Jose and Kitty Menendez were affectionate parents, but their sons were bratty kids who talked back and spent their money freely, Kitty Menendez's brother testified Tuesday.
The first relative to testify for the prosecution against Lyle and Erik Menendez, Brian Andersen painted a vastly different picture of life in the Menendez household than have dozens of defense witnesses--including Andersen's ex-wife and son.
Over the objections of the defense that he spent so little time with the Menendez family as to make his observations meaningless, Andersen said he vividly recalled tennis tournaments in the summer of 1989, just weeks before Lyle and Erik Menendez shotgunned their parents to death.
When Erik Menendez was winning, there was a "lot of excitement, jubilation, backslapping, compliments" from the parents, Andersen said. Kitty Menendez hugged her son.
A couple of weeks later, Andersen said, Erik Menendez lost at another tournament. When Jose Menendez went to talk to him, Erik Menendez told his father, "Shut up!"
On cross-examination, defense attorney Leslie Abramson said Erik Menendez was provoked when his father said, "You played like an ass!"
"I don't recall those words," Andersen said.
Lyle and Erik Menendez are charged with first-degree murder and, if convicted, could draw the death penalty.
They testified that they killed in fear after years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Andersen's ex-wife and son were among dozens of defense witnesses who portrayed Jose Menendez as a cold, controlling power freak and Kitty Menendez as a suicidal enigma.
Prosecutors contend that the brothers killed out of hatred and greed.
In a hearing outside the presence of jurors, Andersen testified Tuesday that Jose Menendez planned just a few weeks before he was slain to tell Lyle Menendez his "reckless spending has to stop."
Using one of his parents' credit cards, Lyle Menendez bought a $900 camcorder, but Erik Menendez inadvertently left it on an airplane, Andersen said.
Jurors are likely to hear that testimony next week when Andersen, 53, of Downers Grove, Ill., returns. He was excused for the Thanksgiving holiday after testifying before jurors for most of Tuesday afternoon. Jose Menendez's former secretary is expected to testify today.
Earlier Tuesday, defense lawyers resumed their attack on Jamie Pisarcik, Lyle Menendez's ex-girlfriend, who had provided damaging testimony against both brothers the day before.
On Monday, she testified that Erik Menendez told her early in 1989 that he knew Lyle Menendez wore a toupee, contradicting the brothers' account.
Both Lyle and Erik Menendez testified that the younger brother learned of the hairpiece for the first time when Kitty Menendez ripped it off on Aug. 15, 1989--and that the shock of that was one of several incidents that led the brothers to kill their parents five nights later.
Tuesday, defense lawyers sought to portray Pisarcik as a gold-digger whose dreams of marrying into the wealthy family were dashed by her beau's admission that he was a killer.
Lyle Menendez was generous, she admitted, allowing her to live with him rent-free, and even insisting she live in the Menendez home in Beverly Hills after his arrest in March, 1990.
Menendez even bought her a car for Christmas, 1989, spending $11,199 on a used Saab. Within a year, she said, she traded the car in for a Mazda Miata sports coupe.
Pisarcik, 30, of Los Angeles, also was challenged when she asserted that she had made no wedding plans with Lyle Menendez.
Lansing confronted her with a May 8, 1990, letter she had written to him in jail in which she outlined her dream wedding--from colors (everyone in black except for her) to flowers to the place for the reception, New York's Tavern on the Green.
"Those were all dreams of mine," Pisarcik said.
In December, 1990, Lyle Menendez told her that he and his brother had killed their parents. Within weeks, she said, she dumped him, found a new boyfriend, sold her engagement ring and banked the cash.
Seated at the counsel table facing her, Lyle Menendez put his hand over his mouth and covered a laugh.