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Erik Menendez, Friend Wrote Screenplay of Perfect Murder

March 09, 1990|JOHN JOHNSON and RONALD L. SOBLE | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Erik Menendez and a close friend once wrote a 66-page screenplay about committing the perfect murder, the friend, Craig Cignarelli, said in an interview with The Times.

The play, which Erik's mother, Kitty Menendez, helped to type, has as an early scene the slaying of the main character's wealthy parents.

It is one of the pieces of evidence obtained by Beverly Hills police during their seven-month investigation into the real-life killings of Erik's parents.

Erik, 19, and Cignarelli attended Calabasas High School together and both played on the tennis team.

In interviews over the last several months, Cignarelli recalled how he and Erik would drive out to Malibu late at night. On a hilltop overlooking the ocean they talked about their hopes for the future, about how much smarter they were than everyone else, and about how to commit the perfect crime.

He said they wrote the play two years ago in hopes of selling it to Hollywood.

Called "Friends," the sometimes intricate and confusing plot focuses on the criminal exploits of Hamilton Cromwell, 18, who lives a pampered life but has a fascination with dying. The first scene opens with Cromwell reading the family will, which bestows a fortune of $157 million on him.

"Hamilton smiles sadistically," the script states.

The next scene opens with Cromwell poised outside his parents' bedroom door.

"The door opens, exposing the luxurious suite and Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton Cromwell lying in bed. Their faces are of questioning horror as Hamilton closes the door gently. . . .

"Hamilton: Good evening mother, good evening father (his voice is of attempted compassion but the hatred completely overwhelms it)."

The scene fades. The actual murder of Cromwell's parents is left to the audience's imagination, but a later scene shows Cromwell at his typewriter writing a book. "Zoom camera to paper; it reads: Five deaths to perfection--Chapter One: Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Cromwell."

Next on Cromwell's list is a former girlfriend, whom he kills with a rope. Two more killings follow that one.

Later, he kidnaps a friend and tells him:

"I am in the process of writing a masterpiece of a novel. A novel which challenges the complexity of human understanding. . . . Let us call this a game of survival. . . . I will frame either you or your friend Joe for two murders."

"Mike: (With frightened disgust) You're mad."

When Cromwell is arrested for one murder, he quickly cows the police with an ironclad alibi.

In the end, after his five murder victims have been discovered frozen in ice in his basement, Cromwell is shot and killed by one of his friends. He dies with a smile on his face.

Later, sitting in court, the friend listens to a tape-recorded message from Hamilton. "Your time has come to realize your failure as a player in the game of death. You must understand, Mike, that the price a player pays for failure in the game of life is death."

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