The past couple of years has seen American audiences fascinated with narratives exploring our country's infamous killers and true-crime stories, including The Jinx, Making a Murderer and the Emmy-winningThe People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
Now ABC is airing a two-hour documentary special titled Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers — American Sons, American Murderers, which looks into the notorious case about two brothers convicted of murdering their parents. Before the special airs on ABC at 9 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, Jan. 5, here are a few things you should know about the case against Lyle and Erik Menendez.
Related: Images of the Menendez brothers
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
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On Aug. 20, 1989, husband and wife Jose Menendez and Mary Louise "Kitty" Menendez were shot and killed in their Beverly Hills mansion. Later that evening, their sons Erik Menendez, 18, and Lyle Menendez, 21, called the police and claimed they arrived home after a night out to find their parents dead. The brothers escaped suspicion until March 1990 — they had, until then, blamed the mob for the murders — when it was revealed Erik Menendez had confessed his crime to a therapist.
The brothers were held in Los Angeles County Jail for two years before the case went to trial in July 1993. Erik Menendez and Lyle Menendez had separate juries, both of which were deadlocked upon the conclusion of court proceedings in January 1994. The retrial began in August 1995, after which the single jury returned a guilty verdict and the judge sentenced the brothers to two consecutive life sentences without parole.
During the retrial, the defense contended Jose Menendez had molested Erik Menendez for a period of 12 years, from age 6 to 18. The brothers claimed that in the days leading up to the murders, their father threatened them in an effort to prevent Lyle Menendez from revealing this family secret.
"I was sure mom and dad were going to do something, it was just a matter of when and how," Erik Menendez said.
In 1993, Lyle Menendez testified that both of his parents had sexually abused him. He told the court his mother would invite him to bed with her and that he touched her "everywhere."
Prosecutors alleged the brothers killed their parents out of hatred and to inherit an estate worth up to $14 million.
Life in prison
In the ABC documentary special, Lyle Menendez gives an interview in which he talks about spending 26 years in prison and his current feelings about the case.
"It's shocking to think ... that I could have been involved in taking anyone's life — and my parents' life," he says in the trailer. "It seems unimaginable because it seems so far removed from who I am."
Both brothers have married while in prison. In Snapped, a documentary special about the brothers that aired on Oxygen in October 2016, it was revealed Lyle Menendez married longtime pen pal Anna Eriksson in 1996. They divorced when Eriksson discovered Lyle Menendez had been sending letters to another woman. He subsequently married magazine editor Rebecca Sneed in 2003. Meanwhile, Erik Menendez married Tammi Saccoman, a widow, in 1999.
While investigating the murders, the Beverly Hills Police Department learned of a screenplay Erik Menendez had written that eerily alluded to their futurecrime.
Cowritten with Erik Menendez's friend Craig Cignarelli, the screenplay — titled "Friends" — begins with the primary character killing his affluent parents.
"I remember talking about the opening scene, in just the idea of, 'We need to establish a crime. We need to have the protagonist gain an inheritance so he can actually fulfill his dream of creating this hunting ground for humans,'" Cignarelli told ABC News.
While the screenplay itself wasn't allowed as evidence in the trial, Cignarelli testified that Erik Menendez confessed the killings to him Sept. 1, 1989.