The Menendez brothers’ murder case was infamous for its brutality as well as its posh nature. Erik and Lyle Menendez, then 18 and 21, allegedly murdered their parents, entertainment executive Jose Menendez and Mary Ruth "Kitty" Menendez, on August 20, 1989. Jose was shot one time from point blank range in the back of the head. Kitty tried to flee and was shot multiple times, leaving her corpse almost unrecognizable.
The brothers initially denied involvement in the murders, but their subsequent behavior was suspect: Vanity Fair reports that the young men began spending their parents’ fortunes lavishly, buying Rolexes, Porsches, properties, even businesses. In fact, sources say the brothers spent close to $1 million in just their first six months as orphans.
It wasn’t until Erik reportedly confessed the killings to his psychologist that the brothers’ scheme began to unravel. Lyle threatened the psychologist, whose mistress overheard the conversation and reported everything to the police. The Menendez brothers were arrested in March 1990, and their trial began in 1993.
The Menendez brothers’ first trial was Court TV’s first big hit, with the brothers’ attorney, Leslie Abramson, gaining notoriety for her theatrical performance in the courtroom. The brothers’ legal team accused their father, Jose, of physical and sexual abuse, claiming that the murders were a result of years of living in fear; they accused Kitty of being a drug addict who enabled Jose’s abuse. According to the Chicago Tribune, the brothers were granted a mistrial in 1996 after two juries were deadlocked.
Lyle and Erik Menendez were retried in 1996. Judge Stanley Weisberg (who tried them first in 1993) presided and banned cameras from the courtroom. The brothers were both found guilty and sentenced to consecutive life sentences in separate prisons.
We haven’t heard much about the Menendez brothers in recent years. What’s the latest?
They made a lot of pen pals
The Menendez brothers, despite being convicted murderers, were apparently a real catch for lonely women. Erik and Lyle received massive amounts of letters in prison from ladies who thought they were just misunderstood. News.com.au reports that many women who write to men behind bars, including the Menendez brothers, want to "mother" their pen pals. In terms of inmates, the Menendez brothers were appealing because they were handsome, rich, and infamous. They received so much mail that the brothers actually found love through their letters.
Erik found a wife
Erik met wife Tammi Menendez (nee Saccoman) through letters in prison. She told Dan Abrams of MSNBC in 2005, "We did get very close through letters and then you know the relationship moved forward when I did meet him. But it was the correspondence that he became a really good friend of mine and understood what I was going through and I understood what he was going through…after I met him, things…got more and more intense."
Tammi admitted that since Erik isn’t allowed conjugal visits, actually consummating their marriage may be impossible, but that they’re still allowed to be physically affectionate. "[We’re used to] holding hands, and when you’re taking pictures you can have physical contact," she says. "You can kiss when you come in to the visiting room and when you leave."
Erik got down on one knee during a visit, and the pair married in a telephone ceremony in a prison visiting room in 1998. Erik told People, "Tammi is what gets me through. I can’t think about the sentence. When I do, I do it with a great sadness and a primal fear. I break into a cold sweat. It’s so frightening I just haven’t come to terms with it."
Lyle found two wives
Lyle met several women behind bars through correspondence. One of them was Anna Eriksson, pictured here, a former Playboy playmate, who began writing to Lyle in 1995. A year later, the pair became engaged, but People reports that a judge put the kibosh on the wedding. However, Inside Edition reports they were eventually married in 1996 and divorced in 2001.
Lyle wasn’t lonely for long. After his split from Eriksson, he married lawyer Rebecca Sneed in 2003 during ceremony in the maximum security facility visiting area.
Lyle may have a boyfriend, too
Lyle and Sneed’s marriage may not be the happiest of unions. The National Enquirer (via Radar Online) reports that Lyle has a boyfriend named Chino in prison and that Sneed isn’t thrilled about it. When former inmate Eugene L. Weems told Sneed her husband was gay, she became "hysterical," he said. "She was talking about divorcing him, and he told her I was lying."
They inspired TV shows
Variety reported in April 2016 that a new true crime series is in development, aptly named Law & Order: True Crime. The first installment of the series will be based on the Menendez brothers case. "We’ve been talking with Dick [Wolff, Law & Order creator] about how to create an event series coming out of the Law & Order ripped-from-the-headlines brand," NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke said. "This case captured the public’s attention like nothing before it as it examined taboo issues such as patricide and matricide in gruesome detail, all against a backdrop of privilege and wealth. We will re-create the cultural and societal surroundings of both the murders and trials when people were not only obsessed with the case but examining how and why these brothers committed these heinous crimes."
It won’t be the first time the brothers inspired television crime shows: The pair had a CBS miniseries based on the case, Menendez: A Killing In Beverly Hills (1994), as well as a Fox TV movie, Honor Thy Father And Mother: The True Story Of The Menendez Murders (1994). A clip from the latter is featured above.
Their case may not be over
Crime Feed reports that the Menendez brothers may actually be eligible for a retrial. A new California law states that anyone who wasn’t allowed to present evidence of abuse may apply for a retrial. In an episode of Barbara Walters Presents American Scandals, the veteran journalist reported on a letter from Lyle to a cousin describing abuse at the hands of his father. The letter was ruled inadmissible in court. Lyle also gave some grisly testimony describing abuse that wasn’t presented in court during the second trial. The Menendez brothers’ attorney told Walters that he’s confident he can get them a retrial before the 2020 deadline.
