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Everything To Know About Erik And Lyle Menendez's Father Jose, Accused Of Sexual Abuse
The infamous 1989 double murder case is back in the spotlight thanks to a shocking new rape allegation revealed in Peacock's "Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed."
“Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed,” a new Peacock docuseries, explores a provocative new allegation against the brothers’ late father.
Roy Rosselló, 53, an ex-member of the 1980s boy band Menudo, claims in the Peacock special that Jose Menendez sexually assaulted him when he was 14. In a preview for the docuseries that aired on NBC’s TODAY, Rosselló points to an image of Jose Menendez and says, “That’s the man here that raped me.”
In the initial trial, which ended in a mistrial, the Menendez brothers cited sexual and physical abuse by their father, leading them to commit the murders on August 20, 1989 at the family home in Beverly Hills. The prosecution contended the brothers' motive was greed, pointing to their spending spree in the months following their parents' murders.
So who is Jose Menendez? Before the new docuseries streams, get up to speed on this key figure in the Peacock special.
Who Is Jose Menendez?
Born in Cuba to “well-to-do business people and star athletes,” Jose was 16 when his parents sent him to the U.S. in the late 1950s, the Los Angeles Times reported. He lived with a cousin in Pennsylvania before winning an athletic scholarship to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. That’s where he met his future wife, Mary Louise, who was known as Kitty.
The couple wed in 1963 and moved to New York.
While completing his degree in accounting at Queens College, Jose washed dishes at the Manhattan restaurant 21. He worked his way up the ladder at a number of businesses. After Joseph Lyle Menendez was born in 1968, the family moved to New Jersey, where Erik was born in 1970.
What Did Jose Menendez Do For A Living?
Jose was 35 when he became executive vice president at Hertz, a subsidiary of Radio Corporation of America, more commonly known as RCA. In 1980, he became head of the company’s record division, RCA-Ariola. Per the LA Times, Jose was earning $500,000 a year. He signed famous groups like the Eurythmics, Duran Duran and Menudo, Vanity Fair reported. He was in charge of building up the label’s Latin music line.
Jose left RCA in 1986. He landed at the independent film company Carolco Pictures, which produced the “Rambo” big-screen franchise. He moved his family to California, eventually settling into a Beverly Hills mansion once owned by Elton John and Prince. But Jose also had to negotiate with “some less savory business associates,” reported People.
Nonetheless, he thrived in the competitive landscape, raking in millions a year. "He had an incredible dedication to business. He was focused, specific about what he wanted from business, very much in control. He believed that whatever had to be done should be done — with no heart, if necessary,” a colleague told Vanity Fair.
Jose turned the struggling International Video Entertainment Inc. (IVE), a video distributor into profitability, according to People. After a merger with a Minnesota-based record company, IVE became known as Live Entertainment and is now known as Artisan Entertainment.
What Was Jose Menendez Like?
Jose set high goals for himself – and his sons. He would “work his children to the bone in athletics,” especially tennis, and everything else, reported Biography. Jose was also protective of the family name. When Lyle and Erik were caught burglarizing neighbors' homes for the thrill of it, Jose “used his money and influence to shield them from any real consequences,” according to Vanity Fair.
Though he portrayed himself as a doting father and husband, behind closed doors Jose was reportedly strict and cruel. Family friend Karen Lamm described Jose as being mean to Kitty. "Those kids watched their mother become a doormat for their father," Lamm told Vanity Fair.
How Did Jose Menendez Die?
Jose was 45 years old and chief executive of Live Entertainment when he was killed. Kitty was 44. They were shot multiple times at close range with a shotgun and rendered unrecognizable.
It was so brutal that police thought the killings were a mob hit, and early investigations focused on that possibility. The investigation eventually turned to Lyle and Erik. They testified that they feared for their lives after being subjected to years of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of their father.
Prosecutors argued that the brothers were driven by greed, pointing out that Erik and Lyle spent an estimated $700,000 of their inheritance in the months following their parents' deaths. The brothers were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
What Has Jose Menendez Been Accused Of?
Menendez was affiliated with Menudo because he had signed the group to RCA Records, reported Global News. Rosselló alleges that José Menendez, who was an executive at RCA Records at the time, sexually assaulted him when he was a teen member of the band.
“I know what he did to me in his house,” he says. Pointing to a picture of Jose in the preview, Rosselló says, “That's the pedophile.”