A tape-recording of a hysterical 911 call reporting the shooting deaths of Jose and Kitty Menendez just before midnight last Aug. 20 was released Thursday after news media attorneys obtained a court order requiring Beverly Hills police to make it public.
The frantic, 2 1/2-minute call appears to have been made by the slain couple’s elder son, Lyle, 22, who has been charged with the slayings along with his brother, Erik, 19. The two claim they discovered their parents’ bodies upon returning from an evening at a restaurant and the movies.
On the tape, the caller began,"We’re the sons of . . . " Then, as the frustrated dispatcher repeatedly asked, “What’s the problem? What’s the problem?” the caller broke down in heavy sobs, his words almost incoherent.
“They shot and killed my parents!” the caller gasped in one of the few clear exchanges.
“Pardon me?” the dispatcher asked.
“Shot and killed my parents!” the caller repeated.
After being told that the perpetrators were no longer in the Menendezes’ Bel-Air mansion, the female dispatcher turned to a male colleague, saying, “I have a hysterical person on the phone.”
At least three times the caller shouted to his brother by name. The second dispatcher, hearing him, asked to speak with “Erik.” The younger brother never took the phone but the cries of a second person could be heard.
Both dispatchers tried to calm the caller down and find out exactly what had happened.
“Who shot who?” the young man on the line was asked.
“I didn’t hear anything; I just came home,” he sobbed.
After being asked over and over who had been shot, the caller finally choked out again, “My mom and my dad.” The call ended with a dispatcher saying that an ambulance was on the way and the caller still sobbing.
Beverly Hills police declined to identify the voices Thursday, saying that the court order said only that they must release the 911 tape. But a spokesman said that the voices of both defendants are audible, despite the poor tape quality.
When police called the Menendez residence back scarcely a minute after the 911 call, the phone rang four times before anyone answered, prompting the dispatcher to sigh, “This has been a night.”
“Hello,” a male voice finally answered. When told it was the police, he began crying. The dispatcher instructed him and his brother to “come outside” to greet police, and he said, “OK.” This call lasted only 30 seconds.
In another development, the release of a videotape documenting the March search of the Sherman Oaks home of the Menendez brothers’ psychologist, Jerome Oziel, was halted Thursday when a state appeals court issued an emergency stay. On Tuesday, Santa Monica Superior Court Judge James Albracht had ordered the release of both the 911 tape and the videotape of the search. However, Jeffrey Douglas, an attorney for the psychologist, appealed the order, citing it as an invasion of privacy.
“I believe that (release of) the search warrant videotape . . . would be a complete violation of my family’s constitutional right to privacy,” Oziel told The Times. “It would serve no purpose whatsoever in clarifying any relevant issues in this case.”
The Court of Appeal asked for written argument on the matter by next Thursday.
A Superior Court hearing on the release of a third document, records concerning the purchase of two shotguns police believe were used in the shootings, is scheduled for Wednesday.
Although the brothers were arrested and charged in March, no date has been set for a preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant a trial. Both face special-circumstance allegations of multiple murders, killing for financial gain and lying in wait, which could result in the death penalty if they are convicted. Both have pleaded innocent.
The brothers remain jailed without bail as their attorneys fight to keep audiotapes of their psychotherapy sessions with Oziel--during which they allegedly incriminated themselves--confidential. The tapes are believed to be the prosecution’s key evidence.
911 CALL TRANSCRIPT The following is a transcript of a tape of a frantic 2 1/2 -minute 911 call received by the Beverly Hills police on Sunday, Aug. 20, at 11:47 p.m. The voice is thought to be that of Lyle Menendez. Dispatcher: Beverly Hills emergency. Caller: Yes, police, uh . . . (unintelligible) Dispatcher: What’s the problem? Caller: We’re the sons . . . (caller breaks down, sobs hysterically) Dispatcher: What’s the problem? What’s the problem? Caller (sobbing): They shot and killed my parents! Dispatcher: Pardon me? Caller: Shot and killed my parents. Dispatcher: What? Who? Are they still there? Caller: Yes. Dispatcher: The people who? Caller: No, no. Dispatcher: They were shot? Caller: Erik, man, don’t . . . . (unintelligible) Dispatcher: Were they shot? Caller: Yes. Dispatcher: They were shot? Caller: Yes. First dispatcher then talks to a second, against background of caller screaming “Erik, shut up": I have a hysterical person on the phone. Dispatcher: Is the person still there? Second dispatcher: What happened? Have you been able to figure out what happened? Caller: I don’t know. Second Dispatcher: Who shot who? Caller: I didn’t hear anything. I just came home. Second Dispatcher: You came home and found who shot? Caller: My mom and dad. Second Dispatcher: You’re in bed? Caller: No. Dispatcher: Are they still in the house, the people who did the shooting? Caller (screaming): Erik! Get away from them! Second Dispatcher: OK. Hang up (apparently to first dispatcher). Let me talk to Erik. Caller: (unintelligible) Second Dispatcher: Who is the person that was shot? Caller: My mom and my dad. Second Dispatcher: Your mom and dad? Caller (wailing): My mom and my dad. Second Dispatcher: OK. Hold on a sec. (Long pause during which caller sobs). Second Dispatcher: OK. We’re on our way over there now in an ambulance. Caller: (unintelligible)