Where Are the Menendez Brothers Now?

erik and lyle menendez stand outside a home and stare at the camera, the front door is open, erik wears a jacket over a tshirt with shorts, lyle wears a tshirt with pants
Where Are the Menendez Brothers Now?Getty Images
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In a shocking crime that later gripped the nation, Lyle and Erik Menendez gunned down their parents, José and Mary Louise “Kitty” Menendez, in their Beverly Hills home on August 20, 1989. The Menendez brothers were arrested for their parents’ murders in March 1990. They have been behind bars ever since.

In their first trial, Lyle and Erik testified that their father had sexually abused them as two juries, one for each brother, listened on. They said this abuse, which their mother had been aware of, made them fear for their lives, and that’s why they killed their parents. Their first trial resulted in a deadlocked jury for each brother.

Lyle and Erik’s second trial began in 1995, this time with just one jury for the both of them. In this joint trial, the judge limited the defense’s ability to introduce sexual abuse allegations. Ultimately, the brothers were each convicted of first-degree murder in 1996. Although the death penalty was a possibility, they each received two consecutive life sentences without parole.

Lyle and Erik, who were 21 and 18 years old when they committed the murders, are now 56 and 53, older than their parents ever were. After spending so many years in prison, the two have adapted to the rhythms and rules of incarceration. They haven’t completely relinquished hope of someday living outside prison walls but currently remain locked up. Here’s everything you need to know about where the Menendez brothers are now and what their life is like today.

Where Are the Menendez Brothers Incarcerated?

Lyle and Erik asked to be housed in the same prison when their sentences began in 1996. However, at the time, prison officials preferred to separate people who’d committed crimes together. In addition, a detective on their case warned that the brothers might plan an escape.

Through the years, Lyle continued to request a placement closer to his brother. On February 22, 2018, he was transferred from northern California’s Mule Creek State Prison to San Diego’s Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, where Erik had been incarcerated since 2013.

Lyle initially lived in a different housing unit than Erik at Donovan. But on April 4, 2018, prison officials moved Erik to the same unit as Lyle. According to Robert Rand, a journalist who keeps in contact with the Menendez brothers and members of their family, the two “burst into tears immediately” when they saw each other for the first time since 1996. Once only able to communicate via letters, now the brothers can meet during exercise, recreation, and meal periods.

What Is Life in Prison Like for the Menendez Brothers?

The brothers’ notoriety has drawn attention from other inmates. In 2005, Erik told People, “I have gotten into fights… many fights. But I never fight first. You have to learn to be smart. There is a perpetual state of fear that exists as background noise. You always have to be aware of who is around you. You have to continually hone your survival instincts.”

That said, Lyle and Erik haven’t been regular troublemakers behind bars. The California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation tells Biography.com via email, “During his incarceration, Erik Menendez has incurred two serious rules violations. Joseph [Lyle] Menendez has incurred no rules violations.”

Watch the documentary True and Lies: The Menendez Brothers or the dramatized movie Menendez: Blood Brothers

Thanks to their good behavior and efforts in prison jobs and classes, Erik and Lyle now live in a “non-designated programming facility” at Donovan. This unit, known as Echo Yard, offers inmates more freedom and rehabilitative and educational programming. Echo Yard prisoners take yoga and art classes, study different academic subjects, and join groups to address issues like anger management or alcoholism.

Although Echo Yard is less restrictive, it is still part of a prison. Inmates must stand for regular formal counts. Lyle and Erik live in different dorm rooms with other inmates, and these cells are locked overnight, beginning at 9 p.m.

What Interests Have the Menendez Brothers Developed in Prison?

Erik has worked with terminally ill inmates. He’s also become interested in meditation and has led classes about religion. In 2018, his aunt told ABC News, “[Erik] was really making sure that the prisoners knew that there is a God that loves us. That was marvelous to me because he never got that at home.”

Erik has also spent time painting in prison. Together, Erik and Lyle came up with a plan to paint a mural on the concrete walls surrounding Echo Yard.

Lyle served in inmate government for 15 years at Mule Creek State Prison. According to Robert Rand, Lyle has worked on prison reform, an interest Erik also shares. Both brothers have offered support and guidance to people who experienced childhood sexual abuse.

