Father, mother were abusive, son says at trial Brothers charged with killing parents

September 14, 1993|By Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- Lyle Menendez, facing a murder charge in the slaying of his parents, described an emotionally charged childhood punctuated by violence and controlled by a father obsessively molding his first-born son into his image of success.

Yesterday, on the second day of his testimony in a suburban Van Nuys, Calif., courtroom, Mr. Menendez, 25, recounted being smashed in the mouth by his father when he talked back and of being exiled to a backyard dog house on cold winter days when he could not measure up to his dad's strict standards.

He also spoke of a mother who would break into rages, drag him by his hair to his room, kick him, and who even chased him with a kitchen knife.

"She was very strange," he testified. "There were times when she was in another world."

As an 8-year-old, isolated in a frightening family setting, he said that he turned to his collection of stuffed animals, such as those from the popular Sesame Street children's show, to be his friends.

He described in great detail how, as a teen-ager, he sent roses to his sweetheart, declaring in a note, "I love you, I will always love you." He then ticked off more than a dozen names of his stuffed animals whose names appeared on the love note along with his own.

It was Mr. Menendez's second day of testimony in the courtroom of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stanley M. Weisberg. He and his brother, Erik, 22, are charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of their parents, Jose Menendez, 45, and Kitty Menendez, 47, in the family's Beverly Hills, Calif., mansion in August 1989.

The brothers have admitted the shotgun slayings, but their defense is that they were driven to kill because of excessive mental and sexual abuse.

The district attorney alleges that the brothers coldly planned the killings in an effort to gain control of a $14 million family estate.

If convicted, both brothers could face the death penalty.

Lyle Menendez is expected to be on the witness stand for the balance of the week. He is being guided through his early life by his lead defense counsel, Jill Lansing, who is laying a foundation for the events leading up to the slayings.

Although he choked up a few times yesterday, his testimony was not nearly as dramatic as his first day on the stand last Friday, when he frequently sobbed while describing being raped by his father and other abuses.

Deputy District Attorney Pamela Bozanich was expected to begin her cross-examination of Lyle Menendez tomorrow.

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