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tv   Nightline  ABC  January 6, 2017 12:37am-1:07am EST

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this is "nightline." >> tonight, the menendez brothers. >> someone killed my dad. >> reporter: before o.j., before jonbenet, theirs was the murder trial of the century. >> one kid killing the parents is a bad seed. two kids killing the parents is a bad family. >> a lavish and decadent lifestyle, but beneath the facade, a cauldron of lies and secrets. >> a few days before i said to myself, i'm never gonna let my father touch me again. >> was it greed, or an act of revenge against sexual abuse? >> 27 years later, lyle mend end ez breaking his silence, what he's saying about the night he
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and his brother eric shot and killed their parents. would they be convicted today? >> if the menendez brothers were the menendez sisters, they'd be free today. >> and could they ever be released from prison? but first the "nightline" 5. . number one in just sicke
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>> good evening, thanks for joining us. tonight, a rare jail house interview with one of the infamous menendez brothers who together murdered their parents in their lavish beverly hills mansion 27 years ago. were they spoiled kids run amok, or enraged victims of sexual abuse? we're about to hear from witnesses the jury never saw her heard almost three decades later. are we getting the full story? we warn you, some of the language you're about to hear is extremely graphic. >> i am the kid that did kill his parents. and no river of tears has changed that. >> tonight, lyle menendez speaking publicly fra prison in a rare interview, 27 years after he and his brother eric brutally murdered their parents. >> it's shocking to think about that happened, that i could have been involved in taking anyone's life. it's still jarring.
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it seems unimaginable. seems so far removed from who i am and who i was. >> reporter: the glow of innocence founding the menendez brothers is shattered by charges of murder. >> to me, it was like a nightmare. like a movie. like it couldn't be reality. >> reporter: prosecutors say greed drove the boys to shooting their parents to death last august. >> one kid killing the parents is a bad seed. two kids killing the parents is a bad family. >> i'm just a normal kid. >> you're a normal kid who killed your parents? >> i know. >> reporter: a family saddled with secrets and lies that exploded with this 911 call. >> what's the problem? what's the problem? >> someone killed my dad. >> pardon me? >> reporter: tonight the family, friends, and reporters who watched it all unfold -- >> it's not supposed to happen in beverly hills. a movie executive and his wife were brutally slain in their million mansion.
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>> reporter: they had been the picture perfect family. >> they had achieved the american dream. they were living in the mansion in beverly hills. they were living behind the gate. so on the outside, to most people, this was the perfect, all-american family. >> people assume that if you have money, you have no problems. and you're certainly not going to do anything like kill your parents. because you got it made. it turns out that rich people have dysfunctional families just as much as poor people. >> reporter: the brothers, who were thought to have it all, at times, acting out, even going as far as robbing houses until they were caught. >> joe, when he found out that the children had been arrested, the main message was, how stupid of you to get caught? you're like sheep that follow. you're not leaders. >> describe your relationship with your father. >> brutal. painful. torturous.
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and yet i admired him because he was so strong, and he was -- he was everything that success was. >> i think the menendez brothers were close because they were fighting the common enemy, which was their father. he believed that life is like war and that anything you do to achieve your end is fine. including, it turns out, killing your parents. >> were they shot? >> yes! >> they were shot? >> yes! >> what happened? what happened? who is the person that was shot? >> my mom and my dad. >> your mom and dad? >> so you called the police, but at that point you had already decided -- >> we had decided not -- our feeling was not we'll just explain what happened and it will be okay. we were very stunned and we felt that we would go to jail, obviously, and we -- it was a
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selfish reason to just not want to have to go through that. >> as we walked in the front door, it was just eerily quiet. in the back of the foyer was this library family room, which is where the murder occurred. kitty was wearing white. she was covered in blood. jose had a shotgun blast to the back of his head, blood everywhere. there was brain matter on the ceiling, on the windows. it was really horrendous. >> the sons said they discovered the bodies when they arrived home several hours later. >> we didn't have an alibi. all we did, we said we were at the movies. >> but they never checked you for gun powder. >> that day, they didn't. >> reporter: for days, theories circulated. >> homicide detectives say it could have been a hit. >> reporter: but slowly, tips began to trickle in. >> and abc news has learned that
