Elisabeth Anne "Betty" Broderick (born
November 7, 1947) is a former American suburban housewife
convicted of the November 5, 1989 murders of her former husband
Daniel T. Broderick III and his second wife, Linda Kolkena. After
a second trial, she was convicted on December 11, 1991 of two
counts of second-degree murder, and later sentenced to 32 years to
life in prison.
Growing up in Eastchester, New York, Betty was
the third of six children born to devout Roman Catholic parents,
Marita and Frank Bisceglia. Her mother was Irish-American and her
father was Italian; he founded a plastering firm with his
brothers. She was raised in an "aspirational" family, one not born
to affluence but trying hard to achieve upper-middle-class status
via business success, education, and assiduous attention to proper
manners and behavior. Her parents taught her that her role in life
was to become a good wife and mother.
Betty attended and later graduated from the
College of Mount Saint Vincent, a small Catholic women's college
in Riverdale, New York.
Engagement and marriage
In 1965, Betty met her future husband, Dan
Broderick, eldest son in another large Catholic family, at a party
after a football game between the University of Southern
California and the University of Notre Dame in South Bend,
Indiana. Dan, who was an undergraduate at the time at Notre Dame,
introduced himself to Betty at the party by writing on a napkin,
"Daniel T. Broderick III, MDA." When Betty asked him what "MDA"
meant, his response was, "Medical Doctor, Almost." They then began
dating and, not long after, became engaged.
Dan was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When the
couple became engaged, Dan was attending the Cornell University
Medical School (located in New York City rather than Ithaca, New
York). The couple were married on April 12, 1969, at the
Immaculate Conception Church in Eastchester in a lavish ceremony
planned by Betty's mother. They honeymooned on a Caribbean cruise
and later stayed with friends in St. Thomas.
She returned from her honeymoon pregnant with
her first child, daughter Kim, and continued to work until the day
before she gave birth. Afterward, she continued to hold down
several jobs and devoted herself to home and motherhood, which,
she stated, had always been her only ambitions. She gave birth to
four more children: a daughter called Lee, two sons named Daniel
and Rhett, and an unnamed boy who died two days after birth.
During the couple's early years before Dan became a successful
attorney, they were virtually destitute, living for a time on food
stamps, moving in and out of dormitories and apartments. Betty
held down a multitude of jobs to support her new family, even
resorting to selling Tupperware door to door, in the cold of
winter, while holding her babies in her hands. Betty was never too
proud to work.
After Kim's birth, and after completing his
medical degree, Dan announced that he didn't want to proceed with
his medical training and that he intended to combine it with a law
degree. He enrolled at Harvard Law School while Betty held down a
variety of jobs to support his studies.
In 1973, after Dan graduated from Harvard Law
School, the family moved to the La Jolla area of San Diego, where
Dan eventually became a success as a medical malpractice attorney.
Money did not come pouring in quickly, as Dan's initial salary at
the law firm where he got a job was quite meager. In time, Betty
urged Dan to go into practice for himself, which he did. Shortly
afterward, Dan enjoyed much success. Virtually overnight, after
Dan won his first million-dollar case, the Brodericks became bona
fide millionaires, and it appeared that after years of hard work
and sacrifice, the Brodericks had finally made it. The couple was
well known within San Diego social circles and enjoyed a life of
increasing affluence. Betty was finally able to quit working and
reap the benefits of all of her hard work.
At the same time, the already-problematic
marriage was further deteriorating. Betty continually complained
that Dan was an absent father and husband, spending too much time
working and socializing with fellow attorneys. Betty protested
that she felt like a single parent of four children. In the early
1980s, Dan hired Linda Kolkena, a former airline attendant who had
become a receptionist, as his assistant, and began a secret affair
with her that lasted the next three years.
Betty long suspected the affair although Dan
denied it for some time. During one incident after which Betty
waited all day and night at Dan's law office to celebrate his 38th
birthday, only to find out that he was out with Linda, Betty drove
home in a rage and burned all of Dan's expensive custom-tailored
The marriage continued to deteriorate with
Betty constantly suspecting Dan's affair and Dan repeatedly
denying it. Dan finally moved out of the family home, bought a
house of his own, and eventually, to Betty's surprise, willingly
took custody of the four children. Shortly afterward, he admitted
the three-year affair, got a restraining order against Betty, and
filed for divorce. Betty was devastated and hurt. There followed a
lengthy, complex, acrimonious divorce in which Betty felt that she
was unfairly treated, owing to Dan's extensive legal connections
and influence. Broderick vs. Broderick became one of the ugliest
divorces in the United States, gaining so much notoriety that the
Oprah Winfrey Show even contacted Betty to secure an interview on
a show whose topic was ugly divorces. Betty declined to be
After Dan left Betty and the family, Betty
became obsessed with her anger toward her husband. Among other
behaviors that later worked against her in court, she repeatedly
left obscene messages on his answering machine and frequently
abused him and Linda Kolkena in recorded telephone conversations
with her children, of whom she made demands regarding their
behavior and attitude towards their father and Kolkena.
One particularly notorious incident involved
her driving her vehicle through the front door of Dan Broderick's
new house after he sold the family house from underneath Betty
without her consent. Betty also smeared a Boston cream pie all
over Dan's clothing when she entered his home one day unannounced,
spray painted his walls, and broke his windows. Throughout the
divorce, Betty's behavior became increasingly violent. The only
way she knew how to fight back against her estranged husband was
to vandalize his home, leave him vulgar phone messages, and
complain to all of her friends about his philandering.
Dan, on the other hand, was able to keep a
cooler head and he used his legal acumen against Betty regularly.
Dan repeatedly had Betty hauled into court on "Orders to Show
Cause" when Betty would violate the restraining order Dan had
against her. After one hearing, Betty was imprisoned for three
days. To many onlookers, Dan was egging Betty on, exacerbating her
already unstable demeanor, instead of showing her sympathy and
assisting her in getting the help she needed. At the time, Dan was
paying Betty $9,000, and then later $16,000, per month in alimony,
and was living with Linda Kolkena. Throughout it all, Betty was
hopeful that Dan would come to his senses and return home.
The long drawn-out Broderick divorce was
finalized in 1989, four years after Dan filed for it. By many
accounts, Dan dragged the divorce out for four years on purpose.
In California, there was a little-known legal concept called
"Epstein credits" which worked to thwart any financial settlement
entitled to Betty. By the time the divorce trial came to fruition,
because of Epstein credits, Betty's share of community property
had been substantially reduced. Epstein credits are a provision
under California divorce law which says that the supporting spouse
(in this case Dan) may charge the dependent spouse (Betty) for
one-half of all community debts accumulated not from the date of
divorce, but from the date of separation. If there is a
substantial amount of time (in the interim), a dependent spouse
may actually accumulate enough Epstein credits to effectively
cancel out any share of the community property which might have
been forthcoming had the divorce been finalized immediately after
In the case of the Brodericks, legal
maneuverings and delays postponed the divorce trial incident after
incident. At the divorce trial, Betty represented herself without
an attorney. In what many believed was outrageously unfair and
what only solidified Dan's clout in the local legal arena, the
Broderick divorce trial was completely sealed off from the public
at Dan's request. The courtroom door windows were covered up with
paper. At the end of the eight day trial, Judge William Howatt
accepted all of Dan's proposed numbers and ruled that Betty owed
Dan $750,000 in Epsteins and cash advances, all accrued between
the time Dan moved out and the date the divorce was final on
January 30, 1989.
In the end, Dan Broderick, multi-millionaire
and the father of Betty's four children, was ordered to pay his
wife of 20 years less than $30,000 in cash. In addition, Dan was
re-awarded custody of the children. Betty was completely
devastated and felt that her life was over.
On April 22, 1989, ten days after what would
have been Dan and Betty's 20th anniversary, Dan and Linda were
One month before Dan was to marry Linda,
claiming the need for protection as she was now living alone as a
single woman, Betty bought a Smith & Wesson revolver. She took
shooting lessons and, by some accounts, carried the gun with her
most of the time and made threats to shoot Dan.
