On August 20, 1989, Erik and Lyle Menendez brutally murdered their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, with two 12-gauge shotguns. While Lyle has been telling his side of the story in numerous interviews -- including many this year -- Erik has remained silent since 2005. On Thursday night, however, in Part One of the A&E series "The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All," he broke his silence.
"I think it's time people hear the truth in my own words, without the restrictions of a court room," he said at the top of the special. "From the moment after, I wanted to go back in time to take everything back that Lyle and I did. You may think you know my story, but you couldn't possibly, because I'm telling it now for the first time."
The first two hours of the show documented the days leading up to the Menendez Murders, with Erik breaking down what caused the two brothers to kill Kitty and Jose. Here's how he laid it all out on Thursday's episode.
Menendez started his story by saying how excited he was to go to college after graduating from Beverly Hills High in June 1989, two months before the murders. His goal was to get out of the house and away from his parents. While he was under the assumption that he would live on campus, he said his father had a different plan in mind.
Erik explained that on August 13, 1989, "[Jose] was explaining to me that I would be staying at home 3 nights a week. I kept asking him what do you mean, I thought I would be gone. I had this sinking pain, this sadness. In that moment all of the dreams I pinned on escaping home, they crushed inside of me." After he started packing his bags in defiance, he said, "My dad came in a few minutes later, he pushed me up against the window, had his arm against my neck and said, 'Do we have a problem?' He said, 'You better be here when I get back from my trip.' At that point, I just was defeated. I really thought about suicide. I thought about taking my life."
On August 15, Erik said he overheard an argument between his mother and brother about Lyle's hairpiece. "They were in an argument and Lyle was saying that he needed it and it was important and mom in a rage said, 'You don't ned your effing hair piece!' and she reached up and she ripped his hair off his head. I remember just being stunned by what happened." Erik continued, saying he consoled his brother after the fight and then ended up telling Lyle he was being molested by their father. "He got suddenly really upset," Erik said, "Saying how could I let that happen, did I enjoy it, why didn't I tell anyone, why didn't I stop it. I was crying and I started having a small panic attack."
Erik said Lyle confronted his father about it on the 17th. "Dad basically told him stay out of it, don't throw your life away. We're gonna forget this conversation ever took place," Erik explained. "Lyle just exploded on him, saying you're gonna keep your hands off my brother, you're a sick person. Suddenly, there's this pounding and my dad is saying open the door. I unlock the door, he bursts in, 'I warned you not to tell everyone.' I pushed him away and I ran down the stairs. I ran into the den and my mom is there ... she was drinking, slurring her words."
He said he told Kitty she wouldn't understand when she asked what was wrong. "She said, 'I understand a lot more than you think. I've always known. What do you think I am, stupid?' I just screamed, 'I hate you, I hate you.' It became clear to me that dad was not going to let me get away. That was the moment that I knew my parents were gonna kill me."
With that thought in his mind, he said the brothers went down to San Diego and purchased guns on August 18. As for why they went with shotguns, Erik explained that the shop owner told them they were the best for "self defense."
Erik went on to detail an odd boat trip the family made the day before the Menendez parents were murdered. "I remember the drive down the marina, it was complete silence all the way there. I swear to god, it felt like I was being driven to my grave," he said. "I remember seeing the boats and feeling this dread. A part of me just wanted to run. The idea of being alone on the ocean with nobody around, I was nervous and paranoid for a good reason."
"My mom was upset that there were more people on the boat than she anticipated," he added. "I guess she had only expected the boat captain to be there. I remember thinking, why should she care? Nothing about that trip makes sense. We shouldn't have been out there. There was no fishing at all that I remember. That was the whole reason we were there, but there wasn't any fishing going on."
The captain of the boat also spoke during the special, describing the "weird vibe all around" during the trip. "To this day, I wonder what was supposed to happen that night,' added Erik.
He also said his father once again pounded at his door when they got home, but he eventually stopped before anything escalated.
Erik called Sunday, August 20 -- the day they killed their parents -- the "worst day of all." He said he tried to avoid the house all day, as the "tension" had been building up "day after day," and just started driving aimlessly.
"I remember being parked on the side of the PCH on the hood of my car and it just felt like the world was ending," he explained. "This gloomy despair in my heart."
When he got home, Lyle approaching him saying their father wanted them both home that night. "It became clear to me that our parents were going to kill us," Erik said.
Around 10pm, Erik said his father told him to go to his room, adding that he would "be there in a minute."
"I felt like my life was over just then. Everything was colliding at that moment, I just felt chills over my body. I remember running, grabbing the gun, I remember my hands trembling," he explained. "All I knew was that if I didn't get to those doors before mom and dad got out, I was gonna die. It was the only thought in my head. I couldn't breathe. I was gonna die. I had seconds left and I had to get to the den. It was like every single thing that mom and dad had told me, they were going to kill me, it was all happening right now."
"I remember firing and firing and I couldn't see anything. It was just fire and darkness and booming, exploding sounds. It was just terrible. It was like hell had come to the world and I just wanted to run away and there was nowhere to go," he said. "Afterwards, I collapsed on the stairs. I started to cry and [Lyle] came and sat beside me and he put his arm around me and I started to tremble and he just said it's gonna be alright. I felt nauseous, like I was gonna throw up. Minutes passed, it just seemed like forever."
When police failed to show up immediately, the two men starting thinking about their alibis. They drove to a movie theater and attempted to buy tickets that could provide them with some cover. "The tickets were were able to get showed the movie would start at 10:30, they were useless," he said. He also detailed how the two of them drove to Mulholland Dr. to dispose of the shotguns.
"We just drove to Mulholland, we just put them under a bush and shoved some dirt over it. I was really terrified that everything would get exposed," he said.
After they returned home, Lyle called the police again. "I felt like what I had done was just, I just wanted to undo it. I just wanted to go back in time. I didn't want this moment to be real. I just collapsed emotionally." After they were ushered into police cruises, "I remember Lyle asking me, 'Are you gonna be able to say we were at the movies?'"
Days after the murders -- while the two weren't yet suspects -- the brothers started playing tennis, something some thought was an odd decision.
"Lyle and I did not talk about things as much as I wish we would have. All I wanted to do was talk about what happened and how to live with it, because I couldn't live with it," said Erik. "So the only thing I knew was tennis, so I just pushed myself into that full time. It kept me from just be idle all day long. I was still by myself at night and I was just getting worse and worse emotionally."
He said he later had dreams of killing himself, where he would "be floating in this blue peace and all of the pain would go away and suddenly I was dead and I was so happy that I was dead. I wanted that."
As for the "sending spree" the two went on after the murders -- which included Erik purchasing a new Jeep -- he said the shopping "was my brother's way of coping." "I didn't spend money afterwards," he added, "No more than I would have before."
Eventually, Erik confided in therapist Dr. Jerome Oziel about the murders. "I just broke down and I told him what had happened. After I had confessed to him, he called Lyle in," he explained. "He said he would feel comfortable not going to the police if we went into business together. It was very clear to me that he wanted money."
Oziel shared the confession with his then-girlfriend, who went to the cops after they broke up, leading to the brothers' arrest.
The special ended with Erik saying, "We fought so hard to keep the secrets from coming out but everything was just getting out of control."