It's been 27 years since Lyle and Erik Menendez killed their parents in Beverly Hills, but Lyle says the brothers have "almost never talked about" the murders because it's "just too overwhelming."
"My life is a struggle [to] not to be defined by what happened," Lyle told ABC in the upcoming special, "Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers — American Sons, American Murderers." "I'm at peace with my life growing up. I'm at peace with it, because I've just sort of accepted [that] it's okay not to understand."
On August 20, 1989, Lyle and and Erik shot their wealthy parents in their mansion using shotguns they bought just days before the murders. Their father had been a successful Cuban-American business executive, while their mother was a homemaker and a socialite. Both had been shot in the kneecap (among other wounds) which made authorities believe the brothers wanted it to look like a mob hit.
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The Menendez brothers, jailed for murder of parents
The Menendez brothers, jailed for murder of parents
Erik Menendez (R) and brother Lyle listen to court proceedings during a May 17, 1991 appearance in the case of the shotgun murder of their wealthy parents in August 1989. The California Supreme Court must decide whether to review a lower court decision to allow alleged tape confessions made to a psychiatrist as evidence before a preliminary hearing can take place. REUTERS/Lee Celano
Erik Menendez looks back into the courtroom during a break in the murder trial, August 16 after the prosecution rested its case against him. Erik and his brother Lylem are accused of killing their parents for the inheritance
Defendant Lyle Menendez glances back during a court session August 20, 1993. Menendez and his brother Erik are on trial for the shotgun murders of their parents in 1989. REUTERS/Lee Celano
Lyle Menendez, one of two brothers on trial for the shotgun murder of their wealthy parents, breaks down in tears September 10, 1993 as he recalls incidents of sexual abuse by his father during court testimony. At left are photographs, some showing the genitals of Lyle and brother Erik as children, which the defense claims their father took. Reuters/Lee Celano
Defendant Lyle Menendez wipes his eyes September 10, 1993 as he testifies in a Van Nuys, California courtroom in his defense in the shooting of his parents Lyle and Kitty Menendez. Lyle and brother Erik have admitted to shooting their parents in reaction to years of alleged abuse. REUTERS/Lee Celano
Erik Menendez testifies under cross examination by Deputy District Attorney Lester Kuriyama during a court session October 1, 1993. Kuriyama questioned Menendez's truthfulness in the questioning of the defendant. Menendez and his brother Lyle are on trial for the shotgun murder of their parents. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich
Erik Menendez, one of two brothers accused in the shotgun murder of their wealthy parents, sits silently after a judge refused to pay for his private lawyer to represent him in his retrial March 9, 1994. Menendez pleaded to judge Cecil Mills for public funds to pay for Leslie Abramson, who represented him in his previous trial. That trial resulted in hung juries for both Erik and older brother Lyle. REUTERS/Pool/ Nick Ut
Erik Menendez sits in court July 22 listening to preliminary hearing in his and brother Lyle's murder case, with his attorney Leslie Abrahmson (r). The Menendez brothers both received mistrials in the shotgun killings of their parents Jose and Kitty Menendez in their first trial
Lyle Menendez (R), one of two brothers on trial for the slaying of their wealthy parents, confers with public defender Terri Towery during an October 27, 1994 hearing. Menendez was expected to request the reappointment of his former defense lawyer, Jill Lansing. Reuters/Fred Prouser
Accused murderer Erik Menendez pauses while giving his testimony December 12, 1995, after describing how he and his brother Lyle killed their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, in 1989. Erik Menendez testified he was motivated by years of sexual abuse by his father, and the fear that his parents were going to kill him. Lee Celano/Pool/REUTERS
Double murder defendant Erik Menendez mouths the words "I Love You" to his grandmother in the audience as he and brother Lyle are declared guilty of first degree murder with special circumstances in the second trial of the 1989 shotgun slayings of their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, March 20. The brothers could face the death penalty for the killings.
Defense attorney Barry Levine (L) pats the back of double murder defendant Erik Menendez (C) while attorney Leslie Abrahmson (R) listens as Erik and Lyle are declared guilty of first degree murder with special circumstances, March 20 in the second trial of the 1989 shotgun slayings of their parents Jose and Kitty Menendez. The brothers could face the death penalty for the killings.
Undated file combo image of brothers Erik (L) and Lyle Menendez who were convicted March 20, 1996 of the first degree murder of their wealthy Beverly Hills parents. The brothers were sentenced to life imprisonment. REUTERS/HO SN
"I am the kid that did kill his parents, and no river of tears has changed that and no amount of regret has changed it," Lyle Menendez continued. "I accept that. You are often defined by a few moments of your life, but that's not who you are in your life, you know. Your life is your totality of it... You can't change it. You just, you're stuck with the decisions you made."
Prosecutors argued that the brothers killed their parents to receive the family fortune, while the defense argued it was a retaliation for enduring years of their parents' abuse. Erik testified that he and his brother lived in fear of their father, adding that their father had sexually abused him.
To ABC, Lyle claimed that the alleged abuse, which was denied by their mother's brother Brian Anderson, bonded the two brothers.
"It's so painful and complicated and confusing," he said. "We have an intimacy related to that shared experience... [and] the bond become very great and intense. I'm the older brother so I find myself trying to protect Erik quite a bit through childhood, but pretty much trying to survive. It was pretty crushing to in the end to realize that I had not been able to protect to or save him from such horrible abuse as I thought. I thought we had sort of survived early childhood pretty well and that turned out not to be true."
Lyle and Erik were convicted of first-degree murder on March 20, 1996 and sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole. They were sent to separate prisons and haven't seen each other since then, although they send letters to each other.
Erik declined to be interviewed for the ABC special, but in 1996, he told ABC's Barbara Walters that he felt "tremendous remorse for the slayings."
"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about what happened and wish I could take that moment back," he told Walters.
"Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers – American Sons, American Murderers" will air on Jan. 6 on ABC.
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