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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.

Early life

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.

Marriage breakdown

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 suits.

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 interviewed.

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 separation.

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 married.


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. I'm dead."

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 28.

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 house.

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 police!".

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 couple.

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 premeditation.

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 murders.

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 & Ordertitled "The Wages of Love" was apparently based on the Broderick case.

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.

Originally posted 2017-12-29 02:22:10.

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