a docuseries, Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed

In the series, which premiered on Peacock in April 2023, former Menudo member Roy Rosselló alleged that Jose, who was an executive for RCA Records, drugged and raped him in the 1980s.

<p>VINCE BUCCI/AFP/Getty</p> Erik and Lyle Menendez in 1992.


Erik and Lyle Menendez in 1992.

"That's the man here that raped me," Rosselló said in the series, when shown a photo of Jose. "That's the pedophile."

The petition, which hopes to see the convictions vacated, includes Rosselló’s claim, as well as a recently surfaced letter that attorneys claim that Erik sent to his cousin months before the shooting that detailed Jose’s abuse.

During the brothers’ second trial, prosecutors said their abuse claims were fabricated, PEOPLE previously reported.

Related: Menendez Brothers' Prosecutor Pamela Bozanich: 'I Am 100 Percent Sure They Fabricated the Abuse Excuse'

But Cliff Gardner, the attorney who filed the May petition, believes these new claims bolster what the brothers had said all along.

“We now have evidence … that makes absolutely clear that those boys were molested,” Gardner tells 48 Hours. “And if those boys were molested ... It would’ve been manslaughter, and they would be out.”

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Lyle now says he hopes the latest updates could lead to a reevaluation around the cases.

“You wonder, when will there be a fair review of this?" he tells Morales. "So, maybe now.” 

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