Menendez Says He Saw No Escape : Trial: Younger brother testifies that his father vowed to kill him if he tried to run away.


Erik Menendez, who as a boy called himself "Hurt Man," continued his childhood horror story Friday, telling the jury at his retrial that he had no one to turn to, and saw no escape from a father who sexually brutalized him and a mother who drank and flew into rages.

Questioned by defense attorney Barry Levin, the younger Menendez brother testified that as he grew up, he believed by "second instinct" that he could never tell anyone about his suffering and never get away.

He told the jury that he thought of killing himself but lacked the courage. And, he said, he tried to run away when he was 12, but backed out because he was afraid of the dark.

Menendez said his wealthy, powerful father vowed he would kill him if he ran away. "He told me I'd never be able to get away from him, that he'd find me." Later, Jose Menendez also threatened to kill him, Lyle and his dog if he told about the sex, Erik Menendez testified.

And so, Menendez, now 25, related during his third day on the witness stand how he became his father's sex toy and, for a while, his brother's punching bag. He said he was also a frequent target of his mother's unpredictable rage as she mocked his fears and locked him in a dark closet for up to 18 hours at a time.

His tales of cruelty are aimed at supporting the defense theory that the brothers shot their parents to death in 1989 out of blind fear that the parents would kill them to prevent a family sex scandal. Prosecutors contend that Lyle and Erik Menendez ambushed their parents and killed them with icy premeditation to get their hands on the family millions.

Erik Menendez testified that he hated himself for allowing his father to molest him, but adapted by detaching himself. "I remember watching from above the bed," he testified. "I remember leaving myself and my emotions. . . ."

Menendez testified that his father sometimes used rope to tie his genitals, stuck needles in his thighs and buttocks, and cut him with knives--"pain training" to make him tougher. During those times, he said, he focused on the "dancing shadows" on his bedroom walls cast by the candles his father brought.

As the day of dramatic testimony came to a close, Menendez identified a large souvenir knife from the movie "Rambo" as the weapon his father held to his throat when he finally tried to resist the alleged incest at age 17. After his father had sex with him anyway, he said, "I wanted to die."

While he remained terrified of his parents until the day they died, Menendez said, he eventually came to believe that his brother "really loved" him. He considered Lyle his protector.

When, in August 1989, Erik Menendez was shattered to learn that he would be sleeping at home while he attended UCLA, meaning that even college would provide no escape from the abuse, he said, he finally disclosed the molestation to his brother.

"Lyle had always been there for me and protected me in my life," he said. "I reached a point where I felt I wasn't going to make it."

Still, Menendez said, he held back details, afraid that even Lyle would abandon him because "his life was going well."

His fear, Erik Menendez said, came from an incident during their childhood:

"I remember there was a time when I was young and Lyle was running away and instead of taking me with him, he took Cookie Monster, one of the stuffed animals he had," he said. "I felt very empty inside when he took Cookie Monster instead of me."

Five days after Erik allegedly disclosed the molestation to his brother, the two killed their parents.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World