Lyle sneaked off to Europe, anyway, organizing an elaborate ruse in which a friend intercepted Jose’s checks for room and board and relayed them to him. When Kitty discovered the truth, she laughed about it and said vaguely, “I really should discipline him. It’s really not good what he did.” A friend warned her against continuing to indulge Lyle’s excesses and stressed the importance of disciplining him. “I guess I’ll do that,” Kitty said, but her heart wasn’t in it.
“There was a lot she wasn’t aware of,” another friend said, “but she loved those boys so much.” The boys loved Kitty, too, and felt more comfortable confiding in her than revealing any of their feelings to their mercurial father. Erik seemed to have the closest relationship with his mother. Kitty rarely missed any of his tennis matches and would frequently stop at school just to watch him practice. More than a mother and a son, they seemed to be best friends. In fact, Erik once confided something remarkably revealing—and prophetic—to his mother: It was a movie script he had written with a friend, Craig Cignarelli.
Erik and Cignarelli, an outspoken, handsome young man whose father was also an entertainment executive, at MGM, had become dose friends after meeting at Calabasas High, and were part of the same social group involved in the burglaries. During a trip to the Cignarelli family cabin in central California, the two friends had written a screenplay about the perfect burglary. Police believe the second burglary in Calabasas may have been an attempt to live out their fantasy.
The pair also collaborated on two other screenplays. One, titled Knockout, was loosely based on a fight Erik had had in high school. But in their third script, which they called, simply enough, Friends, the crime they decided to dramatize was parricide.
In the opening scene, the protagonist, Hamilton Cromwell, finds the family will and sees that he stands to inherit $157,000,000. In the next scene, our hero climbs the stairs to his parents’ bedroom—as fledgling dramatists, the two boys had little patience with plot development—and then, in the florid language of the script:
A gloved hand is seen gripping the doorknob and turning it gently. The door opens, exposing the luxurious suite of Mr. and Mrs. Cromwell lying in bed. Their faces are of questioning horror as Hamilton closes the door behind him gently, saying . . . “Good evening, Mother. Good evening, Father.” (His voice is of attempted compassion, but the hatred overwhelms it.) All light is extinguished, and the camera slides down the stairs as screams are heard behind.
This was the scenario that Erik showed to his mother, who helped type it; Craig’s mother was pressed into service as a typist, too. Erik fantasized openly about impressing his father with a lucrative screenplay deal. According to a friend, Kitty “picked the script apart Lyle invited Goodreau to spend Easter vacation with him in Beverly Hills. Goodreau was dazzled by the splendor of the Menendez home. Before sitting down at the long table under an antique chandelier in the formal dining room, Goodreau says Lyle took notes on politics and world affairs. He wanted to be prepared for questioning by his father on topics ranging from the decline of communism to the foreign-aid budget.
A family friend who dined regularly at the Menendez house says Jose wanted his sons to be up on politics but was not overly demanding. “If the boys didn’t know an answer, Jose didn’t come down on them. It was just ‘Gee, that’s interesting, Dad. I’m glad you told me that.’”
When Kitty and Jose flew off to Florida with Erik for a tennis tournament, Lyle appropriated Jose’s brand-new $75,000 black Mercedes 560SEL sedan, and he and Goodreau cruised the L.A. nightlife. One night, in the parking lot at DC-3, a trendy restaurant at Santa Monica Airport, Lyle almost backed the Mercedes into a sports car being driven by a stunning young woman with blonde hair, blue eyes and a mesmerizing smile. Christie Garan was a 30-year-old model who was about to pose for the Victoria’s Secret lingerie catalog.
One night later, the college boy and the model were out on the town together. One week later, Lyle, who was failing two of his courses at Princeton, started making noises about transferring to UCLA. Jose was appalled, not only by Lyle’s penchant for older women but by the prospect of his dropping out of the Ivy League. To keep the peace between himself and his father, Lyle remained at Princeton, but ever so nominally; soon he was jetting back and forth to see Garan. Some nights were spent at the lavish condo she was renting in Marina del Rey, others at the cozy guesthouse behind the Menendez mansion…
The more Jose saw of Garan, the angrier he became. According to some reports, she asked Jose and Kitty for money she had lent to Lyle. One friend says family passions grew so heated that father and son got into a fistfight. one night after arguing about the affair. Garan has refused to discuss her relationship with Lyle.
A friend says that Lyle was naïve about women and believed they loved him solely for himself. “I told Kitty and Jose, ‘Lyle has to learn to deal with his problems. You can’t buy him out of trouble.’ They were very protective, however.”
Lyle’s college life was increasingly tumultuous, with arguments erupting frequently between him and his circle of friends. In the spring of 1989, Lyle threw Goodreau out of the dorm room they had shared, and did so with such abrupt fury, in a dispute over some missing cash, that Goodreau, by his own account, left without his wallet, which he had been in the habit of keeping in a box on Lyle’s desk. A few days after the blowup, Lyle displayed the wallet to another friend and with it Goodreau’s California driver’s license.
By July 1989, Lyle’s. romance with Garan had ended, too. He was back with his parents in Beverly Hills. By contrast, Erik, who had graduated from Beverly Hills High, was shaping up as a promising competitor in tennis, and on August fifth, the family traveled with him to a tournament in Michigan, where he won the first round in the 18-and-under singles division, and then, in the second round, went down to defeat.
On August 16, Jose was in New Jersey, visiting his mother; Kitty was at home on North Elm Drive; and Lyle found himself alone in the guesthouse with his thoughts. Just after midnight, he telephoned his mother in the main house; although they were separated physically by no more than 30 yards, the spiritual gap had become vast. In a rambling conversation that lasted several hours, Lyle spoke of his desire to move to Europe; he didn’t feel like a Menendez anymore, he told Kitty, and no longer wanted to be a part of the family. Four days later, Kitty and Jose were dead.