Now that you’re up to speed on these infamous brothers, keep reading for an update on the current lives of some of America’s other most infamous alleged criminals. While some are still serving long prison sentences, others are leading pretty normal lives…
Casey Anthony reportedly resorted to a life of seclusion after she was acquitted in the murder of her 2-year-old daughter in 2011. As of 2014, Anthony was living in an undisclosed location in Florida, her trial lawyer, Cheney Mason, revealed to CNN. "She has to live constantly on guard. She can’t go out in public," Mason said. Anthony, who filed for bankruptcy in 2013, also lost all relationships with her blood relatives, including her parents, after the trial, Mason said. Anthony resurfaced in 2015 amid reports that she had purchased a 2,000 square-foot home in West Palm Beach. The following year, she was reported to be launching her own photography business, according to The Daily Mail.
In 2017, the Associated Press reported that she had been living with and working for Patrick McKenna, her defense team’s lead private investigator. In addition to work, Anthony reportedly spends much of her time reading, taking pictures of nature and hanging out with various friends, with whom she occasionally goes to bars and clubs in and around West Palm Beach, Fla.
"I don’t give a s*** about what anyone thinks about me," Anthony, who claims she is living a normal life today, told the Associated Press. "I’m OK with myself, I sleep pretty good at night."
The AP also reported that "reminders of her daughter are everywhere" in her house.
George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013, was subsequently arrested in January 2015 "on suspicion of aggravated assault and domestic violence with a weapon," according to CNN. The charges came after Zimmerman allegedly threw a wine bottle at his then-girlfriend. That incident was just the latest relationship hiccup for Zimmerman, who was arrested in 2013 after allegedly pointing a shotgun at his then-girlfriend.
Things only got weirder in May when Zimmerman was shot by a motorist said to be involved in an ongoing dispute with Zimmerman at the time. Two months later, in an interview with the Spanish-language television show Aqui y Ahora (via Vice), Zimmerman claimed he was homeless, suffering from PTST and was $2.5 million in debt. Zimmerman resurfaced in May 2016 when reports claimed he was planning to auction off the gun he used to shot Trayvon Martin to raise money to help fight against presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Lorena Bobbitt has moved on considerably in the 20-plus years since she infamously cut off her husband John’s, uh, Johnson and stood trial for her actions. Bobbitt, who was acquitted on charges, has since married her second husband, Dave Bellinger, with whom they have a daughter in Virginia, according to Us Weekly.
Bobbitt sat for an interview with Steve Harvey in 2015, saying, "I have a new life now and I just want to focus on what is positive and I surrounded myself with positive people." She’s also started an organization, Lorena’s Red Wagon, which she says helps women and children who flee from abusive homes. As for John, whom Bobbitt accused of abusing her frequently during their marriage, Bobbitt says he tried to reach out to her on "numerous occasions" but that she deleted his number after each attempt.
Scott Peterson was sentenced to death in 2014 after being found guilty of murdering his pregnant wife Laci and their unborn son and dumping Laci’s body in the San Francisco Bay. Peterson’s team filed an appeal in 2012. The New York Daily News subsequently reported that, because the death penalty was banned in the state of California in 2014, Peterson’s sentence could be reduced to life in prison.
According to People, journalist Nancy Mullane was given access to Peterson, who is still fighting the verdict on appeal, for her book, Life After Murder: Five Men In Search of Redemption, in 2012. "He didn’t look depressed," Mullane described of Peterson’s life inside prison, which included basketball games and jokes with inmates. "He looked like someone you’d see on the street playing basketball. He had his shirt off and his boxer shorts up. He wasn’t ripped, but he looked healthy."
In 2017, new interest was created in the Laci Peterson murder case thanks to two docuseries that aired on ABC and A&E, respectively. In the latter special, Scott appeared via a phone call he gave from prison that year, during which he insisted he "wasn’t the last one to see Laci that day." "There were so many witnesses that saw her walking in the neighborhood after I left," he said (via Fox News).
Amanda Knox’s life has been filled with many legal twists and turns after an Italian court convicted her and her now ex-boyfriend of murdering Knox’s roommate, Meredith Kercher. Knox’s guilty verdict was overturned in a court of appeals in 2011. Then, in a shocking twist, the verdict was reinstated after she was convicted in a second appeals trial in 2014, according to People. Miraculously, the Supreme Court of Italy overturned that conviction in 2015, finally setting Knox free after an eight-year-long headache.
Throughout this ordeal, Knox made numerous attempts to get her own life back on track. According to People, Knox graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. That same year, she began working as a freelance reporter for the West Seattle Herald. In 2015, she became engaged to musician Colin Sutherland, whom she first met in middle school, according to People.
In 2017, People reported that Knox’s engagement had ended and that she is currently dating and living with a new man, Christopher Robinson, in Seattle. Knox, who was the subject of a Netflix documentary released in 2016, also said she no longer worried about going back to prison. "Now I have normal-person fears — fears of failure, of not being smart enough or strong enough or kind enough," she said.
She also spoke about starting a family one day, admitting, "I look forward to that part of my life that I had always taken for granted growing up and then had to let go of in prison, and then [I] suddenly find myself with that as an actual opportunity again. I can only be insanely grateful for that."
In 1997, O.J. Simpson—who was found not guilty in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in 1995—was ordered to pay upwards of $33.5 million to the family members of Brown and Goldman after being found responsible for their deaths in a wrongful death civil trial.
Simpson made national headlines again a little over 10 years later after he was sentenced to a maximum of 33 years in prison for confronting and robbing sports memorabilia collectors at gunpoint inside a Las Vegas Hotel. He was granted parole in 2013 for good behavior; however, at the time, he was still ordered to remain in jail for four more years because his sentences were ordered to run consecutively, according to the NY Post.