Eight months after buying the gun and seven
months after Dan and Linda were married, Betty shot and killed the
couple while they slept. The murder occurred at approximately
5:30 am on the morning of November 5, 1989, two days before
Betty's 42nd birthday.
This followed a letter from Dan's lawyer to
Betty's lawyer that contained allegations that Betty was mentally
unstable, as well as threats of incarceration. Betty had gained
entry to her ex-husband's home in Marston Hills with a key that
she had taken from the purse of her eldest daughter, Kim
Broderick. Allegedly, Dan's last words were, "Okay, you shot me.
At her trials, she was harmed by the fact that
she had removed from the bedroom a telephone that the apparently
still-living Dan Broderick could have used to call for help. Betty
shot all five bullets from her gun. Two bullets hit Linda in the
head and chest, killing her instantly, one bullet hit Dan in the
chest as he apparently was reaching for a phone, one bullet hit
the wall, and one bullet hit a night stand. Dan was 44; Linda was
Upon shooting the gun, Betty turned herself in
to the police, never denying that she had indeed pulled the
trigger five times. But at her trials, Betty denied that she had
any intention of murdering the couple when she broke into the
When asked why she had brought a handgun into
the home that night, she replied "because I wanted him to listen
to me." She claimed that her intention was to make him listen to
her, and if he wouldn't, she would commit suicide and "splash
[her] brains all over his goddamn house." When pressed for an
answer as to why she did not commit suicide after shooting Dan and
Linda, she stated that she didn't have any bullets left. She
claimed that she had shot her ex-husband in the heat of passion as
soon as she entered the bedroom upon Linda screaming, "Call the
Betty's explanation at both trials was that she
had never planned to kill Dan and Linda and her crime was never
one that was premeditated. Her account of the murders, at her
second trial, was that, "The movement that I made into their
bedroom woke them up, and they moved and somebody screamed 'Call
the police!' and I said 'No!' and I just fired the gun and this
big noise went off, and then I grabbed the phone and got the hell
out of there. But I wasn't even in that room . . . I mean, it was
just an explosion. Just, I moved, they moved, the gun went off,
and it was like AHHHH! And it was that fast." She alleged that she
was startled by Linda screaming, "Call the police!" and with no
thought process or plan, she immediately fired the gun, unaware at
that moment, in the dark bedroom, that any of the bullets hit the
Linda and Dan Broderick are listed as buried
together at Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego. But according to
Greenwood personnel, Dan Broderick's grave is alone and Linda is
buried elsewhere, though named on the memorial marker.
Betty hired attorney Jack Earley to defend her.
The State of California was represented by prosecutor Kerry Wells.
Betty's defense was that of Battered Women's Syndrome, claiming,
quite effectively, that she was driven over the edge by years of
psychological, emotional, and mental abuse at the hands of her
philandering husband, Dan Broderick. Jack Earley portrayed Betty
as a woman who sacrificed her entire being in order to be nothing
more than a perfect mother and perfect wife to four children and a
successful husband. Through witness testimony, including testimony
by Betty herself, Jack Earley showed how Betty held down five jobs
in the early years of the marriage in order to help her young
husband get through medical and then law school. Without Betty's
assistance, argued Jack Earley, Dan never could have become the
successful attorney he was. By all witness accounts, Betty was
truly the perfect mother and a hard working, loyal wife. But,
according to Jack Earley, Dan Broderick coldheartedly traded Betty
in for a "younger model" by cheating on her behind her back for
three years with Linda Kolkena, ultimately divorcing Betty,
getting sole custody of the four children, and then marrying Linda
in 1989. After years of Dan's lies, legal bullying and clout as
the president of the San Diego County Bar Association, and
taunting of Betty, Betty snapped and committed the murders without
Kerry Wells portrayed Betty as a coldhearted,
selfish, narcissistic murderer who planned and schemed to kill her
ex-husband for quite some time. Playing countless phone messages
Betty left on Dan and Linda's answering machine, introducing
evidence that Betty had repeatedly vandalized Dan's home, and
having Betty's oldest daughter, Kim, testify about how angry Betty
was and how unrepentant she was after the murders, Kerry Wells
argued to the jury that Betty was out of control, dangerous, and
callous. Kerry Wells was quoted in a magazine saying, "I've had my
fill of Elisabeth Broderick. She was not a battered woman. She was
getting $16,000 a month in alimony. She had a million-dollar La
Jolla house, a car, a boyfriend. I see abused women every day with
broken bones and smashed faces. Give me a break."
Betty's first trial ended in a hung jury when
two of the jurors held out for manslaughter, citing lack of
intent. One of the jurors was quoted as saying, "I only wonder
what took her so long." A mistrial was declared by Judge Thomas
Whelan. Betty Broderick was re-tried a year later with the same
defense attorney and prosecutor. The second trial was essentially
a replay of the first trial, although Jack Earley has always
maintained that Judge Thomas Whelan severely restricted Betty's
defense in the second trial while simultaneously allowing the
prosecution's case to expand. Prosecutor Kerry Wells was more
successful in the second trial, when the jury returned a verdict
of two counts of second-degree murder. Betty Broderick was
sentenced to two consecutive terms of 15 years to life, plus two
years for illegal use of a firearm, the maximum under the law.
Betty has been incarcerated since the day she committed the
Betty Broderick is serving out her sentence at
the California Institution for Women (CIW), in Corona, California.
In January 2010, her first request for parole was denied by the
Board of Parole Hearings because she did not show remorse and did
not acknowledge wrongdoing. Broderick is due to be released in
2021 and can reapply for parole in 2013. Two of her children spoke
at her parole hearing, asking the board to release their mother.
Betty's other two children spoke against Betty, imploring the
board to keep Betty incarcerated.
In popular culture
Broderick's story was turned into a television
film (later re-aired on Lifetime; its original broadcast was on
CBS network television), called (Part 1) "A Woman Scorned: The
Betty Broderick Story," and (Part 2) "Her Final Fury: Betty
Broderick, The Last Chapter (1992)". Meredith Baxter received an
Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Broderick. The murder
was also dramatized in the season 4 episode of Deadly Women "Till
Death Do us Part". Also, the 1991 episode of Law & Order
titled "The Wages of Love" was apparently based on the Broderick
Both before and after Betty's trials, Betty's
story was dramatized across the United States. Betty granted
interviews to virtually every television show, reporter, and
magazine who contacted her. Betty appeared on the Oprah Winfrey
Show twice, Hard Copy, 20/20, and Headliners
and Legends. At least three books were written about her story
(Until the Twelfth of Never: The Deadly Divorce of Dan and
Betty Broderick, 1993, by Bella Stumbo; Forsaking All
Others: The Real Betty Broderick Story, 1993, by Loretta
Schwartz-Nobel; Hell Hath No Fury, 1992, by Bryna Taubman),
and Betty was interviewed by Ladies Home Journal and
countless other magazines.
Betty Broderick: Divorce... Desperation...
By Joseph Geringer
"I realize now
that he was right when he said our battles would continue until
one of us was dead."
Are these the
words of a highway bandit referring to a prophesy of a pursuing
A mountain man speaking of a member of an ages-old feuding family?
Or a wise old Mafia godfather recalling the threats of a top FBI
None of the above.
They come from a scorned wife whose husband seemed to be as bent
on her destruction as she was determined to get him back from
another woman who took him away.
Betty and husband
Dan Broderick's war of divorce in the late 1980s is the epitome of
the tragedies encountered when one spouse realizes suddenly that
his or her happiness has ended while the other desperately clings
on to keep the marriage alive, an untouched fairy tale despite
reality. It is a landmark case wherein it thrust to the forefront
of the American family landscape a stark realization -- that often
in cases of divorce one of the parties usually the one who
controls the money -- can win big while the other is lucky to be
left with the clothes on their back unrumpled. More so, it raised
to the attention of women's divorce-reform groups as well as
men's a truism that the divorce laws that currently exist do not
adequately protect everyone in every particular situation.
after a four-year uphill battle to keep her dignity (which she
often failed to do) and her sanity (which she rarely failed
to do), killed her ex-husband who had been one of California's top
attorneys and had made their divorce a virtual hell of
humiliation, jail sentences and disgrace. Dan Broderick knew the
ropes, knew how to manipulate his selected team of divorce
attorneys who would bow and jump and bark and reel to his every
single finger-click until his wife was smashed.
