In 1996, brothers Erik Menendez and Lyle Menendez were found guilty of the murder of their parents. Years later, both of them got married, with Tammi Menendez being Erik’s wife. The murder, and the subsequent trial, captivated the nation. It had all the makings of a Hollywood movie, including wealth, high-profile connections, and murder.
The murder occurred in August 1989, when Erik and Lyle brutally shot their parents Kitty Menendez and Jose Menendez in their Beverly Hills Mansion.
At the time, Erik was 18 years old, while Lyle was 21 years old. Today, we will focus more on Tammi and her life with Erik.
Who is her husband?
The Menendez brothers were born in the 1960s. They were sons of Jose Enrique Menendez, born in May 1944 in Havana, Cuba, and his wife, Mary Louise Kitty Andersen. They got married in 1963. Jose moved to the United States after the Cuban Revolution. They had two sons, Joseph Lyle, born in 1968, and Erik Galen Menendez, born in November 1970.
The first signs of trouble came in the summer of 1976. Erik’s cousin Diane Vander Molen came to stay with them, and Lyle confessed to her that he was being sexually abused by his father. Vander Molen told his mother, but Kitty took her husband’s side and said the young boy was lying.
In 1986, Jose Menendez was quite a successful corporate executive, working for International Video Entertainment. He took the family to Beverly Hills, California, and Erik began attending Beverly Hills High School. He showed a remarkable talent for tennis, and just weeks before the murders, he entered the 1989 Boys’ Junior National Tennis Championship.
Lyle, on the other hand, attended Princeton University. Eventually, he was suspended for plagiarism. On the evening of August 20, 1989, Jose and Kitty were standing in the den of their mansion. Lyle and Erik entered the den carrying shotguns, shooting Jose 6 times, including a fatal shot in the back of the head, while Kitty was shot 10 times in total.
After the killings, they remained in the house, waiting for the police to respond to the noise of the gunshots. Once the police arrived, Lyle and Erik said the killings had occurred while they were out at a movie theater seeing Batman and attending the Taste of LA festival.
In the months after the killings, the young brothers began spending extravagantly on luxury items, businesses, and travel. Lyle, for example, bought Chuck’s Spring Street Cafe, a Buffalo wing restaurant, a Rolex watch, and a Porsche Carrera.
Erik, for his part, hired a full-time tennis coach and competed in several tournaments. They left the mansion unoccupied and lived in adjoining condominiums in nearby Marina del Rey. They dined expensively and went on trips to the Caribbean and London.
According to some sources, the brothers spent $700,000 before the arrests. During the early stage of the investigation, police narrowed their search to mob leads. But as the investigation continued, they began to suspect the brothers, because of the obvious financial motive and their spending following the murders.
Trying to get a confession, the police arranged for Erik’s friend Craig Cignarelli to wear a wire during lunch. He asked Erik if he killed his parents, but Erik denied it. He eventually confessed to his psychologist Jerome Oziel, who then told his mistress, Judalon Smyth. Once she broke up with Oziel, she told the police. Lyle was arrested in March 1990, with Erik turning himself in three days later.
The Menendez case became a national sensation when Court TV broadcast the trial in 1993. The brothers were represented by Leslie Abramson and claimed they killed their parents out of fear for their lives following a life time of abuse. They specifically named their father for sexual abuse and described him as a cruel perfectionist and pedophile.
They described their mother as a drug addict and alcoholic, encouraging her husband’s behavior and being violent towards the young brothers.
Two other family members supported the brothers and their allegations. Even a photo, showing physical evidence of Erik and Lyle’s genitalia, allegedly taken by their father, was shown.
On the other hand, the prosecution argued that the killings were done for financial gain. The prosecutor, also claimed “that men could not be raped because they lack the necessary equipment to be raped”.
The first trial ended with two deadlocked juries. The second trial was less publicized because Judge Stanley Weisberg did not allow cameras in the courtroom.
Eventually, the brothers were convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Now let’s talk about Tammi Menendez. We often hear that love is blind. And this case is definitely proof of that. People often find love in the arms of criminals serving life sentences.
For Tammi, that was the case. She is a businesswoman who rose to fame in 1999 after getting married to Erik Menendez in prison.