How Do the Menendez Brothers Keep in Contact With Friends and Family?

Erik and Lyle are both categorized as Group A prisoners, who have the most privileges to receive visits and make calls within California’s corrections system. For most of their incarceration, making calls from prison was expensive, but in January 2023 telephone calls became free for inmates and their families.

The state of California began providing tablets to prisoners in August 2021, but the devices didn’t reach Donovan inmates until June 2023. The tablets don’t permit access to social media or internet browsers, though inmates can read magazines and keep up with the news. Prisoners can stay in touch with approved contacts via the tablets. In addition to email and free calls, they receive a limited amount of video call minutes and text messages with the option to pay for more.

Both Lyle and Erik Are Married and Met Their Wives While Behind Bars

Prison hasn’t stopped Lyle and Erik from finding love.

tammi saccoman walks outside and holds a clear satchel full of money, she wears an all white suit
Tammi Menendez, seen here in June 1999, is the wife of Erik Menendez.Getty Images

Tammi Saccoman watched Erik’s first trial and wrote to him. The pen pals met in person in 1997 and got married at Folsom State Prison in 1999. Several years into their marriage, Tammi wrote a book about their relationship titled They Said We'd Never Make It: My Life With Erik Menendez.

Lyle married Rebecca Sneed in the maximum-security visiting area at Mule Creek State Prison in 2003. It was his second prison wedding; his first marriage to former model Anna Eriksson ended in divorce.

California prisons permit inmates to have conjugal visits, which are officially known as family visits. Prisoners serving life sentences without parole weren’t eligible for these visits until the law changed in 2016. However, the state continues to prohibit family visits for prisoners who committed a violent offense against a family member, meaning Lyle and Erik remain ineligible for family visits.

Lyle told ABC News, “I’ve found I can have a healthy marriage that is complicated and built around conversation and finding creative ways to communicate, sharing, without all the props that are normally there in marriage in terms of going out to dinner and having as much intimate time together and so on.”

Could the Menendez Brothers Be Released From Prison?

Erik and Lyle filed multiple appeals during their years in prison, but none succeeded, and it seemed they had no viable path to freedom. Then in May 2023, attorneys for Lyle and Erik filed a habeas petition that asked for a new evidentiary hearing or for the Menedez brothers’ convictions to be vacated.

roy rossello smiling for a camera in his menudo costume
Menudo band member Roy Rosselló, seen here around 1985, has said record executive José Menendez sexually assaulted him as a teenager.Getty Images

The petition was filed after Roy Rosselló, a former member of boy band Menudo, went public with an experience of sexual assault he says he suffered at the hands of José Menendez in the 1980s. In the 2023 documentary series Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed, Rosselló stated José, then an executive at RCA Records, had drugged and raped him.

In addition, a letter Erik had sent to a cousin eight months before he shot his parents was found in 2018. Erik had written, “I’ve been trying to avoid dad. Its [sic] still happening Andy, but its worse for me now... I never know when its going to happen and its driving me crazy. Every night I stay up thinking he might come in.”

The recent petition included Erik’s letter and a signed declaration from Rosselló. However, overturning convictions is rare within the judicial system, and the Menendez brothers face an uphill battle to be retried or resentenced for the murders.

In 2019, Lyle told journalist Robert Rand the brothers are trying to manage their expectations regarding freedom: “We’ve seen too many friends get their hopes up with appeal filings and commutation requests. They’ve marked the days off on calendars. In the end, they are turned down and sadly sink into a deep depression.”

The Menendez Brothers’ Story Is Coming to Netflix in 2024

More than three decades have passed since they killed their parents, but the Menendez brothers’ fame persists. Their first trial was broadcast on CourtTV and can still be viewed online. People on social media like TikTok and Instagram have shared their belief in the brothers’ allegations of abuse, including comedian Rosie O’Donnell.

The brothers’ story has also inspired multiple movies and TV shows, including the drama Menendez: Blood Brothers, Law & Order True Crime: the Menendez Murders on NBC, and the documentary Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers - American Sons, American Murders.

In 2024, more productions will focus on Lyle and Erik’s story. The second season of Netflix’s Monster series is Monsters: The Lyle and Erik Menendez Story. Lyle and Erik are also participating in a documentary for Netflix.

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