Along with the ex,
she also blew away the perennial "other woman" to leave the two
lovers stiff in a mattress soaked with their own blood. She
proved, unfortunately, that the gun click is stronger than the
finger click of power.
Betty is definitely not a villainess, nor is she a heroine by any
means. Some women's groups use her case as an example of how not
to give oneself totally to a man. But, that's hindsight. The fact
remains she did, and while she lived (what she mistakenly thought
was) the life of an American woman and wife in the total American
dream, there was a reality check waiting to dent the armor of her
His armor, once
scratched, would clank off piece by piece to reveal to her a man
whom she never knew.
And Betty, once
scratched, revealed to the jester knight the nakedness of a woman
in insulted love.
Mr. & Mrs.
Anne, born in 1947, grew up in Eastchester, New York, one of six
children born to Frank and Marita Bisceglia. Betty's world as an
adolescent was middle-class tranquility, representative of a
gray-collar neighborhood where the bread-earning fathers were
painters, mechanics, electricians, firemen, policemen and, like
her father, plasterers. Attending Catholics, the Bisceglia honored
the laws of the church as well as the laws of government.
Education, too, was a priority in the household. After high
school, Betty earned a degree at Mount Saint Vincent College not
far from the Bisceglia home.
programmed from birth to be a wife, not only by her parents and
the girl's schools she attended, but by her peers," writes Bella
Stumbo in her excellent, well-researched Until the Twelfth of
Never. "For Betty, it was a world without options. She lived
at home throughout college, right up until the day she was
married, commuting to school in a sporty little MG."
She met future
husband Dan Broderick at a Notre Dame football game when she was
17; it was the first time she was allowed by her parents to travel
out of town with friends. Betty fell in love instantly with the
thin, dark-haired Notre Dame pre-med senior from Pennsylvania.
Over the next three years they dated, he traveling back and forth
to her home from Cornell Medical College where he now attended to
continuously see her. He sometimes brought her with him to
Pittsburgh to visit with his large Irish family. Both attended
college, both had big dreams, both were clean-cut, fresh-faced
kids from large families and were raised on the ideologies of
hard-work-pays-off. They even loved the same song, Johnny Mathis'
"Until the Twelfth of Never". The relationship seemed wrought in
wedding ceremony took place on April 12, 1969. Judging from
photographs of the event, it was a happy occasion for the bride
and groom. As all young couples getting married, their faces in
those photos reflect a preparation to spend a life together in
bliss. After a honeymoon in the Caribbean, they returned to New
York where Betty soon learned she was pregnant.
beginnings, Dan and Betty worked hard to build a life many would
envy," reports Lexxicon, which conducted an interview with Betty
in 1997. "Dan continued his studies while Betty worked multiple
jobs and cared for the house and kids..."
struggling began to pay off. Betty enjoyed the reputation as an
excellent mother and model wife. A beautiful, intelligent and
talented woman in her own right, by all accounts she worked
ceaselessly to create and maintain a near-perfect life for her
family, an environment in which her children and ambitious husband
could thrive. For a while, the Brodericks lived the American
Betty gave birth
to her first child, Kimberly, in January of 1970, and, pregnant
immediately after, bore another child, Lee, who was born in July,
1971. Only after months into his medical residency, Dan decided to
change careers and enrolled in Harvard, bent on becoming a medical
malpractice attorney. Moving to Massachusetts, Dan devoted himself
to his full-time studies while his wife took assorted odd jobs to
pay the rent for their small Boston flat and keep the family in
food. Betty could often be seen traipsing door to door in her
neighborhood selling Avon or Tupperware, her two children bundled
under her arms.
On the flip side,
Dan maintained that image is an all-important factor to a
burgeoning wannabe lawyer, so he clothed himself in an array of
well-cut sport coats and ties on campus, earning the nickname of
In early 1973, the
Brodericks moved again, west this time, to California, so that Dan
could complete a summer clerkship in Los Angeles. On advice from
an attorney friend, Dan sought a legal position in San Diego where
he wanted to be, in Betty's later words, "a bigger fish in a
smaller pond." Dually degreed, in medicine and law, Dan was a
catch to most legal firms and soon accepted a position as junior
partner with Cary, Gray, in San Diego. Elated at suddenly having
climbed a social and financial ladder, the couple celebrated
by dropping their first down payment on a beautiful home in the
Coral Reef neighborhood.
Money didn't pour
in right away. To help supplement their income, Betty taught
religious classes at the local school and, in 1979, she received a
real estate license. "It was five years before Dan finally began
to earn enough money that she could stay home," says Bella Stumbo.
"From the day they were married until the year Dan Broderick's
income first hit $1 million, his wife was never too proud or too
lazy to work twice as hard as most women could or would."
A shade of trouble
edged in somewhere in those early years when Dan became obsessed
with not only his work, but with ingratiating himself into the
social life that he saw mandatory to becoming one of San Diego's
top-echelon attorneys. Arriving at work at 5 a.m. every morning
and spending many evenings after the office closed with his
associates, Betty saw very little of him. While she cooked and
kept house, Dan could usually be found evenings in one or another
Irish bar trading law anecdotes with his partners or singing Irish
songs with his fraternity, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.
Through it all, his wardrobe continued to be name brand, hers
discount store. In fact, she didn't own a washer or dryer until
well into her married life, carting her's and her children's
second-rates to the local laundromat.
basically silent, however, her misgivings replaced in the
attention she threw on her children she had conceived two more
during the seventies, Danny, Jr. (born in 1976) and Rhett (1979).
She totally supported her husband when he chose to leave the
offices of Cary, Gray in 1978 to venture his own law practice. She
helped him decorate his new quarters and sat with him evenings to
choose the "right" conservative dιcor and patterns to emulate a
For a time, it
seemed to Betty that Dan, now away from his (what she called)
"drinking buddies," was becoming more of the kind of husband she
had hoped for. He would work late at the office, but come home
immediately afterwards to share with her the day's professional
events. He even hired a maid to help her around the house so she
could devote more time to community clubs, activities which she
His new law
practice skyrocketed. Because of his medical background he was
able to combine that knowledge with that of his law, and he soon
enjoyed the reputation in southern California as the lawyer to
seek in medical practice cases. "Eventually," adds Stumbo, "even
settlements in the low six figures seldom interested him."
But, as the
Broderick bankroll piled, the Broderick marriage began to
dissolve. That Betty began to feel second place to his career
might have been manageable to her, but she noticed that his
interest in her waned. Once on a family vacation, a fight erupted
when he spent more time in the hotel bar than with her and the
children. Where most families' troubles might stem from a lack of
money to live the life they want, in the Broderick's case many
arguments generated from how to spend the money. Dan constantly
berated Betty for her purchases of furniture and clothing, money
that she claimed she had earned as a real estate agent. In turn,
he never failed to drop an investment in property or on a wardrobe
that he claimed he needed as a man of his profession.
A candid view of
the state of their marriage at that time comes from two sources.
One, the household maid, who wrote home to her family that she did
not like her employer, Dan Broderick. He is, she wrote, "cold and
unfriendly," and intimidated his wife. The other, a neighbor,
recalls how Betty would change character every afternoon as time
came nearer for Dan's expected arrival home from the workday.
"Betty...would stop laughing and panic and run around the house,
picking up all the children's stuff because she said Dan hated to
have it underfoot. When he was around, she was completely a
different person...She seemed afraid of him."
As his business
prospered, Dan sought ever-the-more to manifest his image. He
exchanged his glasses for contact lenses, had his hair layered,
and had a minor operation to change the shape of his nose. Betty's
interests remained more at-home and on her children. She made sure
they enrolled in the best of the town's many schools and took part
in activities where they would acquaint others of their age in the
neighborhood. She loved celebrations and holidays, and she threw
herself into decorating their Coral Reef dining room in the
personality of the event whether with balloons and bunting for
birthdays or wreaths and garland for Christmas.
