Before there was O.J. Simpson, there was another "trial of the century." It was the case of the Menendez Brothers, the subject of NBC's "Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders," which premieres on NBC Tuesday at Sept. 26 at 10/9c and on Oxygen as an encore on Oct. 2 at 8/7c.
In 1994, the nation watched as brothers Lyle and Erik were sentenced to life in prison without parole in the 1989 killing of their parents, Jose and Mary "Kitty." The Menendez trial had it all: affluence, greed and murder. Here's seven facts you should know about the Menendez Brothers.
Rags to Riches
The Menendez Brothers grew up in the lap of luxury from New Jersey and later, Beverly Hills. It was all possible because of their father Jose. A refuge from Cuba, he was the quintessential rags-to-riches tale, working his way to the top of corporate America. Jose worked at several high profile companies including RCA Records, Hertz and—at the time of his death—film company Carolco Pictures, which specialized in home video tapes (an enormous industry at the time).
Beverly Hills Life
After moving to Beverly Hills, the Menendez Brothers enjoyed the finest of everything. Lyle attended Princeton University while Erik was a competitive tennis player. Their approximately 9,000 square-foot mansion was formerly owned by Elton John, and included an Olympic-sized swimming pool and tennis court.
Erik was remembered as very popular with the ladies in high school. It's no surprise that both brothers got married while locked up following their convictions.
Even before the murder case, the Menendez Brothers faced criminal charges. The two were caught breaking and entering into friends and neighbors' homes and stealing loot to the tune of $100,000. Daddy helped them beat the case. Little brother Erik, still a juvenile, took the blame and got probation while Jose paid off the victims.
The murders of Jose and Kitty were rare for the gated, safe neighborhood of Beverly Hills. What shocked law enforcement even more is the amount of savagery and force. The parents were shot multiple times at close range with a shotgun and rendered unrecognizable. When photos of the crime scene were shown in court, audible gasps were heard.
Break In The Case
The break in the Menendez case belongs in a scene on a crime sitcom. The boys reportedly confessed to psychiatrist Dr. Oziel that they murdered their parents. The doctor was so scared of them he had his ex-girlfriend pose as a patient in the waiting room so the brothers would know there was a witness who had watched them enter his office. She eavesdropped on their confession, and was the one who first tipped police off.
Trial of the Century
Before there was O.J. Simpson, there was the Menendez Brothers. As the first courtroom trial to be televised, the nation was gripped with the case in 1993. CourtTV played it out like a soap opera. To this day, we're still gripped by the story of two handsome brothers who brutally murdered their parents. Was it over Jose's alleged sexual abuse or the brothers' greed to take their parents' money? Questions some people are still asking today.
Watch a trailer for NBC's "Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders."
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