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Lyle Menendez Tells Court of Sexual Abuse by Mother : Trial: He says she would wash his body 'everywhere' and had him in bed with her until he was 13. He gives further testimony on violence by both parents.

September 14, 1993|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lyle Menendez testified Monday that his mother was "very strange" and frequently violent and that she--like his father--sexually abused him.

Until he was 13, his mother would wash his body "everywhere," he said. She also would invite him into bed with her and he would touch her "everywhere," he testified.

"I took it to be love," Lyle Menendez said, adding, "She was enjoying it." But he was not enjoying it, he said, so he stopped the activities, which enraged her.

Throughout his adolescence, he said, she "harassed" him with increasingly bizarre sexual conduct.

Lyle, 25, and Erik Menendez, 22, are charged with first-degree murder in the Aug. 20, 1989, shotgun slayings of their parents, Jose Menendez, 45, a wealthy entertainment executive, and Kitty Menendez, 47. The sons shot the parents in the den of the family's $4-million Beverly Hills mansion.

If convicted, the brothers could be sentenced to death. Their trial is entering its ninth week.

Prosecutors allege that the brothers killed out of hatred, greed and the desire to commit the "perfect crime."

After testimony ended Monday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Pamela Bozanich said Lyle Menendez's first two days on the stand were high drama. "I thought his testimony was compelling," she said outside court, "just as watching Laurence Olivier act is compelling."

Jill Lansing, Lyle Menendez's lead defense attorney, declined to comment Monday on his first two days on the witness stand.

He testified Friday that he and his brother killed their parents out of fear, not for money, but he has offered no further details about the slayings.

Instead, Lansing has led him through his life history, building toward testimony about the killings. She has asked him questions that advance the defense's contention that the brothers killed out of self-defense after years of physical, mental and sexual abuse.

The defense contends that Jose Menendez molested Erik Menendez--who is scheduled to follow his brother to the stand--from age 6 to 18. Lyle Menendez testified Friday that his father molested him from age 6 to 8.

Lyle Menendez said Monday that his father also would punch him in the stomach or whip him with a belt. He said his father once threw him into a coffee table, causing a cut that left a scar over his left eye. And at age 17, he said, when he finally dared to tell his father to "shut up," Jose Menendez slugged him in the mouth, leaving his lip scarred.

His mother's inappropriate sexual conduct, Lyle Menendez testified Monday, consisted of a variety of physically and emotionally abusive incidents. She also exhibited conduct that, while not abusive, made her seem "out of control," he said.

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When he went away to summer camp and was lonesome and homesick, he said, she refused to accept his collect telephone calls to home.

It was routine for his mother to sprawl on the floor at home, arranging cards, marbles and rubber bands, he said. Sometimes, he said, she would play with dirt and stare blankly ahead.

When the family's first pet ferret died, he testified, she had it stuffed and mounted on a log, then placed the display atop a television set "so she could always see it."

To punish him, he said, she would throw his prized toy animals out the window. The toy animals were so important to him that he took them to class one day when he was a sophomore in high school. When he wanted to answer a question, he said, he would raise a stuffed animal paw instead of his own hand.

Kitty Menendez, her son said, was often violent and would beat him, kick him and drag him to his room by his hair. Once, he said, she chased him around the house with a kitchen knife.

When he was a young boy, she would show him pictures of her in a bathing suit or lingerie, he said as Lansing posted on the courtroom bulletin board a photo of Kitty Menendez in a lacy black undergarment.

When he was 11, he said, she would go topless in front of him, wear an open robe or go naked. Sometimes, he said, she would ask him how she looked.

It was about then, he said, that he shared her bed and she washed him in the bathtub. There were times, he said, that Jose Menendez also was in bed with them.

Lansing did not ask Lyle Menendez on Monday whether he had intercourse with his mother. He testified Friday that his father forced him to perform oral sex on several occasions and raped him once.

At 13, Lyle Menendez said, he stopped sleeping with his mother. Furious, she "harassed" him, he said. "We had arguments and problems over that for a long time . . . really, my whole life," he said.

When he began dating, Lyle Menendez said, his mother called his girlfriends "gold-diggers" and "bimbos."

In 1989, he said he dated a model whom his mother called a "slut." Kitty Menendez claimed the woman was infected with the virus that causes AIDS, he said. As a result, she would not allow her son to eat off the family's dishes or in the dining room, he said. "I ate off paper plates in the den," Lyle Menendez said.

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