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two 12 gauge shot guns were purchased at this sporting goods store in san diego on august 18th. >> translato >> reporter: this time evidence pointing to the menendez brothers. >> the glow around them, now shattered by charges of murder. >> when i saw eric menendez walk into the courtroom, my blood went cold, because i had never seen someone who had murdered his parents before. >> after you entered the den -- >> i was just firing as i went into the room. i just started firing. >> in what direction? >> in front of me. >> what was in front of you? >> my parents. >> there is no issue as to who killed jose and marylouies menendez. why they were killed is what the focus of all of our evidence will be on. >> trials are story-telling competitions. >> reporter: abc's terry moran, a self-described rookie reporter at the time covered the case extensively for court tv. >> so whoever tells the better
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story in the trial that's anchored in the facts as they come out, that's who's going to persuade the jury. >> the prosecution was completely focused on the idea that eric and lyle menendez were greedy rich kids that had killed their parents because they were in a hurry to inherit their money. >> reporter: in the days after the murder, a shopping spree by the brothers. >> why did you need to buy a rolex watch four days after your parents were killed? >> i didn't need to. >> reporter: they made the case that the brothers were afraid of being cut out of their parents' will. but the story took a turn when the defense alleged a deep rooted family secret. >> he killed his parents because he could no longer endure their abuse and had to stop it. >> i think there was a near universal sense that this was going to be a sham defense and it was going to be a joke. and then they got on the witness stands. >> what do you believe was the originating cause of you and your brother ultimately winding
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up shooting your parents? >> me telling lyle that -- >> you telling lyle what? >> your honor, can i ask a leading question? >> my dad -- >> wait one second. >> no, no, he was in the process of answering. so there's no need to ask. >> can you answer the question? >> yes. >> okay, you tell lyle what? >> that my dad had been molesting me. >> you could hear a pin drop in the courtroom. and that's when i thought, oh, darn, i'm in trouble. >> when eric menendez was 10 years old, he told his cousin he had been sexually molested by his father. >> he told me his father was massaging his [ bleep ]. >> he used that word? >> yes, he did. he wanted to know, did this happen to every kid.
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i do remember very specifically, it was him asking me to make a promise to him never to reveal that to anybody. >> and between the ages of 6 and 8, did your father have sexual contact with you? >> yes. >> and how did it start? >> we would have these talks and he would show me, and he would fondle me and ask me to do the same with him. and i would touch him and we would undress. >> when lyle appeared, it was a turning point, because now you were hearing a whole different side of the story. and details that no one had ever really heard before. >> we would be in the bathroom. he would put me on my knee. and he would guide me and my movements. and i would uh, have oral sex with him. >> the days that eric and lyle menendez testified to their
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claims of sexual abuse are among the most unforgettable days i've had as a journalist. to this day, my heart catches when i think about that. >> what else did he do to you? >> he used objects. >> what kind of objects? >> a toothbrush and some sort of shaving utensil, brush. >> and did he try to anally penetrate you with something else? >> he did. >> and what was it? >> there was a level of detail, it wasn't just explicit. it was accidental. in other words, there are things that people remember from real life that you almost wouldn't kinda make up. >> did you tell your brother?
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>> no. did you do something to your brother? >> yes. >> what did you do to your brother? >> i took him out to the woods. whenever i felt -- i don't know, i took him out sometimes and i took a toothbrush also and i played with eric in the same way. and i'm sorry. >> and he says it with such shame. but what is even more convincing and i was sitting about ten feet from eric, is, i saw this vein start popping out of his forehead, as he hears his brother apologizing, as their
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own secret, horrible, sordidness comes out into public, on television. that emotion, that's what a victim, not an actor, that's what a victim looks like. >> i remember thinking he's either the best actor in the world or this is a true story. >> it became like a rorschach test. you looked at them and saw cynical, sinister, vicious killers, or you saw victims. >> jurors are unable to reach a verdict. hopelessly deadlocked. >> both brothers' trials ended in hung juries. shortly after america was riveted by the other trial of the century, the second menendez trial had no cameras in the courtroom. lyle didn't even take the stand, limiting testimonies about the alleged sexual abuse. the verdict? >> lyle and eric menendez have been found guilty of murdering their parents. it took a second trial for the two to be convicted of murder in the first degree. >> what went through your minds when you heard that verdict? >> that i was going to spend the
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rest of my life in prison. >> when we come back, the menendez brothers find love behind bars. and could there ever be another court case for the convicted killers? >> every mother's day, i think about kitty menendez. because what they did to their mother was pure unadulterated evil. if you're gonna make an entrance... [car driving upon the water] ♪ so dad slayed the problemt with puffs plus lotion, instead. with lotion to soothe and softness to please. a nose in need deserves puffs, indeed.