In her Lexxicon
interview, a by-then embittered Betty states, "I was the perfect
little Catholic schoolgirl...Marry the man of your dreams who will
be a good provider for you and your many children. Be beautiful,
have a beautiful home, beautiful children, be active in church and
community, watch the kids grow, marry them off and be
grandparents. I am not a scorekeeper everything we did we did as
a couple. If we were poor, we were poor together. I viewed
everything as 'us,' the good, the bad or the ugly. Dan never
seemed to have that view. 'We' were poor, but 'he' was rich."
remained on his business and, yes, on getting wealthy.
And, by 1983, he
found something else to add to his riches.
He wanted Linda,
The Other Woman
Dan first laid
eyes on blonde, svelte Linda Kolkena at a party given by lawyer
friends in early 1983. Betty, standing near him, overheard her
husband telling a chum, "Isn't she beautiful?" The remark
surprised Betty, as Dan was not one easily given to such
attractions so she thought. At the time, Linda a former airline
stewardess, was now a freelance receptionist for another attorney;
she had no paralegal nor experience in medical malpractice
insurance; she couldn't even type. Just a passing fancy at a
party, Betty thought, who would never cross Dan's path again. So
Not long after
that, Dan hired her as his personal assistant.
Linda Kolkena was
21 years old the year she met Dan. Born to a hard-working middle
class laboring family in Salt Lake City, Utah, she had a high
school education and had worked briefly for Delta Airlines, from
which she was fired. The details are sketchy, but, according to
author Bella Stumbo in Until the Twelfth of Never, the girl
had been involved in an undignified scenario aboard a jetliner,
coddling and sitting on the lap of a male passenger, an act which
aggravated other passengers who registered complaints. After being
terminated, Linda earned money as a temporary receptionist for a
number of clients, including a legal office.
suspicious from the start, but played it cool until she had
something more to go on than what she thought at first might be a
mild case of paranoia. After all, her friends kept reassuring her
that Dan was not the kind of man to cheat on her. But, subsequent
events told her otherwise. When the Brodericks vacationed in New
York City that summer of 1983, Betty caught her spouse hidden away
in an alcove off the hotel lobby calling his pert assistant over
the phone. When the family toured England, she discovered Dan had
telegraphed flowers to Linda.
Dan, in turn, grew
more and more irritated by his wife's badgering about his
assistant and steadfastly told her she was imagining things. His
attitude, according to Betty, had become one of, "Women are
waiting in line to replace you!" That fall, pride be damned, Betty
phoned one of Dan's paralegals and asked her outright what she
knew of Linda and Dan's relationship. The woman denied knowing
anything -- only because she preferred to remain uninvolved --
but, when she approached her boss to advise him to be upright with
his wife, Dan Broderick fired her.
believe that her fears were anything more than insecurity, Betty
saw a therapist to help her overcome the doubts that plagued her.
But the visits abruptly ended when the shadows of suspicion
solidified into something more tangible. Realization hit hard on a
day that was meant to be a happy one, Dan's thirty-ninth birthday.
surprise him, Betty showed up at his office unannounced, toting a
bottle of champagne and a dozen roses. A sullen-faced secretary
told her that her husband was out, but she wasn't sure where.
Linda Kolkena's office, next to Dan's, was empty too, Betty
noticed. Waiting for Dan's return, Betty strolled the premises,
espying crumbs of a cake atop Dan's desk, as well as empty wine
bottles and balloons evidence that there had already been a
celebration of sorts. Peeking into Linda's office, she saw a
portrait of a teenage Dan hanging over the woman's chair. Neither
her husband nor his "assistant" returned to the office that
"She drove home,
marched to the closet, and began ripping out all of his expensive,
tailor-made clothes," Bella Stumbo attests. "Trip after trip she
made to the backyard, as her children watched, wide-eyed. When the
pile (of clothes) was high, she poured gasoline on it and lit the
match. As the smoke billowed, as thousands of dollars of Dan
Broderick's expensive clothes went up in flames, her children
Despite the damage
to his wardrobe, there was no fighting that night when he came
home. He remained quiet, and the few words he spoke merely
alleged, as they had alleged in the past, that she had an
This time she
didn't believe him. Even if she had again naively tried to muster
up a conviction that it was her problem, not his, he kept
reminding her, through his actions, that there was indeed a real
problem named Linda Kolkena. Worse, she sensed that he was trying
to purposely antagonize the situation. In bed, she would hear him
muttering Linda's name over and over, as if dreaming of her but,
she could tell, he was not asleep, merely pretending.
The last day of
February, 1984, Dan finally confessed his affair not as an
apology to Betty, only to explain it as the reason why he was
seeking a separation. Prior to this, the family had moved to a
rental house in the nearby town of La Jolla while their Coral Reef
home was being repaired a large crack had been detected in its
foundation. (Symbolic of the state of affairs in the marriage?)
With the separation, Dan moved back into Coral Reef while Betty
and the children remained in La Jolla.
as if Betty were out of the picture now, Dan redecorated the Coral
Reef home to his own tastes, not consulting his wife beforehand.
He refused to spend time with the children and did so only when
Betty was subject to forcibly dropping them on his doorstep. By
law, he was obligated to pay the family bills, but threw her only
a small "allowance" of his choice. And he continued to see Linda.
Deserted and still
spinning, the situation overwhelmed Betty. Knowing she should
accept fate and grasp the reality that Dan wanted out and Linda
had won him, she just could not erase the anger that had been
building up inside her those past months; it was an anger that
she felt it bubbled red-hot. By this time, she had learned that
Dan's affair with Linda had become public knowledge, and that
knowledge humiliated her as his wife. He was her husband, damn it,
and the bimbo had no claim to him! Not long after the sheriff's
representative served her Dan's initiated divorce papers, the
first of the scorned wife's many revenge tactics occurred.
came suddenly to all watchers. She began to fight back with a
vengeance. One afternoon, having stopped at the Coral Reef house
to visit her children, she spotted a homemade Boston cream pie
always Dan's favorite sitting on the kitchen counter. Learning
from the housekeeper that Linda had dropped it off for Dan, Betty
proceeded to carry it upstairs to spread its chocolate contents
across Dan's bed once their bed and his closet-full of fine
clothes. Dan, arriving home, surveyed the damage and immediately
had a restraining order issued to keep his wife off the premises.
two days later, infuriated by the order that forbade her to step
foot in what she still considered her house too, she flung a wine
bottle through a window. Summoned police refused to become
involved in what they estimated as just another domestic battle
among the idle rich.
was beginning to show signs of neurosis; of that there is no
doubt. She felt the only world she knew, and had prepared for and
loved, slipping out from beneath her feet the home, the family
dinners, the backyard barbecues, the civic clubs, the husband. She
would say years later in her Lexxicon interview that if Dan had
been honest with her from the start she may have better coped, but
he seemed to be playing and enjoying -- mind games.
"(I had) no desire
to leave my home, marriage and children," she pleads. "If he had
been discreet, he could have kept (Linda), but he was trying to
force ME into divorcing him, so he could always appear the good
guy...He maneuvered us into a rental house and a rental car, both
in his name and he ended up with our house with the
equity...Master manipulator of money, truth, people, courts,
facts...It was very scary."
closed gates when trying to obtain legal help in San Diego, mainly
because most of the town's best divorce and property lawyers were
also Dan's best friends and Dan's political influences had
spread so far that he had been named president of the San Diego
County chapter of the American Bar Association. Her first choice
for counsel had been a mutual friend named Thomas Ashworth, but he
politely refused her case explaining that he had been appointed
judge and was not accepting any new cases. However, not long after
that, she encountered Ashworth again this time while he
represented Dan in the early stages of the divorce proceedings.
She was literally forced to turn to Los Angeles to find a lawyer
who dared represent her. She found one in Beverly Hills by the
name of Daniel Jaffe, considered a top-ranker.
