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Menendez House in Calabasas Sold for $1.3 Million : Courts: Home was being finished at time of murders. Lawyers say probate sale proceeds will go to debts, taxes.

September 09, 1994|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Menendez family dream house, a Calabasas mansion featuring a tennis court, swimming pool and mountain views, was auctioned off Thursday in Probate Court for $1.325 million.

Raymond and Vera Stewart, a Woodland Hills couple, bought the house at the proceedings in Beverly Hills Superior Court, submitting the only bid and paying the entire amount by check.

The auction marked the sale of the last asset in the Menendez family estate, once valued at $16 million and now down to about $500,000. It remains a remote possibility, at best, that Lyle and Erik Menendez will ever see any more of their parents' money, lawyers made clear Thursday.

The sons killed Jose and Kitty Menendez on Aug. 20, 1989, at the family's other house, in Beverly Hills. Jose Menendez was a wealthy entertainment industry executive.

Prosecutors contended that the sons killed out of hatred and greed, but the brothers countered at their trial that they killed in fear and self-defense after years of abuse.

The trial ended in January when separate juries, one for each brother, deadlocked between murder and lesser manslaughter charges. Prosecutors have vowed to try the brothers again on murder charges, and again seek the death penalty.

A hearing is scheduled Oct. 27 to set a new trial date. Lyle Menendez, 26, and Erik Menendez, 23, remain in County Jail without bail.

Most of the $16 million, meanwhile, has been lost to taxes and legal fees, according to probate records, and the figure apparently was inflated from the beginning, padded by optimistic real estate appraisals. The brothers are officially broke, and taxpayers are picking up their defense costs for the second trial.

The Calabasas house was originally appraised at $2.65 million. It sits amid nearly 14 acres along Mulholland Drive and boasts six bedrooms, a wet bar, gourmet kitchen, sun decks and a guest house. Kitty Menendez was supervising completion of the house when she and her husband were killed.

Under probate laws, Judge Irving Shimer had to hold an auction for the property. Lawyers and real estate agents expected about half a dozen additional bidders, but no one came forward to top the Stewarts' bid of $1.325 million.

Neither Vera Stewart nor Raymond Stewart, a real estate agent, was in court Thursday. At $1.325 million, according to Bernie Uechtritz, the real estate agent listing the property, it was "the buy of 1994."

With the money from Thursday's auction, lawyers said, the Menendez estate must pay a $700,000 mortgage, $200,000 owed to county officials for costs linked to the criminal case and various other fees.

What's left over, about $300,000, will swell the total in the estate to about $500,000. But the IRS awaits an undetermined amount, the attorneys said.

Assuming there's anything left over after taxes, the brothers would inherit it only if they are acquitted in the criminal case, lawyers said.

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