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y254jy yi0y >> very quickly as you get older, each secret you just closet it away. closet it away.
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it's like that's the only way you can survive it. >> lyle menendez and his brother erik both guilty and sentenced to life in prison. >> every mother's day, i think about kitty menendez. what they did to their mother was horrific. pure unadulterated evil. >> tonight, lyle reflecting on what he says was a childhood of abuse that brought him and his brother to the point of murdering their mother and father. >> obviously i have a different view of him now than i did as a teenager. it's easier to look back on him as a monstrous person now, but, you know, obviously he was very disturbed. i loved him, there's no question about it. >> reporter: tonight, i spoke with my colleague, tory moran, who covered the brothers' trials. >> each of them when they were little boys, had reached out to someone and said, my dad is touching me. and those witnesses took the stand. and yet, i think today we're a
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different society. and we would look at boys claiming abuse perhaps differently. i have thought for years if the menendez brothers were the menendez sisters, they'd be free today. not because the defense would have worked necessarily. they still went and bought shot guns three days in a advance and blew away their parents, but because juries sometimes hear the evidence of abuse and knock down the charge a peg or two. >> do you have sadness? >> a lot of reflection and certainly you feel the loss of freedom deeply, but i feel like there's a lot of purpose. there's still a lot of purpose in life even in confinement, if you want it. >> i got to know lyle menendez during the trial. used to call me from the l.a. county jail in my hotel room, to talk about the trial at night. and i found him, not surprising at that time, to be very smart, but kinda sinister, cold,
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cunning intelligence. listening to him from prison now, i hear a very different voice. i hear somebody who has reckoned with what he has done. >> reporter: the brothers have managed to find close relationships. lyle first marrying in 1996, and a second time in 2003. erik too got married in 1999. the brothers have spent 27 years behind bars. everyone who is watching is wondering, will the menendez brothers ever be free? >> and the answer to that is almost certainly no. all their appeals have been turned down. they really don't have any legal options anymore. the only possible hope is that some future governor of california could commute their sentence, but that is almost certainly not going to happen. they are going to die in prison. >> reporter: and yet despite the years and the distance, they are held in two separate facilities, 200 miles apart. lyle says the brothers have remained close. >> we've really bonded through what we experienced. and so i don't think distance or separation really changes that
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feeling. and i can see it so many years later, in letters we write to each other. >> they're still in contact with some members of the family and they get the occasional phone call, but they come years apart. what they do have is snail mail. in fact, they have played chess one move at a time, by letter. >> we'll be right back. abc news "nightline" brought to you by advil. ♪ with advil, you'll ask what sinus headache? what stiff joints? what time of the month cramps? what nighttime pain? make all your pains a distant memory with advil the world's #1 choice what pain?
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♪ if you want to do your own deep dive on the menendez trial, you can find the screenplay "friends" written by erik menendez with his own handwritten notes on it and hear more from lyle and the cousin who testified or watch the full barbara walters interview. just log on to abc thanks for watching and stay tuned to abc news 25th anniversary celebration. incomneebacks everywhere. goodnight, america.
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>> on this show, it's not every day that we have a player get a look at a question worth $500,000. but bill is about to do just that. will this be the end for him, or just the beginning? the drama continues right now on "who wants to be a millionaire." [cheers and applause] [dramatic music] ♪ hey, everybody, welcome to a very special day on "who wants to be a millionaire."
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our returning contestant has prayed for 17 years for a chance to stand on this stage. now he's back and just two questions away from $1 million. from st. albans, west virginia, please welcome back bill matheny. [cheers and applause] hi, buddy. >> [chuckles] ♪ >> bill, you've tried to get on this show for 17 years. you've auditioned once or twice every year. you almost didn't do it this year. you had to be convinced by a friend. and now you stand here on the precipice of $1 million. >> mm-hmm, yes. yes. i can't believe it. i just can't believe it. >> this is rarified air. i mean, i doubt i have to tell you, because you're also a fan of the show. you've watched for years. you know how few people have gotten to this point. >> i'm speechless right now. i'm sorry, i just can't say anything--i'm shocked. >> i understand. no, the emotion that must be going through you... you know, when we finished


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