Jaffe had his
hands full with Betty almost from the beginning. Her acts of
vandalism on her husband's premises would seriously harm her
chances for a fair trial, he warned. She continued to vandalize
the Coral Reef home, however, as well as verbally assault Dan in
front of tearful kids and astounded neighbors whenever he dropped
the children off at her house for agreed-upon visitations. Despite
Jaffe's pleas to stop, Betty time and time again snubbed her nose
at the restraining order. Once, when she learned Dan had taken
Linda away for a weekend trip, she entered his house and smashed a
window with a bottle.
harder this time. According to author Stumbo, "His weapon of
choice was a judicial order called an Order to Show Cause, or OSC,
in legal shorthand. In the next year he used it repeatedly to haul
Betty before a judge to explain why she should not be held in
contempt of court for violating the restraining order...The first
OSC cited the Boston cream pie mess and the broken windows. In
time, the list of OSCs would expand to include a tossed toaster, a
smashed stereo switch, a broken bedroom mirror, more windows and
countless other similar offenses against his property. No incident
was too small to escape him.
He detailed every
item and years later in divorce court was able to recite the
agenda of transgressions like a student naming the events that led
to the American Civil War. "You pounded a hole with a hammer into
the wall. You broke the answering machine with the hammer. On
another occasion, you broke the sliding glass doors. You
spray-painted the wallpaper in several rooms, including the
fireplace. You broke the television..." The list went on.
And attorney Jaffe
was beside himself. "If you can live within the guidelines, I will
continue to represent you," he communicated to Betty, "But I want
to spend my time on finding what happened to the Broderick monies
and getting you some of them, rather than spending my time keeping
you out of jail."
Christmas, 1985, by herself. Linda and Dan had taken the children
on a winter's vacation and she sat feeling unloved, useless,
discarded -- in the gloom of loneliness. Outside her house,
carolers sang of merry tidings, but inside, around her, Betty's
walls closed in to suffocate. She couldn't stand another minute of
being smothered so, to hell with them all anyway, broke into the
Coral Reef house once again ripping open every gift-wrapped box
marked "To Linda" that lay under Dan's expensive Christmas tree.
Tossing the presents willy-nilly throughout the living room, she
then left a Christmas greeting that Dan would be sure to
recognize: She thrust a blunt object through the room's mirror.
Good will to men
was not on her mind that Christmas evening.
"What followed for
the next several years was a ceaseless, dizzying series of complex
legal maneuverings and manipulations, many of which were overseen
and directed by Dan's professional colleagues," says a report on
Betty Broderick done by Lexxicon. "Twice, Betty was jailed for
contempt...Finally, an eight-day divorce trial took place but in
a sealed courtroom, at Dan's formal request and judge's orders.
The Broderick marriage was officially dissolved in January, 1989."
The particulars of
this scenario read like a hard-to-believe gothic novel where a
naοve woman is ruthlessly mistreated, encumbered and driven to a
bedlam of instability by a one-sided law and a conceited,
conniving villain who avails every puppet-string of that law. Dan
Broderick, no doubt a brilliant lawyer, saw to it that all
loopholes of a law his layman wife didn't understand were used in
his behalf against her. Whenever she flipped out, he was there to
hand her a shovel to let her dig her grave deeper.
Years later, Betty
realized she had played right into his hands. "(He) was a
professional arguer," she told Lexxicon. "He loved putting the
other side down he loved winning and humiliating and torturing
the other side even beyond winning. He was always proud of seeking
punitive damages as a personal assault on the other side, not
covered by insurance...I was just another victim of his."
Betty had indeed
been Dan's victim, and because of her obsession with a man who no
longer cared, she also victimized herself. Every time he made a
move away from her, towards Linda, towards a distant life, she was
right there behind him counter-attacking. And one didn't vex Dan
Broderick, the sharpest lawyer in town.
By the mid-1980s,
Dan was earning nearly $2 million a year and was considered by
those in and outside of his profession as one of the men to watch
in southern California. It wasn't strange to see him, often
embracing Linda, engaged in one or another social activity in the
photographic registers of the town's glittering who's who. In
early 1986, not long after he came home to find that Betty had
invaded his Christmas serenity, Dan decided to move into another
house, to once and for all dump the old place in Coral Reef that
reminded him of the days he had determined to forget those days
when he was just a skinny nerd dependent on a working wife to put
him through college. He relocated to old, baronial Balboa Park to
a two-story pillared colonial mansion that he envisioned as his
alone -- no longer his and Betty's -- and into which he poured
money to redecorate to his taste, down to the door hinges.
And in the
meantime he braced for repercussions from Betty.
They weren't long
in coming. To her, selling the old house represented bidding
goodbye once and for all to the life she thought she had found,
but had lost evermore to whom she called a bastard and a bimbo.
She refused to consent to its sale, but once again Dan turned
legal wheels and manifested a court order to sell the marriage
residence without her consent. Before she knew what had happened,
an appointed proxy signed the transaction papers for her and the
Coral Reef house was history.
Betty obtained her
share of the sale, but was not appeased. She was livid. She
quickly retaliated by driving her Suburban van through the front
door of Dan's stuffy castle, this time detonating King Dan's
usually restrained temper. He vaulted over the shreds of wood that
were once his front door and yanked Betty from the vehicle,
slapping the crazy woman with whom he finally had had enough.
Police came, and
this time they didn't shrug off the incident. At the mental
hospital where she was brought squirming, kicking and weeping in a
strait jacket, she refused to cooperate with the doctors who tried
to sedate her. Throughout her three days of confinement, she would
utter, "Look it here, he is the crazy one, not me!" When they
released her, she walked out face to face with another of a long
line of unending OSCs that Dan was piling up against her deepening
A divorce hearing
was set for July 16, but Betty declined to make preparations,
physically or mentally. She fired her lawyer Daniel Jaffe and did
not show up at court the day of the hearing. Her absence defaulted
her claims to all properties and custodies, ruled the judge, and
Dan, more sound of mind, took everything he wanted full custody
of the four children, reiteration of the restraining orders
against Betty, and a ban on visiting rights for the mother until
she submitted to psychiatric care. As for support or alimony, he
would continue to pay her what he had been paying her, $9,000 a
month, until a forthcoming trial would formalize other financial
arrangements, including property and insurance settlements.
But, the victors'
elation was short-lived. Betty fought back, again in absentia, and
through the loyalty of a friend she didn't know she had had. Even
though lawyer Jaffe was officially off the case and had nothing to
gain or lose from the court's decision, he was irate at it's
advantage-taking of a woman mentally incapable of defending
herself. On his own volition, he contacted Dan's lawyer, Tom
Ashworth, enforcing Betty's right to a guardian at litem.
"Unless I hear
from you concerning the setting aside of Mrs. Broderick's default,
I plan to contact the legal powers that be and the Bench in San
Diego so that someone is made available to protect Mrs.
Broderick's legal right," Jaffe wrote. Suddenly, Dan Broderick had
a change of heart and even paid Betty the retainer for a new
lawyer, William Hargreaves.
like Jaffe would not last long as Betty's counsel, did make an
interesting observation in the short time he was involved with the
Broderick saga. Hargreaves apprised that Betty was beyond legal
help since she "couldn't understand that life was possible without
Dan." As for his opinion of Dan, he found his drive to control
everyone and everything "obsessive". Hargreaves hinted that he was
worried about a violent conclusion to the Broderick battle.
