SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Lyle Menendez, one of two sons accused of shooting to death their wealthy parents, apparently tried to escape custody Friday by cutting through links of his leg chains, deputies said.
Deputies later searched Menendez's jail cell at Los Angeles County Central Jail and found handwritten documents they described only as evidence of an escape attempt, Sgt. Bob Stoneman said.
Menendez was in a holding area near the Santa Monica Superior Court where he was to appear for a hearing when a sheriff's deputy noticed two links of the chain between his ankles had been cut, Stoneman said.
Superior Court Judge Jame Albracht, meanwhile, barred the public from that hearing on whether to release confidential audiotapes of psychotherapy sessions in which Lyle and his brother Erik allegedly incriminated themselves in the killing.
Albracht, who has been criticized by the defense for selectively releasing evidence in the case, said he is required by law to conduct proceedings regarding potentially confidential matters in private.
'We just cannot proceed in public when discussing matters subject to a claim of privilege,' he said.
The hearing ended for the day with no ruling and is to resume June 15.
Shortly before the hearing began, deputies noticed the cut links on Menendez' ankle chains. Deputy Rudy Arellanes found that the second links from each end of the chain had been cut, one side completely through and the other nearly through, Stoneman said.
'It was cut to the point that all it would take was pressure by stepping on it,' Stoneman said.
Menendez was also restrained with a waist chain, a chain that secured his arms to his sides, Stoneman said.
Menendez put up no resistance to the Arellanes when the damage to the chains was discovered.
During the hearing, Albracht denied appeals from attorneys for news organizations to conduct at least part of the hearing in open court.
Glen Smith, an attorney for the Los Angeles Times, said the judge was required to balance the defendants' right to a fair trial against the public's right to know. 'So far, the balance is being struck entirely in favor of secrecy and I don't think that's right,' Smith said.
Defense attorneys assert the audiotapes are protected under laws that say doctor-patient discussions should be kept confidential and are seeking to prevent prosecutors from using the tapes as evidence.
Gerald Chaleff, one of the defense lawyers, said, 'The law strictly states that when you deal with privileged material and you are discussing this material, it has to be done in closed session.'
The audiotapes are believed to be the prosecution's key evidence.
Lyle Menendez, 22, and his brother, Erik, 19, are charged with having murdered their parents in order toinherit a $14 million estate and while lying in wait. Both have pleaded innocent and remain jailed without bail.
Although they were arrested and charged in March, no date has been set for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant a trial.
Jose Menendez, the head of a Van Nuys video distribution company, and his wife, Kitty, were shotgunned to death Aug. 20 in the living room of their Bevelry Hills mansion.
According to records released earlier this week, two shotguns were purchased two days before the killings from a San Diego sporting goods store by a young man who identified himself as Donovan Jay Goodreau, a former Princeton roommate of Lyle's.
The federal firearms tranaction form, released Wednesday, revealed that the buyer paid cash for the 12-gauge Mossbergs, costing $213.99 each, at a Big 5 store.
Goodreau reportedly maintains that his driver's license -- used for identification in the purchase of the weapons -- was stolen and that he was not in California at the time.
Although authorities say the weapons bought at the store were the type used in the killings, the shotguns have never been found.
The victims were hit by numerous shotgun blasts fired at close range. Two types of shotgun ammunition -- large pellet and birdshot -- were used, according to autopsy reports.
If convicted, Lyle and Erik Menendez could be sentenced to die in the gas chamber.