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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.

Sometimes, Lyle would find himself enmeshed in a discussion on the merits of the Trident missile program or U.S. policy toward Bangladesh. "I was overwhelmed by this," Goodreau says. Still, he reflected, "being in a $5-million house, I accepted everything as normal." Once when he got up from the table for a glass of milk, Lyle cautioned him to "let the maid do that."

Goodreau found Lyle's relationship with his father to be oddly careful. "He would never tell his father he wasn't doing well," even if he wasn't. If Lyle was in serious trouble at school, he would present the situation in the best light, with a plan of action already laid out.

Goodreau says his short friendship with Lyle was like living in an episode of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." There were lavish parties at the house for the brothers' friends, and he and Lyle spent time at the home of one of Lyle's girlfriends, a 30-year-old Los Angeles model who lived at the beach.

There were tensions building, however, as Jose and Kitty worried about Lyle's dating older glamour girls. Kitty, remembering the opposition to her own marriage, tried to bite her tongue. But one friend recalls her asking, "Don't you know any cute, nice girls for Lyle?"

Another friend, Irene Elkins, detected "something wrong" in Kitty's voice during a conversation in June. And then there was Kitty's decision to accompany Jose on business trips to New York. She had always been protective of her relationship with Jose, calling him "my husband" even in the presence of his mother, but now she seemed especially so. Perhaps, friends speculate, she was fighting for her marriage, and her desire to fly to New York with him may have been her way of ensuring his fidelity. The most she would ever say, according to one former tennis coach and friend, was that "it's difficult because Jose travels so much."

The spring of 1989 brought other problems, both with Lyle's behavior and plans. Jose was piqued because Lyle was considering a transfer from the Ivy League to UCLA. Also, Jose couldn't have been happy the day Lyle invited Goodreau to the Bedens Brook Club and took him on a joy ride in a motorized golf cart across the course's rolling hills--and over several of the course's well-manicured greens. "They ruined the hell out of everything," says Shelly Pierce, the club manager. The Menendez family's golf privileges were suspended for a year.

Despite continuing troubles, the family remained extremely close. Erik graduated from Beverly Hills High School and began competing in a series of United States Tennis Assn. tournaments around the country. Showing sudden promise, he won six matches in the consolation round of the junior clay court championship in Louisville, Ky. The tournament was held in oppressive heat during the last week of July, and Erik became fatigued, according to a relative's account.

Jose, who had accompanied Erik, rose early so that he could warm up Erik on the court. Then, when a dehydrated Erik dragged himself back to his hotel room after a hot day of intense competition, Jose was there again to give his son a massage to relax him before the next day's events.

On Aug. 5, just two weeks before the murders, the family accompanied Erik to the important USTA national tournament in Kalamazoo, Mich. Erik won his first round in the 18-and-under singles event but was defeated in the second round. Erik, the relative says, was looking forward to trying out for the UCLA varsity tennis team when he started his freshman year in the fall.

Then on Friday, Aug. 18, someone used Goodreau's driver's license for identification to buy two 12-gauge shotguns in a sporting goods store in San Diego. Police believe that the shotguns, which never have been recovered, were the murder weapons. Information on a federal form that was filled out during the sale had Goodreau's license number but a phony San Diego address.

Goodreau says he lost his driver's license in the spring of 1989. The last time he saw it, he says, was two days before he was asked to move out of Lyle's dorm room in a dispute over some missing cash. Donovan says he sometimes kept his wallet in a box on Lyle's dorm room desk. He also says he and Lyle had used each other's identification from time to time in Princeton and used to practice each other's signature.

SUNDAY, AUG. 20, 1989, was another mild summer day in Beverly Hills. The Menendez family was up early and on the tennis court. They passed the day lazily until the afternoon, when Erik and Lyle made plans to go out.

They say they went to see the movie "Batman," then stopped off at a food fair. They had planned to meet a friend late that night, but Erik said he needed his identification card, so they stopped at home. And when they walked into the family room, they say, they came upon a bloody scene they'll never forget.

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