The ladder was
leading to violence and many who profiled the case after the fact
have expressed their amazement that Betty, or even Dan who was
slowly losing his cool, didn't lose full-balance throughout those
last years of the 1980s when skirmishes took place between the
divorcing parties almost weekly. Who really was the aggressor is
debatable when confronted by common sense for both were equally
chronic -- but in the hard definition of the law Betty clearly
irritated an already aggravated situation. She slowly destructed,
descending into a madness from which she would not awaken until it
was too late.
surrender her marriage and submit to restraining orders and OSCs,
Betty rocked Dan Broderick's otherwise calm boat any chance she
could find. Her attitude at the time had been to make his life as
miserable as he had made hers and, somewhere, who knows, maybe in
the back of her mind, she hoped that he would chock it all up and
come home like a good little husband should.
after Dan set up home in Balboa Park in 1986, and continuing
through and after the final divorce judgement in 1989, Betty
conducted a campaign of whirly-gig obscene phone calls aimed not
so much at Dan but at Linda (whom she knew would stay at Dan's
quite frequently). The instrument she chose as her greatest weapon
was Dan's home answering machine, leaving foul-mouthed tirades at
all times night and day. Court orders and even a brief
incarceration did not stop her; in fact, as ever, the more Dan's
law struck back, the more impromptu and vehement her messages
became. In a day there might be two or three, if not more,
recordings left on his audio tape by the time he arrived home from
work. Whether Betty was provoked by a custody-related issue, a
financial entanglement, or merely needed to spew general anger,
her wrath never seemed to cool. Often, Linda was the recipient of
the calls when answering messages for Dan. She merely laughed them
But, not so
Betty's children they couldn't laugh and walk away unhurt. Many
times, they inadvertantly heard the playbacks oathing words that
their mother had told them never to use and then some. Some
words they didn't understand, but knew they were wrong. The
children's tender souls had already been cut by their parent's
divorce and all the maligning that accompanied it, and did not
need to hear such messages as the following, which made them, in
their innocence, feel that maybe just maybe they were the
cause of all the trouble to begin with:
"This is a message
to f---head and the bitch. You have one hell of a nerve dumping
the kids here on the sidewalk and zooming away without making any
attempt to communicate with me about my plans for the weekend.
Make me sick, both of you. I have a good mind to dump the kids
back on you and drive away. Call me. We have a lot to talk about,
asshole. And come pick up your four children that you're working
so hard to have custody of. Congratulations. You can have them."
These and hundreds
of other messages like it were not the real Betty Broderick
talking, the woman who only months earlier would have died before
intentionally hurting her kids' feelings. These were, of course, a
result of a vehemence damming up inside a powerhouse of hate that
used to be Betty Broderick. But, she was now a volcano crammed
with loathing and teetering under the madcap of events that
violated all reasoning as she understood the word reasoning to
As with the
children of any divorce, the Broderick kids were feeling the
pressure and the blame -- of the parent's breakup; their daily
lives were painfully shattering. Graphic words, graphic scenes had
replaced the harmony of domesticity They heard their mother call
their father a brute, and their father call their mother a
madwoman. Their pressure to choose between the parents overwhelmed
them. Betty and Dan saw their daughters slowly turning to drugs
for solace and heard the school counselors call their sons on the
verge of suicidal. The experts called for the warring couple to
call a truce, any truce, for the sake of the children but the
white flag never rose.
In court later,
the children would be forced to testify. Of Dan, they told of a
man whom they hardly knew, a figurehead merely, rarely at home. Of
Betty, they sadly described a woman so preoccupied with her own
anger that she forgot to hug them and reassure them of her love.
Taped conversations between Betty and her children reveal a
tormented woman unaware of the binding nuances between a mother
and her flesh and blood. Her children represent just another set
of supporting characters who fail to see the nightmare she sees,
and because they can't see it, their opinions don't matter.
conversation taped in the midst of one of many custody battles,
12-year-old Danny begs his mother to quit screaming at dad so he
will let him visit her again. Betty's reply sounds like she's
talking to an adult next-door neighbor rather than to her son: "I
was the best mommy in the whole world and the best wife in the
whole world. It's not my fault your father is such a f---head...I
cared about my family enough to put up with him f---ing Linda for
disillusionment, Betty turned her back on four people who could
have loved her when no one else loved her, her children if only
she would have shared a little heart with them in return. But, her
heart quit beating except as a metronome to pace the war drum for
Dan and Linda.
By 1988, not a
vestige of the once-proud and caring Betty remained. Her mind
frayed, she let everything else go haywire. "It was (now) a
radically changed Betty Broderick abroad in the streets of La
Jolla," explains Bella Stumbo. "All personal vanity was gone,
buried beneath layers of fat. Her language was now so routinely
crude, even in polite gatherings, that old friends...lectured her
about her foul mouth...By then she was pacing the floors of her
house all night...Her mind gave her no rest; the late-night demons
besetting her were relentless, vicious, and growing even larger."
Her only friends
were Dian Black and Ronnie Brown, two advocates of a woman's-right
divorce society who tried to comfort her and get her legal advice,
but Betty proved to be a hard sell. By the time her divorce trial
finally came to court in January, 1989, she had dismissed all
legal aide and decided to represent herself. Needless to say, it
was a mistake. Dan and his team of lawyers bounced on her. The
eight-day trial resembled a massacre. "It was lamb to the
slaughter from the git-go," asserts Stumbo.
At issue were
child custody, cash advances paid to Betty by Dan over the four
years of separation, property and alimony. Betty sought custody of
the three children who were yet under the age of eighteen, plus
$25,000 per month for 10 years (a small sum considering Dan was a
millionaire several times over), as well as a $1 million tax-free
In terms of
custody, two mental health experts who had studied the case over
the last several months were brought forth for recommendation.
Their opinions differed. Dr. William Dess believed that Dan should
be given full custody of the children, as he diagnosed Betty as
unstable, suffering emotional problems that required therapy. On
the other hand, Dr. Gerald Nelson felt that Betty would provide
excellent parenthood once the trauma of divorce had ended. Both
physicians did agree, however, that the Broderick situation had
been a remarkably negative one, prone to immaturity, dishonesty
and even violence.
On the financial
side, it was doom for Betty from the start. By the time the trial
came to the boards, she discovered that, because of something
called Epstein credits, her share of community property had been
substantially reduced. Epstein credits, according to the Lexxicon
web site report on Betty, are "a provision under California
divorce law which says that the supporting spouse (in this case
Dan) may charge the dependent spouse (Betty) for one-half of all
community debts accumulated not from the date of divorce, but
from the date of separation. If there is a substantial amount of
time (in the interim), a dependent spouse may actually accumulate
enough Epstein credits to effectively cancel out any share of the
community property which might have been forthcoming had the
divorce been finalized immediately after separation."
But, in the case
of the Brodericks, legal maneuverings and delays postponed a
divorce trial incident after incident. Judge William Howatt,
therefore, "accepted all of Dan's proposed numbers and ruled that
Betty owed him $750,000 in Epsteins and cash advances, all accrued
between the time Dan moved out and the date the divorce was final
(January 30, 1989)," reads Lexxicon. "In the end, Dan Broderick,
multi-millionaire, was ordered to pay his wife of 20 years less
than $30,000 in cash.
"In addition, Dan
was awarded custody."
later, Dan and Linda announced their engagement. And Betty began a
whole new barrage of telephone epithets.
Big for a Big Shot
The calendar on
the wall told Betty's two tired eyes that it was November 5, 1989.
Only a thin red light of morning lit her kitchen in a tremulous
pose of half-shadow. Like the new day she faced, she was
half-conscious but already on a runaway schedule. Her adrenaline
pumped and her temples ached from confusion. On the kitchen table
where she tried to swallow a tepid cup of coffee sat the latest
two letters from her ex-husband's current representing lawyer,
Kathleen Cuffaro. Two more letters in a succession of threats from
various attorneys who had belittled her, condemned her for four
years through the separation from Dan, and during and after their
Dan had gotten
what he wanted his freedom and Linda -- and he still hadn't let
up. All those letters, all on Dan's request, calling her
irresponsible, incapable, untrustworthy. Wicked. Batty.
Just because she
couldn't stop leaving those messages on his answering machine
telling him what absolute scum both he and Linda were. Now
married, they were Mr. & Mrs. Scum.
One letter this
morning claimed she continued to show signs of a "pathological
obsession" with her ex and therefore still not in the right frame
of mind to fulfil the latest child custody obligations. The other
chastised her for using foul language on Big Shot Dan's telephone
answering machine. Awwww, Betty smirked, foul mouth
language hurting Miss Bimbo's precious ears?
