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Strange prison marriages of Menendez brothers

LYLE and Erik Menendez were spoiled rich kids who had everything at their fingertips: cars, girls and an easy life in a million dollar house in Beverly Hills.

Twenty-eight years after they brutally murdered their parents in that mansion, it appears the Menendez brothers still have some of that sense of entitlement, even in prison.

Lyle, whose one-time movie star looks were a magnet for girls, is onto his second wife in prison.

Erik has just one wife who has never had anything more than possible phone sex with him.

Lyle (left) and Erik Menendez leave the courtroom in Santa Monica after one of their trials which resulted in life convictions for the brothers.Source:AP
Lyle (left) and Erik Menendez leave the courtroom in Santa Monica after one of their trials which resulted in life convictions for the brothers.Source:AP

At their separate prisons in the state of California, which does not allow conjugal visits to inmates convicted of murder or serving life, the brothers carry on these romantic relationships.

As a new television movie Menendez: Blood Brothers about their strange lives and double murder is about to screen in Australia, the brothers' true lives in prison have come under the spotlight.

And it seems that in some ways the Menendez boys are still the rich, privileged sons who followed their ruthless movie executive father's credo that "winning is everything".

While they escaped execution for killing their parents, Jose "Joe" Menendez and Kitty Anderson Menendez, both brothers will likely die in jail.

The wild seven-month spending spree they went on with their parents' money following the execution-style murders of Jose and Kitty is long over.

But the older brother, Lyle, housed at Mule Creek State Prison south-west of Sacramento, clearly still has some of the heart-throb lure he had as a rich, disaffected young man.

Now aged 49, Lyle was initially married to blonde former model Anna Eriksson, who divorced him for "cheating" on her by becoming a penpal with another women.

Lyle and Eriksson had met after she wrote to him following the brothers' first murder trial, in 1993, which was televised.

The trial became a national sensation when the brothers testified that their father had abused them, deadlocking the jury.

Within months of Eriksson's first visit to Lyle in prison, they decided to marry.

Erik Menendez married Tammi Ruth Saccoman in prison where he is now allowed conjugal rights with his wife.
Erik Menendez married Tammi Ruth Saccoman in prison where he is now allowed conjugal rights with his wife. Supplied
Their wedding, conducted via speaker phone from prison to a judge in 1996, was attended by the brothers' lawyer Leslie Abramson and aunt Marta Menendez.

The pair divorced in 2001.

Two years later, Lyle married Rebecca Sneed, a 33-year-old magazine editor from Sacramento, at a ceremony in the supermax prison visiting area of Mule Creek State Prison.

On a US ABC-TV documentary recorded last year, Lyle Menendez said of his marriage: "I've found I can have a healthy marriage that is complicated and built around conversation and finding creative ways to communicate, sharing, without all the props that are normally there in marriage in terms of going out to dinner and having as much intimate time together and so on."

Tammi Ruth Saccoman, now known as Tammi Menendez, married Erik in a waiting room at Folsom State Prison in 1999.

Tammi had also watched the brothers' televised trial and written to Erik, with her then-husband Chuck Saccoman's blessing.

Chuck Saccoman took his own life after she discovered he was in a sexual relationship with her daughter, Tammi admitted on the Larry King Live show.

She reached out to Erik in the period of time that followed. In June 1999, Erik, then 28, married Tammi, 37.

Tammi later described it as "a wonderful ceremony until I had to leave. That was a very lonely night".

Six years later she described their relationship as "something that I've dreamt about for a long time ... something very special that I never thought that I would ever have".

In a 2005 interview with People magazine, she stated: "Not having sex in my life is difficult, but it's not a problem for me.

"I have to be physically detached, and I'm emotionally attached to Erik ... My family does not understand."

Tammi and her then-10-year-old daughter drove 240km each weekend every weekend to visit Erik at Pleasant Valley State Prison.

Her daughter called Erik her "Earth Dad" and with Tammi the two became Erik's "family" on the outside.

Tammi says she and Erik could kiss at the beginning and end of each visit, and hold hands in between.

Now living at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility on the outskirts of San Diego, Erik told People magazine:

"Tammi's love has propelled me to become a better person. I want to be the greatest possible husband to her.

"And this affects the choices I make every day in prison. Tammi has taught me how to be a good husband.

"There is no makeup sex, only a 15-minute phone call, so you really have to try to make things work."

Erik has since described himself as "not a killer" and "not a murderer", despite the fact that both Menendez brothers finally admitted to killing their parents.

During one of their trials, they claimed their father Jose had sexually abused them.

That is one of the themes that will emerge in the new movie, Menendez: Blood Brothers, in which Courtney Love will play their conflicted mother, Kitty.

The real motive behind the brothers' murder of their parents - revenge for abuse, or greed for their parents' wealth - has long been debated.

The spectre of their father, a driven perfectionist, is explored in the film which delves into the inner lives of the Menendez family and the motives for the killing.

Jose Menendez emigrated from Cuba to America when he was just 16.

