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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Tammi Menendez

Aired December 20, 2005 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIK MENENDEZ: My dad had been molesting me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, exclusive, Erik Menendez and Tammi Menendez, the woman who married him after he was jailed for life for the brutal murder of his own parents, the first joint TV interview on how their marriage works while he serves life in prison and on her shocking family secret and how it brought them closer together, Erik Menendez from California's Pleasant Valley State Prison, his wife Tammi Menendez, his attorney Chris Pixley all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We have an extraordinary show tonight dealing with an extraordinary new book. The book is "They Said We'd Never Make It, My Life With Erik Menendez," there you see its cover. It's available online at erikmenendez.com. And it is a return visit to this show by Tammi Menendez.

And, in a little while, we'll be talking with him. I've been trying to do this and set this up for months. We'll be talking on the phone with Erik and Erik will be on along with Tammi.

Why was this book privately published? Why couldn't you get a publisher? This is an extraordinary book.

TAMMI MENENDEZ, WIFE OF ERIK MENENDEZ: I think we could have got a publisher but I decided that I wanted to have the end results to be my own and I...

KING: Who would have prevented that? It's such a heck of a book.

T. MENENDEZ: Well, when you do it with a publishing company they have the editorial rights and I was worried about it being my view on Erik and everything, so I didn't want it...

KING: You think they'd have tried to edit you out of it? It's an incredible story.

T. MENENDEZ: I think that they would have did their own spin on it and I wanted -- because they have the last say and I think that that's the reason why we did not.

KING: So right now the only way to get it is erikmenendez.com? T. MENENDEZ: Exactly, yes.

KING: Now, you've been on this show before. The last time was July 15, 2004. Why did you write to Erik Menendez at all? I mean you're attractive. You're a beautiful girl.

T. MENENDEZ: Thank you.

KING: Two kids, why write to a murderer?

T. MENENDEZ: Well, I watched his first trial on Court TV and his first trial was televised the whole thing through and my heart went out to him as to what he was going through and I decided to write one letter and I didn't expect him to write back and, if he did, he did. If he didn't, then that's fine but I...

KING: This was after he was convicted and everything right?

T. MENENDEZ: No, it was before. It was his first trial.

KING: Oh.

T. MENENDEZ: And it was before.

KING: The mistrial?

T. MENENDEZ: Yes and I thought well, you know, I'll write to you and just let you know how I feel that I supported him.

KING: Was the feeling romantic?

T. MENENDEZ: Not then, no.

KING: No?

T. MENENDEZ: Not at all, no.

KING: You were married?

T. MENENDEZ: I was married at the time.

KING: Did your husband know you were writing a letter?

T. MENENDEZ: He did. He knew I was writing and he read the letters that Erik wrote back and there was nothing romantic about the letters, so yes.

KING: Were you surprised to hear from Erik?

T. MENENDEZ: It was about a month later and I was very surprised that he wrote back because I knew at the time I had heard through the media that he was receiving a lot of letters, you know, like 1,000 a week and so I was surprised to get a letter back from him, yes.

KING: Was your marriage unhappy?

T. MENENDEZ: It was very -- I was very alone in my marriage, very alone and...

KING: He wasn't a bad guy?

T. MENENDEZ: He wasn't a bad guy at all. He was a great guy. He just was into business and never home. I mean he...

KING: You had a child from a first marriage. That was quick though right that marriage?

T. MENENDEZ: Yes, it was a year, yes.

KING: And then you had another child with the second husband?

T. MENENDEZ: Right.

KING: So you have two children from two husbands?

T. MENENDEZ: Right.

KING: Right?

T. MENENDEZ: Yes.

KING: OK. I'm told that you didn't know at the time you didn't when you were on this show the last time that there was a dark secret that you and Erik shared.

T. MENENDEZ: Right.

KING: Which was?

T. MENENDEZ: Yes. It's hard to come to terms with it and I think that writing the book and everything that's in the book really made me come to terms with what happened but it was that my husband had been sexually abusing my older daughter and that was -- I had written to Erik and told him what I was going through.

