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Video Company Chief, Wife Found Fatally Shot In Mansion Home

August 22, 1989

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ The head of a leading Hollywood video entertainment firm and his wife were slain in their mansion, and police searched for witnesses, motives and possible links to organized crime.

The bodies of Jose E. Menendez, 45, and Mary Louise ″Kitty″ Menendez, 44, were discovered late Sunday by their sons in their $4 million Mediterranean- style home, police said Monday.

Menendez was chief executive officer and chairman of the board of LIVE Entertainment Inc., an affiliate of Carolco Pictures Inc. in the video and music software distribution business. He also once headed RCA/Ariola records and the U.S. rental car operations for the Hertz Corp.

The couple, casually dressed, had been shot repeatedly. Menendez’ body was found slumped over one end of a couch and his wife’s body was on the floor at the other end of the couch, said coroner’s investigator Craig Harvey.

Police gave no motive in the killings and declined to reveal the type of weapon used. Several people were questioned by police and released.

Investigators found no signs of a struggle or burglary. The couple’s death was placed by the coroner’s office at between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sunday.

Officers went door-to-door on the Menendez’ tree-lined street, one of Southern California’s most affluent, looking for witnesses to the first Beverly Hills homicide in more than a year.

The Menendezes moved to the house in October 1988, property records show. Over the years, the house had been leased for up to $35,000 a month to celebrities including singers Elton John and Prince, the U-2 rock band and several Arab sheiks.

Carolco is best known for producing the ″Rambo″ films starring Sylvester Stallone, which have been one of its major sources of income.

Although no motive was offered, Beverly Hills detectives called the Los Angeles Police Department’s Organized Crime Intelligence Division, asking for any information on Menendez, the Los Angeles Times reported today.

A source told the Times the LAPD had no immediate information on the executive.

In 1988, LIVE Entertainment acquired Strawberries Records, Tapes and CDS, a Milford, Mass.-based retail chain owned by Morris Levy, a New York City record executive with alleged ties to organized crime, the Times reported.

Levy allegedly has long acted as a business front for Vincent ″The Chin″ Gigante, reputed by law enforcement officials to be an underboss of the Genovese crime family, according to authorities and records.

Levy was sentenced last year in New Jersey to 10 years in federal prison and fined $200,000 for conspiring to extort money from a Philadelphia-are a record distributor.

Menendez was an executive vice president and board member of Carolco, which has a 48 percent voting interest in LIVE. Carolco finances, produces and leases motion pictures for exhibition in domestic and foreign markets, and for later release in such media as video and pay and free television.

″All of us at Carolco are shocked by the apparent murder of Jose Menendez and his wife,″ Carolco Pictures President and CEO Peter Hoffman said in a statement.

In 1986, Menendez left RCA to run International Video Entertainment (IVE), which holds the video rights to more than 1,300 titles. A year later, IVE bought an interest in Minneapolis-based Lieberman Enterprises, which delivers video and music software to major retailers, to create LIVE Entertainment Inc.

Menendez was covered by a $15 million ″key man″ insurance policy with LIVE Entertainment as the beneficiary, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission registration statement filed this year and obtained by the Times.

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