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Erik Menendez Told of Being Abused Years Ago, Cousin Says

October 13, 1993|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At age 13, Erik Menendez confided that his father was molesting him, a cousin testified Tuesday.

With the defense in the Menendez brothers' murder trial seeking to corroborate controversial claims of abuse, cousin Andres (Andy) Cano testified that Erik Menendez told him that his father gave him genital "massages."

Cano, who is three years younger, said he and his cousin had three or four talks about the massages, with Erik Menendez wanting to know if they were part of a "normal father-son relationship."

Cano said Erik Menendez also told him that the massages "were beginning to hurt" and that "he wanted them to stop."

Erik, 22, and Lyle Menendez, 25, 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.

Prosecutors contend that the brothers killed out of hatred and greed. The defense contends that the brothers lashed out in fear after years of physical, sexual and mental abuse.

Earlier Tuesday, before Cano's appearance, the younger Menendez brother wrapped up 10 days on the witness stand by facing prosecution questions about his interest in money and discussions about forming a group patterned after the notorious Billionaire Boys Club.

Erik Menendez was reluctant to acknowledge that his reference to the "BBC" in a Nov. 29, 1989, conversation with a friend, Craig Cignarelli, was to the group of wealthy young Southern California men who turned to murder in the mid-1980s.

But Cignarelli secretly taped the Nov. 29, 1989, conversation for police. And pressed Tuesday by Deputy Dist. Atty. Lester Kuriyama, Erik Menendez finally said his repeated references to "the BBC" were to the Billionaire Boys Club.

He said he wanted to form a group of four people he could trust who would each earn $1 million to $2 million a year--but never did so. "I was just spinning my wheels," he told jurors.

He also admitted at the close of cross-examination that he had flirted with buying an $8-million house in Beverly Hills before he made a $1.1-million offer on a home in Marina del Rey in February, 1990, a month before his arrest. The bid was not accepted, he said.

Outside the jury's presence, defense attorney Leslie Abramson objected to the suggestions that Erik Menendez killed for his family's fortune, although she said he did enjoy money "when he got it."

Cano, now 20 and attending college in Florida, was called by the defense to bolster Erik Menendez's assertion that his father molested him for 12 years, from age 6. Cano said his cousin first confided in him when he was 10 and Erik was 13.

Cano said he never told anyone about the massages because Erik Menendez asked him to keep them secret, "sort of like a pinkie promise."

Without independent evidence to verify or discredit Cano's account, prosecutors tried the direct approach. Kuriyama asked if Cano would lie for his cousin.

"I'm not lying for him now and I would not lie for anybody under oath," Cano retorted.

Earlier Tuesday, the defense sought to bolster Lyle Menendez's claim that he too was molested.

Donovan Goodreau, 26, a former roommate of Lyle at Princeton, told jurors that he had been molested and once confided that to Lyle Menendez during dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Tears welled in his friend's eyes, Goodreau said.

Although Goodreau testified that Lyle Menendez did not talk about his own abuse, defense attorneys confronted him with a 1992 taped interview he gave free-lance writer Robert Rand. In the interview, Goodreau said Lyle Menendez did tell him that Jose Menendez had molested both brothers.

In other testimony Tuesday, Traci L. Baker, 24, of Laguna Niguel, a former girlfriend of Lyle Menendez, said Kitty Menendez grabbed her and shoved her after inquiring whether she and her son were having sex in the Menendez house in the fall of 1988.

"She basically said she'd seen girls like me before," Baker said. She recalled that Kitty Menendez indicated that "if I thought I was going to get his money, think again."

Although Baker said she was shaken by the incident, she was not entirely put off by the Menendez parents. She called in August, 1989, to see if Jose Menendez could get her tickets to see an upcoming rock concert by the Who.

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