If you ask Rosie O’Donnell, the time has come to grant Lyle Menendez and Erik Menendez a compassionate release from prison. Back in 1989, the Menendez brothers’ parents were brutally shot to death. The brothers later went on trial for the murders, and the defense argued that the killings were a retaliation for the sexual abuse the two had endured as children. In 1996, they were found guilty of conspiracy and first-degree murder, each landing multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.
While behind bars, the Menendez brothers have apparently become good friends with O’Donnell. On TikTok, O’Donnell shared the story behind her relationship with the prisoners, recalling how it began in 1996 when the Flintstones star received a letter from Lyle. He told O’Donnell that they both knew he was innocent, and while she agreed, she also wasn’t ready to address it just yet, ignoring the letter at the time.
“In 1996, Lyle sent me a letter,” O’Donnell explains. “Basically said, ‘I know you know, and I hope we could connect.’ And, you know, he was right. I did know they were innocent. I did know that those were boys who had been incested. Why I knew, and how I knew, Lyle also knew. I didn’t write him back because I felt afraid, and I wasn’t ready to touch the subject, and you know, it was 1996.”
Since then, O’Donnell would eventually correspond with Lyle. That picked up significantly recently with the release of the Peacock documentary Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed. The doc features Menudo’s Roy Rossello claiming that Lyle and Erik’s father, Jose Menendez, had sexually assaulted him as a teenager. It further supports the claims that Lyle and Erik had been abused by Jose, and O’Donnell feels that the double homicide was their way of “fighting back” after what they’d endured growing up.
Lyle and Erik Menendez Return to the Spotlight
“In ’96, in the late ’80s, people weren’t ready to accept the fact that boys too get raped, sometimes by their fathers,” the American Gigolo star says, rejecting the claims that Lyle and Erik killed their parents strictly for financial gain. “As a culture, we ridiculed them. Jokes about them on Saturday Night Live, jokes from Jay Leno every night. Everyone thought this was a funny target. Two kids who had been molested since the age of preschool, fighting back and standing up, and people thought they just wanted the money. They had the money. They didn’t need the money. Money was not what it was about.”
Over 30 years since the murders, O’Donnell has no issues in stating how close she’s gotten with Lyle. She explains how Lyle’s wife, Rebecca, was the one who facilitated recent phone calls between them. They’ve only gotten closer since then, and now O’Donnell is more convinced than ever that the time has come to get the Menendez brothers out of prison.
“We have been talking, and sharing, and becoming very close, and his wife is amazing,” O’Donnell explains. “Both Lyle and Erik have amazing prison records, with what they’ve done with their time, and how they’ve spent their 30 plus years in jail. So, we believe them now because of Roy from Menudo? Do we believe, now, because of the letter Erik sent his cousin eight months before the murder?”
She adds, “It’s time. I believe them. They were horribly abused by their parents, they did the unthinkable, which had been done to them day after day after day, and they paid the price for that. The price would’ve been 10 years each victim, plus possibly a gun charge, maybe 25-27 years. They’ve been in longer than that. Free the Menendez brothers… it’s time.”
Monsters: The Lyle and Erik Menendez Story is coming to Netflix in 2024. As for whether the brothers will ever be released from prison, time will tell.