The Truth About Erik Menendez's Wife, Tammi

In 1996, brothers Erik and Lyle Menendez were found guilty of the murder of their parents, Kitty and Jose (via ABC News). Per Biography, it was a case that captivated the nation and had the makings of a Hollywood film. There was wealth, high-profile connections, and of course, murder. On August 20, 1989, Erik and Lyle brutally shot their parents in their Beverly Hills Mansion with two 12-gauge shotguns. Despite their ages — the former was 18 and the latter was 21 (via Town & Country Magazine) — the brothers committed an atrocious crime that still haunts investigators.

Oxygen writes that Kitty and Jose's bodies were unrecognizable. Beverly Hills Police Det. Leslie Zoeller described the scene and said (per ABC News), "Kitty was wearing white. She was covered in blood." He added,  "Jose had a shotgun blast to the back of his head, blood everywhere. ... It was really horrendous." According to History, no one suspected the brothers at first. They then proceeded to blow through their father's money and live big, raising suspicions. 

Eventually, a taped confession from Erik's therapist led to their arrest (via Biography). When the case went to trial, the brothers alleged severe sexual abuse from their parents. Although their first trial ended in a hung jury, their second trial in 1995 resulted in a conviction. Both Erik and Lyle were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In 1999, Erik married his wife, Tammi, while behind bars (per The Sun).

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Tammi sympathized with Erik

According to The Sun, Tammi watched the Menendez brothers' first trial on TV and was drawn to Erik Menendez. People writes that in 1993, she wrote to him and explained that "I could see the pain in his eyes." She added,  "I felt so sorry for him." Eventually, those letters turned into phone calls. ABC News adds that Tammi believed the brothers had murdered their parents because of the abuse that they endured. She thought their crimes warranted a manslaughter charge instead of first-degree murder.  At the time of their correspondence, Tammi, who was then known as Tammi Ruth Saccoman (via The Cinemaholic), was married to her second husband, Chuck Saccoman.

In an interview with People, Erik recalls the moment he received his first letter from Tammi. He said, "I believe in soul mates. I believe in spirituality, in a religious sense. I believe in God and that nothing happens by chance. I saw Tammi's letter and I felt something. I received thousands of letters, but I set this one aside. I got a feeling. And I wrote her back. Tammi and I continued to correspond. I enjoyed writing to her. It was a slow friendship. It was special to me because it was not associated with the trial and the media. Tammi was someone not in the craziness." Although the two briefly lost touch, fate had other plans for the pen pals.

Tammi met Erik years after they first began corresponding

People reports that their relationship blossomed in 1996. That year, Tammi's husband killed himself after admitting to sexually abusing her teenage daughter from a previous marriage for three years. In another article by People, Erik Menendez explains that he and Tammi lost contact when he was convicted. Eventually, Tammi wrote and told Erik of her husband's death. She noted that Erik provided her with comfort during this difficult time period. She told ABC News, "There was just something about him. Maybe it was because he was incarcerated and I knew that he ... was my safety place. He was very safe for me." 

With their relationship progressing, Tammi and Erik met in person for the first time at Folsom State Prison in August 1997 (via People). After that visit, she admitted that she was "attracted" to Erik and continued seeing him (per ABC News). In her words, "things just kept getting more intense." Erik felt the same way and told People, "I remember that when I first met Tammi it was the most beautiful experience of my life. When she crossed the room ... Wow! My body lit on fire."

Eventually, Tammi, who lived in Minnesota, moved to California with her young daughter Talia to be closer to Erik. In 2005, she told NBC News that falling in love with him was never the plan. Per ABC News, she said, "He's always there for me. He worries. ... I never had that before."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Their romantic prison wedding

Erik Menendez proposed to Tammi in 1998 (via People), and The Sun reports they married in Folsom State Prison in June 1999. According to ABC News, Erik's grandmother and two aunts witnessed the ceremony, which was held in a conference room. For the cake, they bought twinkies from a vending machine. Despite their unlikely love story, Tammi has been candid about her marriage and has described it as incredibly difficult (more than she expected) due to the circumstances (via In Touch Weekly). She has said that only her mother has supported her marriage while her friends disapproved. Moreover, Tammi and Erik have never been intimate and have no children together.

According to People, inmates serving life sentences are prohibited from having conjugal visits. However, both have said that this is not a deal breaker for them. Tammi stated (via People), "Not having sex in my life is difficult, but it's not a problem for me." While Erik explained in his own interview with People, "There is such a longing to share. It's not sex, not the physical act you yearn for. It's the communion, just to be able to lay with someone in naked silence. It's hurt not being able to do that."

However, ABC News adds that they are able to hug and kiss. As for Erik's brother, Lyle, he's been married twice since his imprisonment (per All That's Interesting). In 1996, he married a Playboy model who divorced him in 2001 after she discovered he was writing letters to other women. In 2003, he married Rebecca Sneed.

Tammi wrote a memoir about her marriage to Erik

In 2005, Tammi wrote a memoir titled "They Said We'd Never Make It: My Life With Erik Menendez."' She discussed her book with NBC News and explained, "He's (Erik) my best friend. And within the pages of the book, I think that it really explains exactly where I'm coming from." Per In Touch Weekly, Tammi divulges the highs and lows of her unique marriage with Erik. Moreover, she details how the two keep things romantic, even behind prison walls.

In an interview with People, Erik spoke about why this book was so important to him. He said, "People view me as this dark guy, a killer. Emotionally, that's been very, very hard to deal with. It's always been a struggle for me to realize that I'm the nation's villain. And it's very hard for Tammi." Despite this, Tammi has described her marriage as "something that I've dreamed about for a long time" (via ABC News).

Per another article from People, Tammi's daughter Talia, whose biological father is Chuck Saccoman, was only an infant when she married Erik and refers to him as her "earth dad." Erik added, "Who I am is going to follow her. It's important to me to get this side of me out there." As of 2021, the brothers are still married, and according to a different article from The Sun, they are both imprisoned at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.