Steve Helling
November 20, 2017 06:11 PM

By now, everyone knows the real story of Erik Menendez — or, he says, they think they do.

He and brother Lyle became household names nearly 30 years ago, after they shot and killed their parents, José and Kitty, on Aug. 20, 1989. The brothers fired on José at point-blank range and kept shooting at Kitty as she attempted to flee.

Prosecutors said the brutal slayings were part of a larger scheme to get the Menendez parents’ $14 million estate. But the brothers claimed, in detail, that they acted in self-defense after years of abuse. A jury disagreed and convicted them both of first-degree murder, sending them to prison for life.

But Erik, now 46, says that no one knows what really happened — and, he says, he’s revealing it for the first time on the A&E’s new docuseries The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All, premiering later this month.

“You may think you know my story — but you couldn’t possibly, because I’m telling my story to you now for the first time,” he says in an exclusive clip above.

While Erik has spoken out before, including to PEOPLE in 2005, he says that this interview is the most comprehensive one he has ever given. (Lyle, too, has become more outspoken in recent months.)

Erik, the younger of the Menendez brothers, talked to Menendez Murders executive producer Nancy Saslow in a series of 12-minute interviews over several months. (Prison phone calls in California have a time limit.) 

“What was so extraordinary was the level of authenticity, the level of emotion — that he was willing not only to talk, but to relive everything,” Saslow tells PEOPLE. “There were times where what he was sharing was so rough, I would lose him for a few days. He wouldn’t be able to come to the table for a little bit.”

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From left: Lyle and Erik Menendez with defense attorney Leslie Abramson in court on Aug. 12, 1991.
MIKE NELSON/AFP/Getty

“This has never been a whodunnit,” Saslow says. “This wasn’t about who did these killings. We knew the answer to that.” Instead, she says, the series’ goal was “to try to get an understanding about what happened.”

In his A&E interview, Erik describes the abuse he still alleges he suffered at the hands of his father (a claim one prosecutor has said she believes was “100 percent” made-up).

“The most overwhelming memory of my dad was him pounding on my door, telling me to open the door of the bedroom,” Erik recalls. “He would have me massage him, and he would have me perform oral sex on him. He would graphically describe to me how he would kill me if I ran away.”

Since the gruesome double-murder, Erik says in the show, he has faced many regrets:

“I wanted to go back in time. I wanted to take everything back that Lyle and I did.”

The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All premieres on Nov. 30 on A&E.

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