His ferocious drive and talent took him from a rental car business to the music industry and finally onto Hollywood film production.

He married pretty graduate Kitty Andersen while they were still in college.

Kitty dreamt of becoming a movie star, but after giving birth to Lyle in 1968 and then Erik two years later, she became a stay-at-home mother.

Kitty's brother Brian Andersen admitted his sister's children were spoiled, and lacked discipline.

They were bratty kids who talked back and spent their parents' money freely, Mr Andersen testified at the brothers' first murder trial.

But he said Kitty and Jose were "affectionate" parents.

The family moved to New York for Jose's job, and bought a mansion in Princeton, New Jersey.

Lyle was enrolled at Princeton after Jose paid the Ivy League college $50,000.

The boys, who tried hard to impress their ambitious father, became tennis stars.

But Lyle had mediocre grades and was suspended from Princeton for plagiarising an exam paper.

In 1987, after Jose was hired by a Hollywood film company, the Menendez family moved to Los Angeles.

At first they lived in Calabasas, a small suburb that would later became home to Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and the Kardashians.

Things started to go wrong.

Lyle and then Eric became involved with a gang of teenagers who began robbing houses for "excitement".

After they were arrested and placed on probation, Jose Menendez visited every home that was robbed and wrote a cheque to cover the stolen goods.

To distance themselves, the Menendez family moved from Calabasas to 722 North Elm Drive Beverly Hills.

It was a six-bedroom, eight-bathroom Mediterranean-style mansion with an address that was to fulfil one of Kitty Menendez's dreams.

But her life was beginning to fall apart.

Kitty learned that Jose had a long-term mistress in New York, as well as a girlfriend in Los Angeles.

She began to drink and take Valium.

Jose Menendez was, reportedly, a man for whom life was "about winning and it didn't matter how you got there", it was claimed in the documentary, Truth & Lies: The Menendez Brothers.

Truth & Lies also claimed Lyle Menendez inherited his father's willpower, intelligence and alpha male cunning.

Kitty was upset with Lyle's belief in the fact that he thought he could do anything, and that he was something of a playboy with women.

When they tried to rein him in, he stole their credit cards and went on a spending spree.

Erik had begun writing a movie script, which he would revise several times.

The plot was the story of two brothers who murdered their parents for the insurance money.

In early August 1989, Jose confided in a family member he was having problems with his sons and he wanted to take back control.

Around this time, Kitty was openly rewriting her will, cutting out her sons.

Meanwhile, two bizarre incidents had occurred, friends and neighbours of the Menendez family would later tell Truth & Lies.

Jose Menendez had the ability to make those he dealt with "cower" in fear, and expected perfection in all he came across.

The family had several dogs and a ferret, which one day was found dead, supposedly at the mercy of the family's large, aggressive black dog.

Soon afterwards, a neighbour claimed, the boys opened the refrigerator to find the head of the black dog inside.

The Tuesday before the murders, Kitty was arguing with Lyle and became so upset that she ripped off his toupee.

Lyle had worn the hairpiece at the insistence of his father who did not accept his elder son's thinning hair.

What happened on that summer evening of August 20, 1989 at the house on North Elm Drive would later be found in the last rewrite Erik Menendez made to his movie script.

Jose and Kitty were resting at home after a family trip the night before shark fishing on a chartered yacht, Motion Picture Marine.

Unbeknown to them, Erik had used a fake ID to purchase two Mossberg 12-gauge shotguns on August 18.

At around 10pm, the Menendez parents were in the den watching the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me.

The brothers stormed in and shot Jose point-black in the back of the head.

Kitty got up from the couch and ran for the hallway but was shot in the leg and fell over in her own blood.

She was shot again in the arm, chest and face.

In an attempt to make the murders appear related to organised crime, both parents were shot in the kneecaps.

Lyle and Erik then drove away and dumped the shotguns on Mulholland Drive.

The brothers then feigned arriving home to the "shock" discovery of their parents' murder.

At 11:47pm, Lyle dialled 911 and said, "Somebody killed my parents!".

Police did not subject the brothers to gunshot residue tests, and began investigating a potential mob hit and Jose's business associates.

In the ensuing months, the brothers went on a $1m spending spree.

Lyle bought a Rolex watch, a Porsche Carrera and Chuck's Spring Street Cafe, a restaurant in Princeton.

Erik hired a full-time tennis coach and competed in a series of pro tournaments in Israel.

They left North Elm Drive and moved into separate penthouse apartments.

They drove around Los Angeles in Kitty's Mercedes-Benz SL convertible, dined out at expensive restaurants and holidayed in the Caribbean and London.

Los Angeles police began to look at the pair.

In March, 1990, as he was preparing to flee California, Lyle was arrested.

Erik, who had already confessed the murders to his psychologist, returned from Israel and surrendered himself.

After the first trial ended with hung juries, Lyle and Erik were retried in 1996 and convicted of murder on evidence they did it to take control of their parents' wealth.

They were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Both brothers have since exhausted their appeals, all of which have been denied.

Topics:  editors picks hollywood marriage menendez murders prison

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