Her two boys, whom
she was watching this weekend, slept down the hall. Quiet so she
wouldn't wake them, she dressed in a flash, grabbed her purse,
checked to be sure it contained the .38 caliber Smith & Wesson she
had recently bought, and walked out into the morning sunrise. She
left her small apartment, one she had moved into after the
divorce, and sickened at the sight that met her the shopping
mall across the street with its tall neon signs and its stark
parking lots, not the placid suburban serenity of glistening,
tile-roofed stucco homes and tree-lined avenues she had been used
to and shifted her ignored, overweight body behind the wheel of
La Jolla didn't
seem the sort of place to incubate a murder. "Curled around one of
the most spectacular half-moon coves in California, La Jolla is
the quintessential Southern California dream town, a compact
little colony...of pastel homes streaming down the hillsides to
the sea," writes Bella Stumbo in The Twelfth of Never.
She turned her car
towards the southern-bound freeway that led her through the
awakening city of San Diego, through its center, and didn't pause
her vehicle until she came to the picturesque little suburb of
Balboa Park. There, she rounded a quiet cul-de-sac empty of
pedestrian life in this early morning and pulled in front of Dan's
large home with Doric columns and pretty shutters and winding
walkways and manicured lawns and carved shrubbery. She jiggled the
front door, but the key she had the one she had stolen from one
of her daughters months ago didn't work. She went around to the
back door. This time, she heard the click of the tumbler when the
key turned without budge in the lock. Betty walked into the house.
As on the same
locomotive course she had been the last several years she headed
non-stop up the carpeted stairway to the bedroom where Mr. Big
Shot and his new wife, that ex-airline stewardess cum secretary
cum home-wrecker slept. And she pressed the trigger. The bimbo
shook. Betty pressed the trigger again and the bimbo jumped this
time never to jump again.
Now it was Mr. Big
Shot's time. Awake in time to see the scorned ex-wife standing
over him with smoking pistol, he muttered something, tried to roll
off the bed, but took one of Betty's next bullets in the back. He
yelped, coughed blood, gagged and continued to gag until he choked
went the echoes...bang-bang, you're dead!
Betty would later
claim in court that she hadn't necessarily planned to kill them
that morning that when she climbed into her car outside her
apartment she wasn't sure if she was even going to wind up at
Dan's. A daze, that crisp, clear morning. But, it was over now.
History. The years of money battling, custody battling, hurtles of
insults, violent threats. All over except for what would
definitely be one hell of a crazy trial.
She turned herself
into the police, almost with relief.
The worst part of
it: She still loved Dan.
San Diego County
law keepers found themselves dangling on a high wire with the
Betty Broderick case; she had been suddenly thrust into the media
highlight as a role model of scorned wifedom and, unless her
upcoming trial was handled with utmost care, the legal prosecutors
could wind up being viewed as just another pack of male
Neanderthals picking on a woman.
Edwin L. Miller, Jr., had two solutions. First, he appointed
37-year-old Deputy DA Kerry Wells, a female, to head his team.
Then, he announced that the court was not out for a woman's blood;
he would not seek the death penalty.
Dian Black, who was one of the founding members of a woman's
divorce advocate group, heartily recommended to her a brilliant
41-year-old attorney named Jack Early. Early, a former public
defender, was a very successful lawyer specializing in off-beat
murder cases and therefore seemed the perfect choice to lead
defense for such a case history that Betty's warranted.
began on September 27, 1990, at the San Diego County courthouse.
In the meantime, Betty had been confined to the county jail,
growing anxious for the trial to begin. She seemed to be out from
under hysteria, despite being penned up; it was as if the weight
of the whole divorce trauma had lifted with the retort of the gun.
She stayed in constant touch with her children, who were
temporarily residing with Dan's family, and communicated ongoing
with friends from the women's group to which she belonged. Lawyer
Early visited her often to interview her in preparation of
Betty also granted
interviews to whomever asked. Hoping to plead her case to a
sympathetic public, she often lent herself unwittingly to a
cynical press who, according to Bella Stumbo's Until the
Twelfth of Never, "soon began to display a tired, cynical bias
against her, (one paper depicting her) as no more than a frivolous
became the local media order of the day," Stumbo continues. "The
whole city, in fact, at times seemed caught up in sick irreverence
over the Broderick case. During Halloween of 1990,.for example,
(a) columnist reported that a couple had shown up a t a party
dressed as Dan and Linda in pajamas with bullet holes."
The trial opened
Monday, October 22, 1990, on the upper floor of the county
courthouse, Judge Thomas J. Whalen presiding. Among the newspaper
and television people cramming the narrow courtroom were members
of the Broderick family of Pennsylvania and the Bisceglias of New
York. Most random spectators were female.
"This case is not
only about murderit is about premeditated murder," Kerry
Wells opened the session, clearly giving away the prosecution's
objective. "Killing Dan and Linda Broderick was something she
thought about for a long, long time." Thematic to that goal, she
played Betty's answering machine outbursts over and over like a
machine gun display mercilessly driving home a point.
In easy contrast
to Wells' kinetic opening remarks, Jack Early clarified that he
would prove Betty was not the aggressor, but a woman pushed to a
nervous breakdown by Dan Broderick's "snowstorm of paper, a
litigious assault that started somewhere around 1985." Dan
Broderick , he said, was really the hunter "whose reputation as a
lawyer was the most important thing to him, more important than
his family...(and) he would do anything to protect it."
premeditation, the prosecution introduced witnesses who came forth
to tell of Betty's unconcealed anger and mania, about the threats
she made, the reckless break-ins at Dan's house, the
full-nine-yards mania. Among those summoned to testify were Dan's
housekeepers Linda David and Sylvia Cavins. David claimed she
heard Betty utter, "I'll either make his life a living hell or
I'll kill him." And Cavins testified that, on the day of Dan's
marriage to Linda, Betty said she would "put four bullets in Dan's
head, one for each of the children."
Wells even brought
in the two Broderick daughters Kim and Lee to testify. Both girls,
20- and 19-years-old, respectively -- had somewhat estranged
themselves from the parents during the last months of parental
feuding the eldest, Kim, had even been disowned by Dan at one
point for her rebellious attitude. Strangely, then, Kim presented
a rather negative picture of her mother. Although there had been
no love lost between father and Kim in those final years, now with
Dan dead he seemed to have become a metaphoric martyr in her eyes.
Kim not only
testified that she heard her mother say "a lot of times" that she
wanted to kill Dan a fact that Lee supported -- but in the
process presented the court with a previously unconsidered motive:
a court-ordered $1 million dollar insurance policy for the four
children, which had gone into effect two months before her mother
killed her father. According to Kim, Betty told the four siblings,
"I'll kill him (and) we'll all be rich."
For the benefit of
the prosecution, Wells had family therapist Dr. Ruth Roth explain
her reactions to Betty whom she had met briefly in 1987 when she
helped counsel the couple's marital problems. Referring to notes
she had made on Betty at that time, Dr. Roth recalled Betty as a
woman of uncontrollable anger; she quoted Betty as saying, "I'm
not going to be a single parent of four kids. He'll die first."
examination, Jack Early attacked all of Wells' witnesses with
fervor. He was particularly concise with the Broderick daughters
who, under Early's baton, admitted that, well yes, Betty
would use the term "kill" routinely and as a figure of expression,
such as I'm gonna kill the paper boy if he throws the newspaper
on the lawn again, etc etc. Early got a tearful Kim to admit
that if her mother's temper was one to reckon, so was her father's
who had once smashed an uncooperative lawnmower to pieces.
As for Dr. Roth,
when he asked her to compare her notes on Betty with those on Dan,
the therapist conceded that she could not she had failed to take
notes on the husband.
When, on October
30, Jack Early introduced Betty Broderick herself to speak in her
own behalf, the press, says Bella Stumbo, came out "in double
force...One local TV station would even interrupt its own
regularly scheduled soap operas and talk shows during the next
four days to present Betty's testimony live."