That was not her first marriage, as she was previously married to a guy named Chuck Saccoman. She is the author of the book “They Said We’d Never Make It – My Life with Erik Menendez”.
There is no information about her birthdate, early life, educational background, or anything for that matter. All we know is her life with Erik.
Why did she fall for Erik?
According to some reports, Tammi watched the first trial on TV and was drawn to Erik. Sources say that she wrote to him in 1993, and explained that “I could see the pain in his eyes. I felt so sorry for him”. Eventually, those letters turned into phone calls.
Tammi believed that the brothers killed their parents because of the abuse they endured. At the time of their correspondence, Tammi was already a married woman. Known as Tammi Ruth Saccoman, she was married to Chuck Saccoman.
In one interview, Erik recalled the moment he got his first letter. In the interview, he said, “I believe in soul mates. I believe in spirituality, in a religious sense. I believe in God and that nothing happens by chance. I saw Tammi’s letter and I felt something. I received thousands of letters, but I set this one aside. I got a feeling. And I wrote her back. Tammi and I continued to correspond. I enjoyed writing to her. It was a slow friendship. It was special to me because it was not associated with the trial and the media. Tammi was someone not in the craziness”.
Fate had plans for the pen pals. With their relationship progressing, she met him in person for the first time at Folsom State Prison in August 1997.
Following the visit, she was attracted even more to him and continued seeing him. Erik felt the same way, telling People magazine, “I remember that when I first met Tammi it was the most beautiful experience of my life. When she crossed the room … Wow! My body lit on fire.”
Marriage to Erik
When Tammi first began communicating with Erik Menendez, she was a married woman. But eventually, her husband passed away, and she was free to find love in other places.
In 1999, the couple decided to take their relationship to the next level. They got married in the waiting room of Folsom State Prison. Speaking of their wedding cake, they improvised. It was a wonderful ceremony.
She said, “Our wedding cake was a Twinkie. It was a wonderful ceremony until I had to leave”.
But unlike any other wedding, she had to spend the first night alone in her home. Tammi endured everything, and she hopes eventually, Erik will be free to enjoy life with her.
More than twenty years later, they are still together despite all the challenges that life has thrown in their face. Erik is now serving his sentence at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. And Tammi is determined to make their marriage work, despite the prison not allowing conjugal visits.
She visits him regularly. Truth be told, Erik deserves love. Young Erik told his psychiatrist “that for the first time in his life, he feels like he’s in a place where he won’t be beaten up or raped”. And he was speaking from jail.
In October 2005, Tammi published her book “They Said We’d Never Make it – My Life with Erik Menendez”. Erik did a lot of editing on the book.
In it, she said, “Not having sex in my life is difficult, but it’s not a problem for me. I have to be emotionally attached, and I’m emotionally attached to Erik … My family does not understand. When it started to get serious, some of them just threw up their hands”.
Tammi and her daughter drive 150 miles every weekend to visit Erik, and her daughter refers to him as her Earth Dad.
Despite his life sentence, Erik stated, “Tammi is what gets me through. I can’t think about the sentence. When I do, I do it with great sadness and a primal fear. I break into a cold sweat. It’s so frightening I just haven’t come to terms with it”.
Does she have any children?
As we said before, Tammi is a proud mother. Her daughter Talia Saccoman is from her previous marriage. Talia was 9 months old when Tammi decided to get married to Erik. She has a strong bond with him.
Both brothers have wives
Erik is not the only one with a wife out of prison. Tammi has said several times, “I am still in love with Erik”.
His brother Lyle Menendez also got married. Lyle got married to Anna Eriksson from 1996 to 2001, and then to Rebecca Sneed in 2003.
Here is a fun fact. According to the theory by the prosecutors, the Menendez brothers killed their parents with a desire to control their wealth. Their parents, at the time, had a $14.5 million estate.
Yet, they almost went bankrupt because they spent the amount on court costs and attorney fees. As of June 2023, they have almost nothing.
On the other hand, Erik’s wife Tammi is a successful businesswoman and author. She has a net worth close to $1.3 million, all thanks to her career.
She and Erik are a testimony that true love exists. Their bond has deepened over the years, despite him serving a life sentence.