A letter purportedly written in December 1988 by Erik Menendez to his cousin Andy Cano reads in part: (grammatical errors intact)
I’ve been trying to avoid dad. Its still happening Andy but its worse for me now. I cant explain it. He so overweight that I cant stand to see him. I never know when its going to happen and its driving me crazy. Every night I stay up thinking he might come in. I need to put it out of my mind. I know what you said before but I’m afraid. You just don’t know dad like I do. Hes crazy! hes warned me a hundred times about telling anyone. Especially Lyle. Am I a serious whimpus? I dont know I’ll make it through this. I can handle it, Andy. I need to stop thinking about it.
The letter never came up during the trials or any evidence hearings. The discovery of the letter is described by Robert Rand in the last chapter of his book “The Menendez Murders.” The letter is also mentioned in a 2015 documentary about the case. Given that Rand’s book states the letter was discovered in March 2018, it’s unclear to me how the letter found its way to a 2015 documentary.
Rand has on several occasions stated that the letter is “self-authenticating,” because it describes a Christmas party the Menendezes had hosted for Jose’s staff at LIVE Entertainment, and because the letter also mentions the recent hiring of a new tennis coach, Mark Heffernan.
I don’t subscribe to that reasoning. I submit that most people of sound mind would be able to backdate a letter, i.e. to take a piece of paper and write about events that have already taken place, and date the letter earlier than the date on which you’re actually writing.
At this point in time there are lots of unanswered questions about this letter. As mentioned above, the letter was first (as far as I know) publically referred to in a 2015 documentary. Questions are plenty: How can it feature in a 2015 documentary if it was “discovered” in 2018 among Andy Cano’s possessions? Which Menendez relative gave it to Barbara Walters and from where did the relative obtain the letter? How many copies of the letter are floating around? But most importantly, when was it written?
I’ll offer my own speculation as to when the letter was written. In my opinion, it was most likely written by Erik Menendez in county jail between 1990-1993 as part of a scheme to present false testimony. We know for a fact that a few attempts were made by at least one of the Menendez brothers to fabricate false testimony. For all we know there could have been more than the documented attempts. It could be that through either letters, phone calls, or during jail visits, witnesses were asked to testify falsely, and that the letter to Andy Cano was part of such a scheme.
Ofcourse, this begs the question: If Erik wrote the letter as part of a false testimony scheme, why was it never introduced into evidence at trial?
One reason why Erik would have abandoned a plan to use the letter as evidence could be concern about what a jury would make of the letter.
First, the prosecution would likely have argued that the letter was backdated, and Erik might have feared that if jurors bought that argument, it could make them skeptical of Andy’s testimony that Erik had verbally confided in Andy, and perhaps consequently skeptical about other defense evidence as a whole.
Second, Erik might also have feared that jurors would not believe that he would put neither himself nor Andy in danger of being killed. Erik testified at trial that Jose told him that if he ever revealed the molestation secret, not only would he (Jose) kill Erik, but he would also kill the person Erik told the secret to. It’s one thing to (allegedly) verbally confide in Andy at age 13, but some jurors might believe that at the age of 18, Erik would have been wise enough to know that to reveal the secret in handwriting could cost both himself and Andy their lives in case the letter fell into the wrong hands.
This naturally begs another question: If Erik abandoned a plan to use the letter as evidence, wouldn’t he then tell Andy to destroy it?
Not necessarily. It could be that Erik wanted Andy to hold onto the letter in case he was convicted at trial, and his appeals to overturn his conviction were unsuccessful, to then use the letter down the road in a last-ditch desperate attempt to apply to the Governor for commutation of sentence. But then, why would Erik not have tried to introduce the letter during the appeals process but instead wait to use it for a sentence commutation? If Erik, through his appeal attorneys, tried to introduce the letter as “new evidence” and the appeal courts rejected it as bogus, it might be difficult to persuade the Governor to consider the same letter later on. So Erik could have wanted to keep it as leverage for further down the road.
Or, maybe Erik did tell Andy to get rid of it, but Andy decided to keep it for whatever reason unbeknownst to Erik.
An alternative theory is that the letter was written in neither 1988 nor the early 1990s, but that Erik wrote the letter in prison sometime this century with the intention to use it for a new appeal, or to submit as an exhibit to an application to the Governor for commutation of sentence. One might then ask, if Erik wrote the letter in e.g. 2013 would he truly be able to remember events from as far back as 1988? Probably. But even if he wasn’t, maybe he had assistance from family or friends who reminded him of those events.
We may never know with certainty when the letter was written. Maybe scientific testing can help narrow it down. But even if such testing could exclude this century, I doubt it can conclusively prove that the letter was written in 1988, and not the early 1990s.