The last time Erik and Lyle Menendez saw each other in person was on September 10, 1996, when the two brothers were found guilty of first-degree murder in the 1989 shooting deaths of their parents, Jose and Kitty Menendez.
For more than two decades, Lyle was housed at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California — a small town outside Sacramento. Erik was incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, more than 500 miles away.
But last month, the brothers reunited.
Lyle Menendez, now 50, gave an interview to DailyMailTV. Audio clips have been released to Good Morning America.
“It was just a remarkable moment,” Menendez said. “It was just something I wasn’t sure was ever going to happen,”
Lyle revealed that how he embraced Erik, now 47. He whispered “finally,” and the brothers burst into tears.
The men now live in a unit where inmates agree to participate in educational and other rehabilitation programs. If any prisoners fight or cause disruptions, they are moved out of the unit.
Despite their lengthy separation, the brothers have remained close. In a rare jailhouse interview last year, Lyle told PEOPLE they kept in touch through the years.
“We write each other regularly,” he said. “We even play chess through the mail, but it’s a little slow.”
The brothers have also been active while behind bars since shooting their parents with shotguns in 1989: Erik spent time with terminally ill prisoners and Lyle has been president of the inmate government and ran a support group for prisoners who endured childhood sexual abuse.
“We just keep trying to find something positive from the experiences that we had,” Lyle told PEOPLE.
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Decades after their high-profile crimes, the Menendez brothers remain notorious among other inmates.
On Aug. 20, 1989, Erik and Lyle fatally shot their wealthy parents in the den of their home. Dad Jose Menendez, a 45-year-old Hollywood executive, was shot point-blank in the back of the head. Mom Kitty Menendez, 47, was shot 15 times, including once in the face.
At the time, Lyle was 21 and Erik was 18.
Prosecutors said the motive was the family’s $ 14 million estate. The brothers, however, initially blamed the killings on the mob but later claimed they shot their parents in self-defense after years of sexual abuse.
Jurors disagreed and convicted Erik and Lyle of first-degree murder, sentencing both to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Years after the shotgun slayings, do the brothers feel remorse for the violent crimes that resulted in their permanent incarceration?
“I would give my life to change it,” Erik told PEOPLE from prison in 2005. “I talk to my mom. She knows my heart. I ask for forgiveness.”
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