Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Menendez Brothers


Kitty was born in 1941, the youngest of four children of Charles and Mae Andersen. Her family lived in Oak Lawn, a suburb south of Chicago. During her early childhood, Kitty's family was solidly middle class. Her father owned a heating and air-conditioning business that did well and her mother stayed at home to care for Kitty and her two older brothers, Milt and Brian, and Kitty's older sister, Joan.

Although the Andersen family appeared to be loving and close, Kitty's father beat her mother, sometimes in front of their children. Charles Andersen also beat his children. Before Kitty entered grammar school, her father left her mother for another woman. In order to support her family, Kitty's mother worked for United Airlines at Midway Airport outside of Chicago. Kitty's parents eventually divorced and this was the cause of life long emotional scars for her. Throughout her childhood, Kitty was withdrawn and depressed. She had difficulty forming friendships and did not have many friends in grade or high school. Kitty's father remarried and continued to live in Oak Lawn. Her mother never remarried and became bitter and depressed by the divorce. Kitty grew up convinced that divorce was the worst thing that could happen in a woman's life. Kitty hated her father and did not have any contact with him for many years after her parents' divorce.

In her senior year of high school, Kitty applied to and was accepted by Southern Illinois University. In 1958, her freshman year of college, Kitty began to work in the university's broadcasting department where she learned to produce dramas for radio and television. Kitty gained a great deal of confidence through her participation in these activities. During her senior year in 1962, Kitty had enough confidence to compete in and win the Miss Oak Lawn beauty pageant sponsored by the VFW.

Kitty dreamed that after she graduated from college, she would pursue a career in producing and directing commercial radio and television programs in New York City.

Kitty and Jose met during Kitty's senior year and Jose's freshman year. After only a short time, Kitty and Jose became inseparable. To Jose, Kitty was attractive not only physically, but in what she represented. Kitty was the daughter of a shopkeeper, the offspring of the American merchant class. By winning Kitty, Jose was establishing his claim to his new country. Jose fulfilled something for Kitty too. Kitty felt that there was a depth to Jose that few people understood or appreciated. She saw someone who was willing to work hard and overcome hardships, not someone who was willing to slide by on family connections or money, like her privileged classmates. Jose told Kitty of his plan to make it big in the business world.

When Jose and Kitty were seen together around the Southern Illinois campus, people would stop and stare. After all it was the early 1960s, they lived in a small, conservative southern Illinois town and people from different ethnic backgrounds did not mix. The civil rights movement in America was centered in the South and had yet to reach Carbondale. Kitty was three years older than Jose was. Their ages and background differences did not seem to matter to Kitty and Jose; they were determined to spend their lives together.

Jose and Kitty's relationship caused problems for both of their families. Kitty's family was surprised that she would choose a Cuban teenager as her future husband. Jose's family thought that Kitty was beneath their social standing because her parents were divorced. Jose's parents also thought that at age 19, Jose was too young to marry. Around the time that Kitty graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in communications, Jose and Kitty eloped and were secretly married in 1963.

After their marriage, Jose and Kitty moved to New York City. Jose's parents had fled Cuba, his mother in 1961 and his father a short time later. They had settled in New York City. Jose gave up his athletic scholarship at Southern Illinois and transferred to Queens College, City University of New York, while Kitty found a job teaching grade school. During the early years of her marriage, Kitty's dreams of working in broadcasting began to fade and she discarded her plans to obtain a master's degree, in order to support Jose and his career.

Kitty with her sons, Lyle and Erik
Kitty with her sons, Lyle and Erik

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