KING: That was Lisa (ph)?

T. MENENDEZ: Right.

KING: How old was Lisa?

T. MENENDEZ: She's 24 right now, yes.

KING: You don't look like you have a 24-year-old daughter.

T. MENENDEZ: Thank you.

KING: She was abused by your husband?

T. MENENDEZ: Yes.

KING: His own daughter?

T. MENENDEZ: It's not his daughter. It was from a previous marriage, so it was her stepfather to get it straight, yes.

KING: And that led you to discuss with Erik his abuse?

T. MENENDEZ: Yes, I think that because he had been through a tragedy and I was going through a tragedy I wrote to him and told him that, you know, something tragic happened in my life and that I wanted to talk to him about it. I didn't reveal what it was. And he wrote back to me, "Please tell me what happened." And I think we had common ground, you know, there.

KING: To the world you and Chuck had a happy marriage right?

T. MENENDEZ: Right, right.

KING: To the world outside.

T. MENENDEZ: Yes, yes.

KING: Were the kids good with Chuck?

T. MENENDEZ: Yes, yes. He was a good father. He...

KING: Does he still see them?

T. MENENDEZ: Well he committed suicide.

KING: Over this?

T. MENENDEZ: Over what he did to his daughter, yes.

KING: Oh.

T. MENENDEZ: Yes, yes.

KING: You've had some life.

T. MENENDEZ: A long, yes, long history.

KING: So you began to what talk to Eric on the phone about these common things or all in letters?

T. MENENDEZ: No, we started talking on the phone and...

KING: How does that work he has to call collect?

T. MENENDEZ: He has to call collect. It's very expensive. It's, you know, really hard to be able to afford his phone calls and so we talked and then I went to visit him and we, you know, became best friends.

KING: What was the first visit like? Where did it take place?

T. MENENDEZ: It took place at Folsom, New Folsom Prison.

KING: This was after the conviction, the second trial?

T. MENENDEZ: Yes, yes, and...

KING: Up until then it had just been letters and calls.

T. MENENDEZ: Right, right. And, the first visit was very intense and I was really happy to finally meet him because we had been talking on the phone for a long time and it was a nice visit. I was able to talk to him about a lot of things that had been going on.

KING: We'll take a break. The book again is "They Said We'd Never Make It," what a great title, "My Life With Erik Menendez," available online at erikmenendez.com and Erik is E-R-I-K.

And, we'll be right back. Chris Pixley, the attorney for Erik Menendez, will be joining us in a little while. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At that point, Mr. Menendez, what did you think was happening?

E. MENENDEZ: I thought my dad was going to come up to my room and have sex and I thought they were going to kill us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you love your mom and dad?

E. MENENDEZ: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And on August 20, 1989 did you and your brother kill your mother and father?

E. MENENDEZ: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you kill your parents?

E. MENENDEZ: Because we were afraid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was you telling Lyle what?

E. MENENDEZ: That my dad had been molesting me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you want something from your brother is that why you told him?

LYLE MENENDEZ: I just wanted it to stop. I just told him that I didn't want to do this and that it hurt me and he said that he didn't mean to hurt me. He loved me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And we're back with Tammi Menendez. OK, what attracted you to someone who admittedly killed his parents?

T. MENENDEZ: Well, I think...

KING: No matter what the -- he was abused then.

T. MENENDEZ: I know.

KING: But what would attract you to someone who you knew in the wildest of circumstances did what he did?

T. MENENDEZ: I think that it was -- I think that it was different. I just want to make it clear that if he had been a serial killer or somebody that was out on the street killing for -- randomly, I think, you know, I wouldn't have ever written to him but I realized that something must had really been gone wrong for him to kill his parents and I think that that was the reason why my heart went out to him.

KING: How about Lyle?

T. MENENDEZ: Well, you know, I was always focused on Erik.

KING: Do you know why?

T. MENENDEZ: I don't know. I remember seeing Erik on trial on the stand on TV and I just really felt sorry for him and I wasn't -- I wasn't focused on his brother. It was just I could feel, it seems like I could feel Erik's pain that he was going through.

