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THE MENENDEZ BROTHERS : Jose Menendez Gave His Sons Everything. Maybe Even a Motive for Murder.

July 22, 1990|JOHN JOHNSON and RONALD L. SOBLE | John Johnson and Ronald L. Soble, Times staff writers, are working on a book about the Menendez case for New American Library.

Whatever the outcome of the case, the most resonant questions--whether love and an obsession with success can become toxic, whether parents who try to shape their offspring can inspire hatred, not loyalty--defy pat answers. As friends say over and over, Jose Menendez may have been a pushy, aggressive, give-no-quarter father, but he was no fool. He tried to show love in the hope that his sons would understand him and what he was trying to do, even if they wound up resenting him for being so tough. As the family friend said, Jose did "what they tell you to do . . . then this happens."

The Princeton Cemetery, where President Grover Cleveland and Vice President Aaron Burr are buried, also is the final resting place for Jose and Kitty Menendez. There were no headstones in the extreme northeast corner of the cemetery when visitors saw the graves this past spring--just two simple markers and some wilted flowers.

A member of the Menendez family says Lyle was considering buying an adjacent parcel and building a mausoleum there. He even wanted to move the body of his grandfather from another New Jersey cemetery to the cemetery corner. Like his father, Lyle was planning ahead, in the knowledge that the cemetery was running out of space. "It was not a matter of burying them and goodby," the relative says. "Lyle had all kinds of plans"--plans now indefinitely deferred.

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