A new docuseries links a major Latino pop group with a gruesome double homicide committed in Beverly Hills, one of the United States’ wealthiest communities, at the end of the 1980s. The connection between the two is José Menéndez, a powerful music executive. His name might not mean much to many, but Menéndez was integral to the success story of Menudo, a popular teenaged boy band that emerged from Puerto Rico to enjoy a string of hits across Latin America and in the U.S. Roy Roselló, a former member of the group, claims he was raped by Menéndez. However, Roselló cannot seek justice for the alleged sexual abuse, because the man he accuses is dead. Menéndez was murdered in 1989 by his sons, Lyle and Erik, who also killed their mother.
“I know what he did to me in his house,” Roselló says in Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed. A teaser for the documentary was aired on Wednesday on NBC’s Today show, ahead of its 2 May release on Peacock, the U.S. network’s streaming platform. In the trailer, Roselló reveals that he was molested at the Menéndez mansion in New Jersey when he was 14. A three-part series, Menendez + Menudo was created by Nery Ynclan and Robert Rand, a former Miami Herald journalist and a leading expert on the case of Lyle and Erik Menéndez, who were sentenced to life in prison in 1996.
Roselló has gone public with accusations of sexual abuse before. In an interview with the Mexican TV program Ventaneando in 2020, the singer alleged that he is the only singer who did not have to audition for a place in Menudo, a group that chiefly rose to fame on the back of tracks such as Claridad and Súbete a mi moto. The band’s revolving line-up has had several dozen members up to the present day, including Enrique Martín — better known as Ricky Martin.
“Everyone knows I got into the group because Edgardo Díaz [Menudo’s manager] saw me and fell in love with me,” Roselló told Ventaneando. “He sexually abused us. I was 13 at the time, and it happened on a number of occasions. He threatened me, telling me he’d throw me out of the group if I refused […]. I never told my family; I was too ashamed.” In 2014, Roselló also made similar claims on Brazilian TV. Part of Menudo between 1983 and 1986, he is now a Christian minister and father of three.
It is not the first time that a cloud of suspicion has hung over José Menéndez, an executive who enjoyed a meteoric rise in the music industry. Born into a wealthy family in Cuba, he emigrated to the U.S. when Fidel Castro came to power on the Caribbean island, arriving in the States at 16. At college in Illinois, he met a beauty queen, Mary Louise Andersen, who everyone called Kitty. The couple married and, shortly afterward, moved to New York.
After working for several firms, Menéndez joined Radio Corporation of America (RCA), where he became president of Ariola, a record label owned by the company. Around the beginning of the 1980s, he began to give greater exposure to Latino artists, as well as signing up successful groups from the era such as Eurythmics and Duran Duran. Together with fellow RCA label Victor, Ariola was behind Menudo during the period, between 1977 and 1988, when the boy band took off internationally. Having played a key role in the group’s phenomenal success, Menéndez left Ariola in 1986, when General Electric bought RCA and he lost out in his bid to become the company’s president.
At around 10:00 p.m. on 20 August 1989, Menéndez and Kitty were murdered as they watched TV at their mansion, located just a few blocks away from the exclusive Rodeo Drive and formerly owned by Elton John and Michael Jackson. Thirty shots were heard that night. They were discharged by two rifles held by their sons: 22-year-old Erik, a professional tennis player, and 25-year-old Lyle, a student at Princeton University.
What followed has been widely documented by the U.S. media, which covered the horrific killings in exhaustive detail. The first trial took place in September 1993 in Los Angeles, with prosecutors alleging that the brothers had acted out of greed, having set their sights on inheriting the family’s $15 million fortune. Jurors were unable to agree on a verdict, and Erik and Lyle were retried three years later.
One thing that became apparent in the two trials, in which the brothers admitted to murdering their parents, was the brutality of the killings. José Menéndez was shot at point-blank range in the back of the neck. Another four bullets penetrated his arms and one of his thighs. Particular force, though, was reserved for Kitty, who was hit with a barrage of bullets as she attempted to flee. She was shot four times in the head, and one of her hands was almost entirely blown off.
In court, Lyle claimed that the brothers had acted out of fear, not greed. He said he had been sexually abused by his father when he was seven. He also admitted to having touched his younger sibling, who was present in the courtroom. “I don’t know why I did it, I’m really sorry,” he said through tears.
The defense sought to prove that, behind José Menéndez the successful businessman, lay a monster. A lawyer showed photographs, found in an envelope alongside images of a family birthday, that Menéndez had supposedly taken of Lyle’s penis. Lyle also alleged that, from a very young age, his father had repeatedly stressed to him that homosexual relations had been commonplace since the days of Ancient Greece.
“I told my mom to tell Dad to leave me alone, that he keeps touching me,” Lyle said. “She told me to stop it, that I was exaggerating, and my dad had to punish me when I did things wrong, and he loved me.”
One of the journalists who witnessed the courtroom drama in person was Robert Rand, whose new docuseries promises to offer up fresh information on the case. Rand previously worked on Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, an eight-part dramatization that was broadcast by NBC in 2017. Over 30 years on from the murders, a new version of the story is about to be told. It remains to be seen whether Roselló's allegations will benefit the Menéndez brothers, who have been seeking a new trial for years.
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