Even though the stories of the Menendez Brothers and the boy band Menudo don’t seemingly have anything to do with one another, they are inextricably linked. In 1996, brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez were convicted of brutally murdering their parents, Jose and Mary Louise Menendez, in 1989. The prosecution argued it was for money; their father was a wealthy music executive. But the brothers alleged their father had been sexually abusing them for years and it drove them to kill, as they felt it was the only means out.
With Menudo, meanwhile, there have long been rumors of sexual abuse of members by the founder and producer of the iconic Latin boy band, Edgardo Diaz. Despite the odd allegation here and there, however, no charges have ever been brought against Diaz.
How do these stories intersect? In the 1980s, Menudo signed with RCA Records, where Jose Menendez worked as an executive and became involved with the band. Journalists Robert Rand and Nery Ynclan set out to explore a potential link between the accusations against both Diaz and Menendez. What they unearthed from former band member Roy Rosselló, who is coming forward 35 years later with shocking allegations, is featured in the Peacock true crime docuseries Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed.
The testimony left out of the first trial
The Menendez brothers had an initial trial that led to a hung jury, which some people may not recall about the case. During that trial, they were able to call witnesses, including family members and friends. Some of the testimony was shocking, including a cousin who alleges that when Lyle was just 8 years old and she was sleeping over, he came to the basement and asked if he could sleep in the other bed there with her. He told her, she alleged, that his father touched him on his genitals. Another piece of testimony noted an essay one brother wrote in school about a father going to jail for sexually abusing his children, which was also not permitted as evidence in the second trial.
Before the second trial, all such testimony was deemed inadmissible because it had nothing to do with the case. Thus, the jurors who would eventually go on to find the brothers guilty did not hear any evidence of alleged abuse.
Edgardo Diaz’s mother allegedly knew of his alleged abuse
Fans who have followed the band Menudo closely are aware of the sexual abuse allegations against music producer Diaz, creator of Menudo. He was first accused by a former member in 1991, as well as by a photojournalist who worked with the band and suspected something was going on. Another individual, Gabriel Fernandez from the rival band Los Chamos, made allegations as recently as 2021 as well.
But the most harrowing accusations hail from Roy Rosselló, a member of the band from 1983 to 1986. When he discussed first meeting Diaz, who was trying to convince him to join the band, Rosselló alleges that Diaz’s mother pulled her son out of the room and told him “not to do anything to that boy.” He recalls hearing her say “I know your intentions, I know what you’re thinking.” Rosselló alleges that he overheard Diaz tell her not to worry and that if Rosselló said anything, no one would believe him anyway. It was that same night that Rosselló alleges that Diaz raped him. (He alleges that Diaz continued to rape and sexually assault him throughout his entire time with the band). Rosselló says Diaz’s mother was in the next room when it first happened.
Bolivar Arellano’s story
Bolivar Arellano is a retired photojournalist who worked with the band for many years. At one point, he owned a store selling Menudo souvenirs. When he began to hear rumblings about sexual abuse by management, he decided to check with several past members, who allegedly confirmed to him off the record that it was true. One of these young men was Rosselló, who was not ready to come forward publicly at that time. Even so, a horrified Arellano went public with the allegations.
Nothing was done, and when Arellano appeared on a local talk show to discuss the matter, police showed up on the live set to arrest him. He alleges he went to the courthouse the following day after receiving a summons, but Diaz’s team waited across the street (he later learned) until he left, then declared that he didn’t show up and called him a fugitive. Arellano was eventually accused of defamation and had to retract his statements. He said the boys he spoke with told him to forget their names because “they wiped the floor with you.” Imagine, they asked, what these men would do to them. Arellano alleges he later discarded two dumpster containers worth of Menudo merchandise, believing the money he made up to that point was dirty.
Rosselló’s allegations against Jose Menendez
Much of the series focuses on Rosselló and the alleged abuse he endured at the hands of Diaz. But the shocking tie-in between the band and the 1996 murder trial is that he also claims he was abused by Jose Menendez. Rosselló recalls first meeting Menendez in a limo on route to his home while Menudo was doing a performance in New York. At the house, Rosselló was given wine and alleges that he began to feel strange. He recalls being walked down a long hallway into a bedroom. When he awoke, he was back in his hotel room with no recollection of how he got there.
Most shocking is that Rosselló says he was bleeding badly and in pain for weeks following the incident. While his claims against Menendez aren’t as detailed as those against Diaz, and Rosselló does not mention if he ever had future encounters of abuse with Menendez, it’s an important recollection that speaks to the elder Menendez’s alleged character. It’s also one that the Menendez brothers’ lawyer believes could have made a difference in Lyle and Erik’s trial back in the ’90s, corroborating their sexual abuse claims.
The group thought Rosselló and Diaz’s relationship was consensual
The series mentions the more recent tragic death of former Menudo member Ray Reyes from a heart attack. He was reportedly preparing to come forward with allegations just before his death, and his brother Raul thinks the desperation to tell the truth led to his passing. During Raul’s conversations with Rosselló, he admits that the group did not welcome Rosselló openly. Rosselló joined without having auditioned and the member he was replacing, Miguel Cancel, didn’t even get a proper send-off. What’s more, Raul was expecting that spot to be his, joining his brother in the band.
They believed the relationship Rosselló had with Diaz was voluntary and consensual, and resented him because he was the obvious favorite. “We didn’t consider,” says Raul, “that he was a young boy, a child, a minor who had been tricked.”
The current situation
The Menendez brothers’ cousin Diana, who lived with the family at one point for just over a year, recalls speaking to Lyle and telling him she felt horrible about them being in prison. He stopped her and told her not to be because he’s “happier than I’ve ever been.” She realized at this point that he felt better and safer living in prison than he did living with his parents. Their lawyer is filing a petition to have their case looked at again in light of the new evidence about Jose Menendez’s character based on Rosselló’s accounts.
Meanwhile, Rosselló filed official charges in Los Angeles against Diaz in November 2022. However, the case is still being investigated, with the need for corroborating evidence by other members or individuals. No criminal charges have been brought against Diaz.