In front of TV
viewers who had forsaken their favorite shows for this real life
soap opera, Early led Betty through her marriage years the good
and the bad -- and her ruination through travails with money, with
Linda Kolkena and with Dan's ego. Subdued, with no appearance of
meanness nor malevolence, the witness, sometimes through sobs,
told of her husband's growing infatuation with his office
assistant, his deceits toward her and her children, and his
eventual departure from the marriage home for his own space. She
addressed Dan's refusal to compromise on all legal matters,
including custody, and her own falling dignity, a collapse that
culminated with those final two letters from Dan's lawyer,
Kathleen Cuffaro: "(They were) just more of the same, more of the
same, more of the same! Threats! Manipulation!...I felt like I was
dying...the legal stuff was killing me...I had not slept for the
last two years. I had headaches from biting my jaw so tight (from
Early eased her to
the morning of the murders. She couldn't remember much, but she
did recall driving to Dan's, thinking for a moment she might even
kill herself in front of him, splattering her brains across his
bedroom. "I pushed the (bedroom) door open...They moved, I moved,
and it was over...When I was first in jail...I was able to sleep
for the first time in what seemed like interminable years to me. I
was happy to be locked in a dark, safe little world where nobody
could get me."
had been the highlight of the trial, and, guided by the expert
hand of Jack Early, it had created an impact of sympathy. Certain
jury members could not forget Betty's words and the haunting face
that spoke them. After that, everything seemed anticlimactic and
Kerry Wells couldn't catch up. Early ushered forth witnesses from
across La Jolla who spoke up for Betty's moral character and
attested to her slow degeneration under the topple-weight of
divorce; he even interviewed an expert on infidelity, Dr. David
Lusterman, whose diagnosis was basically that Dan had handled
Betty all wrong, thus driving her to maladjustment.
After four days of
deliberation, the jury returned, split. Two members refused to
believe she was guilty of premeditated murder and would not budge,
ever. There was no unanimous verdict.
One of the
hold-outs, Walter Polk, told reporters afterward that as he
listened to the court's description of Dan Broderick's infidelity,
snobbishness and psychological brutality, his only thought
throughout much of the proceedings was: "What took her so long?"
Back to Court
later, October 1991, Betty again faced a court trial. Having
virtually won the first go-around with a hung jury, she approached
the second with confidence. Kerry Wells, incensed at the
non-verdict of a year earlier, had seethed to reporters, "It ain't
over 'til it's over," and vowed to come back dukes up. Betty's
biographer Bella Stumbo reports that Larry Broderick even sent her
a list of Dos and Don'ts compiled by his late brother's
professional associates. After relating these, Larry smugly wrote
that the suggestions were based on "what I believe would have the
most positive impact on a jury of lower-middle-class,
Jack Early, who
would again oppose Wells, knew that the angry prosecutor would hit
him with some new twists and turns abounding; he prepared for the
high drama to come. The first trial had mainly centered on the
squabbles of the battling Brodericks and had resembled more of an
installment of Peyton Place than a murder trial. Early guessed
and he was on target that the county prosecution team would
focus this time on the details of the murder, not the emotions
that led to it.
Betty, in the
meantime, survived another year in prison. She remained in high
spirits, found several close friends and took part in prison
activities. She was delighted to see her two boys when they
visited. But, as the trial neared, an incident occurred in prison
that marred the easy transition. Betty fought with two female jail
guards who came to her cell to move her to an isolation unit as
punishment for an earlier infraction; refusing to cooperate, she
apparently kicked, howled and struggled and had to be forcibly
evicted from her cell wearing green panties and a sweatshirt.
Details are sketchy but at that time lurid enough to catch the eye
of the press. The following morning's headlines roared to an
American public that Betty was once again exhibiting her old
defiant ways. Jack Early cried foul, blasting the incident as a
to the melee, Betty followed it with a completely controlled and
relaxed interview with the TV show, 20/20, not appearing at all as
the type of creature who tries to gouge out the eyes of prison
wardens. Void of a sneer, Betty told her listening national
audience that, "The law has to take into account the differences
between men and women in terms of their respective power. Men have
all the power... That's why (Dan) could do to me what he
did...This whole case is a story of extremes extremes of rich to
poor, and all the rest. I said I represent the extremes of what
can happen to women in divorce courts."
Broderick trial was, in most ways, a repeat of the first," relates
Bella Stumbo in Until the Twelfth of Never. "Most of the
same witnesses returned, and the essential trial themes were
unchanged was this an evil, gate-filled narcissist, or an
emotionally abused housewife driven to kill? Opening arguments
were pretty much the same as before, although both Wells and Early
had sharpened their rhetoric. Wells referred now to Betty as 'the
executioner,' Early spoke of Dan as 'the gladiator'."
There were some
major differences in this trial, noticeable from day one, that
leaned in favor of the prosecution. Kerry Wells, for one, seemed
more relaxed this time, less scolding and obviously coached by
veteran Deputy DA Paul Burakoff who assisted her and whose
presence lent an aire of determination to the state's clear
objective of Get Betty.
Jack Early found
his defense much more difficult in trial number two. Several times
the court refused to allow testimony that would have supported his
client as being a victim of abuse. Early was appalled when a star
witness, Dr. Daniel Sonkin, an expert on battered women's studies,
was limited to speak of abuse in very general terms and not in
terms of Betty's particular case. It was the judge's contention
that there was no hint of Betty being a victim of other than
perhaps emotional abuse, not physical nor sexual.
dropped a bombshell that sent Wells and the prosecutors off their
litigant chairs. He raised the possibility that Dan Broderick may
at one point tried to have Betty murdered. A city cab driver named
Paul Taylor had come forth claiming that Dan had approached him,
musing to have Taylor do away with the vexsome wife --
"permanently," to quote the cabbie -- for about $500,000.
Newspapers rushed forward, braced for a juicy story and a
rambunctious turn of events in the courtroom, but no sooner had
the smoke of Early's blast cleared than the court objected and
banned Taylor and any further word of hit men from the trial.
Taylor would only produce misleading cues, said Judge Whelan,
since Betty had no knowledge of any such external activities and
this was not Dan Broderick's trial, but Betty's.
Early raged, but
the trial seemed to slide downhill for him from that point.
outcome proved that the notion of reasonable doubt that Early had
hoped to seed in the heads of the talismen had indeed been
planted. After all the fuss and flying feathers and the
reinventing of the wheel that the prosecutors had caused in its
second trial, the resulting verdict proved to be not much more
than a compromise: guilty of second-degree murder.
Early was pleased,
but he pointed out to the newspapers that had his defense not been
quagmired he believed the jury's decision would have been no more
family were not happy campers. Dan's brother, Larry, seated in a
San Diego Irish bar afterward, angrily told reporters, "What's the
matter with a system that allows this woman to threaten these
people dozens of times...blow them away in their sleep and
that's not murder one in this goddamn country?"
As for Betty, she
stood mixed between relief and sadness. The court recognized her
struggle, but condemned her resolve. She had not expected to walk
out free, but the two consecutive fifteen-years-to-life sentences
she received wouldn't allow her parole for nineteen years.
Number W42477 continues to tend to her various responsibilities --
menial and then some that are required of any prisoner at the
Central California Women's Facility at Chowchilla. She has
resigned herself to her daily fate of routine mornings and early
bedtimes, and keeps her eyes and hope on the year 2011, the date
of her first possible parole. Her children do not visit, but she
still sees a man named Brad Wright whom she met during her
In a recent
interview with Lexxicon, she sounds rather upbeat: "I am kept very
busy in here. I am forced to 'program' from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., then
we have meals, showers, laundry, phone calls...I try to tutor
ladies in the GED exam (and) am very active in my 'community,'
serving on boards and committees just like home...I am very well
liked and respected...I dont live in fear."
But, with a twist
of emotion peppered with lingering bitterness, she adds, "Goddamn
shame you can only feel safe and free in prison! Nice society we
Stumbo, Bella Until
the Twelfth of Never NY: Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster Inc.;
Lexxicon (Internet) conducted 1997