Joe Hunt: White Collar Psychopath
Hunt's Fatal Legacy
Joe Hunt had tried to stop NBC from airing a miniseries based on his trial, citing the fact that, while he'd already been convicted in the murder of Ron Levin, that conviction was being appealed. Airing the movie also harmed his chances, as well as prejudicing a jury in the upcoming trial for the death of Hedayat Eslaminia. Nevertheless, the courts allowed NBC to go forward late in 1987, little realizing that this telling of the tale of Joe Hunt and his club would one day inspire yet another brutal double homicide. While Sullivan explains how NBC tried to pass the movie off as a series of fictional scenes that got at "essential truth," they did indicate that it was based on a true story and they used several actual names, including that of Joe Hunt. Several of the boys from the BBC were paid as technical advisors.
In July 1989 in Los Angeles, Erik and Lyle Menendez, 18 and 21, watched a re-airing of The Billionaire Boys Club. Eric was excited by it, imagining what they would do if only they could get their hands on their parents' money. He seemed to have missed the point that Joe Hunt swindled his investors and did not make the kind of profits about which he openly bragged. The Menendez boys devised a plan to slaughter Jose and Kitty Menendez, based on Hunt's scheme to make it look like terrorists had abducted and killed Eslaminia. They figured their father probably had enemies from his dealings back east and they could always blame the Mafia. How could the police investigate that?
One evening, they came home with two 12-gauge shotguns. As Kitty and Jose dozed in the den of their Beverly Hills mansion, Lyle took the first shot straight at the back of his father's head. Erik was assigned to shoot his mother, but when she started to move away, Lyle shot her and hit her in the leg. She fell between the couch and coffee table, but she was still alive, so he went out to the car to reload. Erik, too, had shot his mother several times in the arm and breast, blowing pieces of her around the room, yet she continued to try to crawl away. Finally several shots to her head finished her off. When it was over, Jose had taken six bullets and Kitty ten.
The brothers then made a call to 911 to report that intruders had murdered their parents. To the police, they suggested the Mafia. Then they made a major miscalculation. They went on a spending spree, running up a tab of over one million dollars by the end of the year, which invited the attention of the investigators. Proof was found that they had purchased two shotguns just two nights before the murder, using fake IDs. Police eventually confiscated audiotapes of therapy sessions between Erik and his therapist in which he confessed to the killings. At trial, the therapist testified that the brothers had been inspired by the movie.
Their first set of trials resulted in hung juries over the question of whether or not they had been abused. Juror Hazel Thornton wrote in Hung Jury that much was made during the discussions of the inspiration of the Billionaire Boys Club. Their second trials, however, turned out quite differently. In 1995, the brothers were convicted of two counts each of first-degree murder, which got them both sentenced to life in prison.
Just like Joe Hunt, their feeling of entitlement and their arrogant narcissism gave them away. What they expected to gain from the murders was far different from what they got.