On the night of Aug. 20, 1989, Lyle and Erik Menendez called the police to report finding their parents, Jose and Mary "Kitty" Menendez in their Beverly Hills home, murdered. The brothers would later be found guilty of the double homicide, which was reportedly fueled by their desire to get their hands on their parents' money. But what was Jose Menendez's job? The murder victim was a wealthy movie studio executive whose death left close to $14 million to his sons, and for most of his career, he worked in show business of some kind. With the ABC documentary Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers – American Sons, American Murderers set to air on Jan. 5, it's hard not to wonder about Jose and what his job was, since his wealth came from it and it's the money which seemed to largely influence Erik and Lyle to murder their parents in the first place, or so some believe.
Jose was born in Cuba to an upper middle class family, but when Castro came into power, the family relocated to the United States, where Jose ended up going to college at Southern Illinois University on a swimming scholarship. But instead of seeking out a career in sports, Jose became an executive at RCA Records and later, at Live Entertainment in Hollywood.
It hasn't quite been 28 years since the Menendez brothers killed their parents in a blaze of gunfire that left both Jose and Kitty with several bullet holes throughout their bodies. However, the two-hour ABC documentary is set to tell the story all over again, while interviewing detectives who were directly linked to the case. In 1987, Jose began working at Live Entertainment, which is known as Artisan Entertainment Inc. today and has produced movies like The Blair Witch Project and Reservoir Dogs. At the time, he'd been a successful music producer from RCA, but used his Hollywood contacts to bring success to the newly formed LIVE Entertainment. And by 1988, profits for the company had reached $16 million.
But according to the L.A. Times, Elliot Goldman, the former president and chief executive of RCA Records, said that Jose wasn't a stranger to using aggressive or intimidating tactics in order to get what he wanted from colleagues and clients and claimed at the time of Jose's death that "he was a very aggressive businessman who was not afraid to take risks." And, according to Goldman, he would use a tactic of shipping too many orders, making immediate sales for the company look better than they were.
When Jose moved on to Live Entertainment, he got a similar reputation of being someone who was so overly confident that he sometimes cut corners to get things done and went over others' heads in order to excel. But in doing so, Jose maintained the position of chief executive at Live until his death in 1989. When Lyle and Erik murdered their parents, they inherited not only Jose's life insurance, but the entire estate, which was valued at close to $14 million. Later, frivolous spending and legal fees depleted most of the money for the brothers, though, as they were both sentenced to life sentences without the possibility of parole.