Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Menendez Brothers


Jose was born in 1944 to an upper-middle class family in Havana, Cuba. His father was a well-known soccer player who owned his own accounting firm. His mother was a swimmer who was elected to Cuba's sports hall of fame. Jose had two older sisters, Teresita, known as "Terry", and Marta. Although the family was not rich, Jose's parents' accomplishments in sports guaranteed them an honored place in Cuban society. Jose was five years younger than Terry and was spoiled and adored by his mother.

Fidel Castro at Batista's Military Base in 1959 (AP)
Fidel Castro at Batista's Military Base in
1959 (AP)

During 1959 and 1960 Cuba was undergoing a revolution. Fulgencio Batista was overthrown and Fidel Castro came to power and made radical changes to both the economy and the social welfare system of the country. Castro's government seized the property of the upper and middle classes, turned farms into collectives and canceled all leases and mortgages. The upper and middle classes lost property, the lower classes faced higher prices and the government grew more repressive, imprisoning or executing opponents of Castro.

In 1960, Jose Menendez was 16 years old. After Castro came to power, Jose's parents saw that their lives in Cuba were forever changed. The first step they made in their decision to leave Cuba was to send their son to the United States. Jose flew to the United States with Terry's fiancÚ and settled in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, located between Scranton and Allentown. Jose arrived penniless and did not speak or understand English but was determined to succeed in his adopted country. Jose studied diligently in high school and worked part-time to earn spending money. Due to financial hardship, Jose was not able to achieve one of his dreams, which was to attend an Ivy League college. He promised himself that someday, when he had children, they would achieve his dream and graduate from an Ivy League college. Jose won an athletic scholarship in swimming to Southern Illinois University. Jose did not like Southern Illinois University and is remembered by classmates as withdrawn and sullen. Jose supported himself financially with his athletic scholarship, but eventually walked away from athletics to concentrate on his studies. There was one person who made Jose feel good. Her name was Kitty Andersen.

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