KING: So, therefore, you could put yourself in his place.

T. MENENDEZ: Well, I...

KING: Could you? I mean could you see yourself doing that with what he went through?

T. MENENDEZ: I couldn't see myself doing what he did but I could try to understand what he did and the pain that he must have went through because something must have went wrong in the household for him to be able to do what he did.

KING: Were you surprised that a lot of people didn't buy the story?

T. MENENDEZ: I was a little surprised. I think that people believe what they want to believe and I think that now being close to the story and that's why I wrote the book was to shed some light on really what did go on in the household and what he went through and why he did what he did. It's all in the book and that's why I wrote it.

KING: And we'll talk to Erik because Erik worked with you on the book.

T. MENENDEZ: He did. He did a lot of editing on the book, yes.

KING: So, you would send it to him. He would read it and send it back?

T. MENENDEZ: Right.

KING: Did the prison try to edit the book?

T. MENENDEZ: No.

KING: Did the prison take out things?

T. MENENDEZ: They didn't.

KING: They read everything don't they?

T. MENENDEZ: They read everything. They're not allowed to do that but...

KING: They're not allowed to read everything?

T. MENENDEZ: Well, no, they can read everything but they're not allowed to like edit things but things disappeared but we worked around that. And, you know, it was a long process to do that but the long run is the result of the book and I think that book is, you know, is really amazing.

KING: Wasn't it hard to write?

T. MENENDEZ: Very hard.

KING: Cathartic?

T. MENENDEZ: Yes, very emotional, very hard to go through, a lot of explosive things in the book, yes. It was very hard.

KING: Was it hard to deal with Chuck?

T. MENENDEZ: Oh, yes, it was a very difficult...

KING: How do you explain to him that you fall in love with someone who killed his parents?

T. MENENDEZ: Well, you know, it was -- it was difficult to deal with that and after Chuck passed I struggled along the way and Erik really helped me get through everything that I went through so.

KING: Did Chuck leave you a note?

T. MENENDEZ: He did, yes. He left me a note and I didn't read it for a year after. I couldn't bear the pain to read it but after a year I did read it and it's in the book too.

KING: Why enter into a marriage where frankly you can't have sex?

T. MENENDEZ: Well, you know, sex isn't everything but I will say that...

KING: But it ain't number three or four right?

T. MENENDEZ: I know. I know exactly but I really get emotional support from Erik and I think with my first marriage with Chuck I just didn't get that, so with Erik I get emotional support and that means more to me than anything.

KING: But you go to bed alone.

T. MENENDEZ: I do and it's hard. It's a hard -- I wouldn't wish it upon anybody. I mean it's a hard, difficult life. It's not -- I mean I struggle with it every day him not being home Monday through Friday. I do struggle. It's very difficult, so I, you know, I can't minimize it at all.

KING: How old are you?

T. MENENDEZ: I'm 44, yes.

KING: And you intend to live the rest of your life married to Erik?

T. MENENDEZ: I can't see my life without Erik. He's my best friend and he's a really good person and I just can't see my life without him.

KING: How often do you talk?

T. MENENDEZ: Well, we try to talk it seems like every other day but the phone calls are really expensive so it's really difficult.

KING: Why are they expensive?

T. MENENDEZ: Because with the phone company that has it they charge extra money to inmates that call collect to their families.

KING: And how often do you visit him?

T. MENENDEZ: Every weekend, Saturday and Sunday.

KING: And he's where?

T. MENENDEZ: He's in Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga.

KING: Do your children go too?

T. MENENDEZ: My one daughter does, yes.

KING: We'll be right back and Erik Menendez will be joining us by phone. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Menendez, during the summer of 1989 were you being sexually molested by your father?

E. MENENDEZ: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did that begin? How old were you?

E. MENENDEZ: I was six years old.

L. MENENDEZ: I told her to tell dad to leave me alone and he keeps touching me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did your mom say?

L. MENENDEZ: She told me to stop it and that I was exaggerating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(INTERRUPTED FOR COVERAGE OF BREAKING NEWS)

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