Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Menendez Brothers


On March 7, Lyle and two of his friends flew from Newark, New Jersey to Los Angeles. Lyle was flying to Los Angeles to try and find the $40,000 Erik had paid to the concert promoter. During the flight, he called Mr. Buffalo's and was told that Detectives Zoeller and Linehan had dropped in an hour after Lyle had left for the Newark airport. According to Glen Stevens, who was sitting next to Lyle on the flight, when Lyle heard about the detectives' visit, he took a money clip out of his pocket and gave him $1,400 and a business card with Gerald Chaleff's name and telephone number on it. Lyle told Glen that if anything happened to him, he should use the money to bail him out of jail. Lyle also said that Chaleff and his therapist, Jerry Oziel, "knew everything."

On March 8, the board of directors of LIVE Entertainment met in Los Angeles to hear an investigative report by the law firm Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler. The firm hired investigators to examine LIVE's operations to uncover whether there was any reason for stockholders to be concerned about whether the killings could be tied to the company. Pierce O'Donnell, a partner of the law firm, presented a summary of the investigation to the board of directors. O'Donnell told the LIVE directors that he had learned from the Beverly Hills Police Department that the Menendez brothers were suspects in the killing of their parents. O'Donnell told the board that he believed that the brothers would be arrested soon.

Around 1:00 p.m. on March 8, Lyle and his friends decided to go out for lunch. Lyle's friends jumped into Erik's Jeep while Lyle got behind the wheel. The destination was the Cheesecake Factory, just as on the night of the murders.

Down the street from the Elm Drive mansion, the Beverly Hills police were waiting. The police had decided against surrounding the mansion or storming it by force because Maria Menendez, Jose's mother, was living there. The police did not want anything to harm her. The police were anxious to arrest Lyle because they had information that he was planning to leave Beverly Hills again. The police would have preferred to arrest Lyle and Erik together, but Erik was in Israel playing in a tennis tournament.

Glen Stevens later recalled that he "thought something was going on" as the Jeep pulled away from the mansion. Stevens saw that a blue Ford with a flashing light had parked across the south end of Elm Drive. Lyle stopped the Jeep just short of running into the blue car. He threw the Jeep into reverse and crashed into a van that had driven up behind the Jeep to block Lyle's retreat.

The police seemed to be everywhere. Someone screamed, "Get out of the Jeep." Lyle and his two friends got out of the Jeep and were handcuffed and taken to the West Hollywood Sheriff's station. Lyle was booked at the station and then transported to the Los Angeles County Men's Jail in downtown Los Angeles.

Later in the afternoon, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, Ira Reiner, held a news conference. Reiner said that the motive for the crime "was greed." Reiner added that, "I don't know what your experience is, but it's been our experience in the district attorney's office that $14 million provides ample motive for someone to kill somebody." Reiner also said, "Special circumstances had been attached to the charges which meant that if convicted, the brothers could be put to death in San Quentin's gas chamber."

The Menendez family took the news of Lyle's arrest hard. Carlos Baralt, Lyle's uncle, said that the "whole family was behind the boys."

There was speculation in the media about whether Erik would flee from Israel, but according to a Menendez family member, Erik was very dependent upon Lyle. According to this relative, "Erik would follow Lyle to hell, even if it meant leaving heaven to do so." After hearing about Lyle's arrest, Erik called his Uncle Carlos from Israel. Baralt told Erik that the best thing for him to do was to turn himself in. Erik flew to Miami to meet his aunt, Marta Cano. Cano notified Zoeller and Linehan that she was flying with Erik from Miami to Los Angeles. On March 11, 1990, Detectives Zoeller and Linehan met Erik and Marta at Los Angeles International Airport. Zoeller immediately took Erik into custody. Erik was booked into the Los Angeles County Men's jail.

Although the brothers had been arrested, Zoeller and Linehan were still building the case against them. The detectives did not have any physical evidence linking the brothers to the murders and continued to search for the store that sold the guns to the brothers. The detectives learned from Judalon Smyth that Erik had thrown the guns into a canyon off Mulholland Drive. Smyth also told Zoeller that the guns were purchased in San Diego, a place Lyle was familiar with from having played in tennis tournaments held there. Zoeller obtained a list of stores that sold guns in San Diego and started searching. Zoeller believed that the brothers would have selected a smaller store, close to the freeway that runs between Los Angeles and San Diego because they did not know the area well and would not have wanted to get lost. Zoeller checked all the smaller stores and came up empty. In desperation, he began to check the big discount chain stores. On March 14, Zoeller and Edmunds went to the Big 5 store on Convoy Street. When they asked the clerk for the store's firearm records, the detectives found the sale of two Mossberg twelve-gauge shotguns for $199.95 each on August 18, 1989. The form was signed by Donovan Jay Goodreau and listed a San Diego address.

Zoeller called Donovan and asked, "Where were you on August 18, 1989?" Donovan had been at his job, managing a restaurant in New York City. Donovan had punched a time clock and was able to verify that he had in fact been in New York City on August 18, 1989. The address on the form was phony, but the driver's license number on the form matched Donovan's. Donovan was shown a copy of the form and told Zoeller that the signature was not even close to his. Elliott Alhadeff, the assistant district attorney now assigned to the case, asked the court for an order allowing him to collect handwriting samples from Lyle and Erik to compare to the signature on the firearm form. Erik refused. Zoeller had at last found a physical link between Jose and Kitty's murders and the Menendez brothers.

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