Within a week after his parents were killed, Lyle Menendez went on a spending spree, shopping for a Porsche, a house, a restaurant and clothes and hiring a bodyguard, a good friend and the bodyguard testified Tuesday.
When Menendez ventured outside, he rode in a limousine, trailed discreetly by guards in a second car, a “crash vehicle” that could ferry him to safety in an emergency, bodyguard Richard Wenskoski said.
Knowing that killers had slain Jose and Kitty Menendez with shotguns, Wenskoski said he even made a purchase for himself, a bulletproof vest. Lyle Menendez had told him “his parents were murdered by either the cartel or the mob and he was in fear of his life,” Wenskoski said.
Lyle Menendez, 25, and his brother, Erik, 22, are charged with first-degree murder in the Aug. 20, 1989, slayings of their parents, Jose Menendez, 45, a wealthy entertainment executive, and Kitty Menendez, 47. They were shot in the TV room of the family’s $4-million Beverly Hills mansion.
Prosecutors allege that the brothers killed out of hatred and greed, and are seeking the death penalty. Defense lawyers said last week when the trial began that the brothers killed their parents but fired in self-defense after years of physical, mental and sexual abuse.
Trial testimony gave way for much of Tuesday to an unusual hearing over information about the alleged abuse that is important to the defense.
Donovan Goodreau, 26, who used to share a college dorm room with Lyle Menendez, testified Monday that Menendez never said he had been molested.
But in March, 1992, Goodreau told author Robert Rand, who is writing a book about the Menendez trial, that Lyle Menendez said Jose Menendez had abused both his sons. Rand played a portion of his interview on a TV newscast Monday night.
Testifying Tuesday outside the presence of jurors, Goodreau insisted that Lyle Menendez did not confide such a secret. He said he would remember if he had because “that was pretty big stuff back then.”
Despite its importance to the defense, prosecutors called Rand to the stand Tuesday and demanded the two tapes of the interview.
Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg rejected Rand’s assertion that he was shielded by a state law that protects journalists from disclosing unpublished information, saying that it applied to newspaper, magazine, radio or TV reporters but not book authors. He ordered Rand to turn over the tapes.
Rand did so, and both he and Goodreau are scheduled to testify today.
In the few hours left Tuesday for scheduled testimony before jurors, Wenskoski said Lyle Menendez hired him for about 10 days in late August and early September, 1989.
Lyle Menendez, who was a student at Princeton University, had just returned to New Jersey from California, and said his life was in “severe danger,” Wenskoski said.
He and a partner provided 24-hour-a-day service and accompanied Lyle Menendez on his many shopping trips, even a 15-minute test ride in a white Porsche, Wenskoski said. Lyle Menendez drove the car and zipped along over the speed limit, Wenskoski said.
Glenn Stevens, 23, who also attended Princeton, said Lyle Menendez always wanted a Porsche. In California, he had an Alfa Romeo, but referred to that car “as a piece of. . . ,” Stevens said.
Wherever he went that fall, Lyle Menendez sported a Rolex watch, Stevens said.
In early September, Lyle Menendez fired his bodyguards. He said he had talked with an uncle in New York, who had been assured by a mob contact that the brothers were no longer in danger, Wenskoski said.
In late 1989, Lyle Menendez made a $300,000 down payment on a $550,000 Princeton restaurant that specialized in spicy buffalo wings, Stevens said. He added that he was being paid $600 a week to oversee it and Lyle’s investments.
Both Wenskoski and Stevens testified that Lyle Menendez did not seem to show grief over his parents’ deaths.
At the parents’ wake, Stevens said, Lyle Menendez told him: “Well, I’ve been waiting so long to be in this position, that I’m prepared for it.”