Beverly Hills brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez set the gold standard for greed.
On August 20, 1989, the handsome brothers — Lyle was 21 at the time, while Erik was 18 — brutally murdered their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez, in the den of their Beverly Hills mansion. Police originally thought the killings were a mob-style hit, which is just how the brothers staged it.
And they almost got away with it, until their greed went too far.
The investigation, and two criminal trials that followed, transfixed a nation at the dawn of the tabloid TV era. Nearly three decades later, the story still fascinates. It is even the subject of a new series, "Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders," premiering this fall on NBC.
Lyle and Erik planned their parents' murder meticulously. They forged the paperwork to purchase two 12-gauge shotguns. They cooked up an alibi, telling investigators they had gone to see a movie at the time of the murders. They even shot their parents in the kneecaps to make the killings look like gangland hits. Police bought it at first, investigating the business ties of Jose, a media executive.
Beverly Hills Police Detective Les Zoeller — who has since retired from the force — said he initially had "no inkling" the brothers might be involved, even though Lyle seemed unusually calm on the night of the murders.
"Lyle didn't seem upset to me at all. He was matter of fact. He wanted to get things out of the house," Zoeller told NBC's Today Show last year. "It struck me very odd."
But soon, things would start to make sense.
Not long after the murders, the brothers went on a spending spree. They bought luxury condominiums for themselves in tony Marina del Rey. Lyle bought a Rolex, a Porsche, and a restaurant in Princeton, New Jersey. Erik bought a Jeep Wrangler, hired a $50,000-a-year tennis coach in hopes of turning pro, and invested $40,000 in a rock concert with a promoter who ultimately stiffed him, according to Vanity Fair writer Dominick Dunne.
In the six months after their parents' death, the brothers spent an estimated $700,000.
"The brothers were out there spending money like it was water," Zoeller said.
In March of 1990, seven months after their parents' deaths, Lyle and Erik Menendez were arrested for murder.