Thursday, June 21, 2012

Betty Broderick: Deadly Divorce

Betty & Dan - early 1980s

In the early morning hours of November 5, 1989, the most contemptuous and bitter divorce San Diego had ever seen came to a brutal and bloody end as Daniel T. Broderick III and his second wife Linda were shot in their marital bed by his ex-wife Elisabeth ("Betty").  Despite being big local news and making newscasts nationwide, with Betty both hailed as a hero by wronged women and as a blonde-headed devil by others, this should have come as no surprise to people who knew the inside story and especially, to Dan and Linda. 

Linda as a bride
Betty as a bride

1965 - Daniel T. Broderick III and Elisabeth Bisceglia meet at a party in South Bend, Indiana
April 11, 1969 - Daniel T. Broderick III and Elisabeth Bisceglia are married in Eastchester, New York
January 1970 - Daughter Kimberly is born
July 1971 - Daughter Lee is born
1973 - After Dan graduates from Harvard Law School, the Broderick family moves to San Diego and Dan begins work with Cary, Gray
1976 - Son Danny is born
1978 - Dan leaves Cary, Gray to open his own practice
1979 - Son Rhett is born
1979 - Betty receives her real estate license
1983 - Dan hires Linda Kolkena as his personal assistant
1984 - Betty becomes fully knowledgeable about the extent of the affair between Dan and Linda after Dan admits the affair and requests a separation
1985 - Dan files for divorce
Early 1989 - After a four year legal battle, Dan and Betty Broderick are divorced
March 1989 - Betty purchases a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun for "protection"
April 22, 1989 - Dan Broderick and Linda Kolkena are married
November 5, 1989 - Dan Broderick and Linda Kolkena Broderick are shot and killed by Betty Broderick
Dan & Linda


Elisabeth Anne Broderick was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder in her second trial after her first trial ended in a hung jury.  She received two consecutive terms of fifteen years to life, as well as a two year sentence for illegal use of a firearm.  She is serving out her sentence at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California. 

Her first parole hearing was in January of 2010.  Betty was denied parole because she did not show remorse and did not acknowledge wrongdoing.  She may reapply in 2013 and is due for release in 2021. 

Two of her children spoke at the parole hearing, requesting release for their mother, while the other two requested that she remain incarcerated. 
Betty during one of her trials

The Broderick case, more than 20 years on, continues to create an interesting divide in public opinion.  There is a strong and vocal camp for Betty, who feels that she was wronged not only by Dan and Linda but also by the justice system and was driven to commit murder.  This camp feels that she has served her time and should be freed from prison.  There is an equally verbal camp who believes that Betty is a cold-hearted monster who drove Dan to Linda, who killed her ex-husband and his new wife out of jealousy and is exactly where she belongs and where she should stay.

Was Betty a victim?  Were Dan and Linda innocent victims?  Did Betty drive Dan away?  Was Dan cold and unfeeling?  Was Linda a shameless golddigging homewrecker?

Dan's final resting place; Linda's name is on the headstone but she has reportedly been laid to rest elsewhere

I think the truth, as is usually the case, lies somewhere in the middle.  It's a well known fact that all was not well in the Broderick marriage before Linda Kolkena entered the picture.  Both Betty and Dan seemed to place appearance, status and money fairly high on their priority list.  When you focus on those things solely, your marriage and your family is going to get lost in the shuffle.  I personally think that Dan was hitting his late-thirties, had been married for 15 or so years, and was looking for a little excitement.  He had a wife who was probably not easy to live with, four children, a busy and involving law practice, an exorbitant lifestyle and salary.   

I think Betty was a woman of her generation - - her role began and ended with being Mrs. Daniel T. Broderick.  She may not have been happy with Dan and with her marriage but she was happy with her place in life and in society.  In her world, you didn't throw away your marriage.  You didn't leave your wife for the office receptionist.  You didn't divorce. 

Bottom line, I think if Dan had been honest with Betty from the beginning and come clean about his affair with Linda, none of what followed would have happened.  There is no doubt in my mind that Betty would have taken Dan back if he had just taken a tumble with Linda and then returned home.  Just as there is no doubt in my mind that years of lying, years of being told she was imaging things, years of having his affair rubbed in his face, of not knowing what was happening, of not being able to control it and properly deal with it, caused Betty to lose it. 

I am not defending Betty, although I do understand why she did it.  Having been in a relationship with a self-involved cheater, liar and general narcissistic fuckwit myself in my early 20s, I remember the feeling of absolute devastation, the grief, the questions, the anger, the rage and, most of all, the hopelessness, helplessness and fear I felt.  I was so consumed by his wrongdoing that I felt powerless to help myself out of it - - for a time.  That, of course, is the difference between me and Betty.  She let Dan's actions and Linda's actions consume her entire life and take over - - permanently, it seems.  Even today, she still seems to act and react like it's still 1989.  Dan and Linda are both long dead and Betty is still being victimized by them. 

It's sad, really.  I can't help but have sympathy for the woman Dan and Linda called "The Beast".  She may have been a pain in the ass to live with but Dan married her.  He chose to have children with her.  He stayed married to her for sixteen years.  He let her raise their children by herself, work different jobs to allow him to go to school to get his M.D. and then his J.D.  She was thanked with a long-term affair, name-calling, questionable legal tactics and some flat out harassment.

So let me talk about Linda for a minute.  When I first read Until the Twelfth of Never back during my early 20s/narcissistic fuckwit period, I absolutely despised Linda Kolkena and had zero sympathy for her.  I felt she got what she deserved.  Twenty years later, I still see her as a selfish homewrecker but I do have a bit of sympathy for her.  Why?  Because she was headed down the same path as Betty.  She entered Dan Broderick's orbit as a receptionist with only a high school education.  She had been fired from Delta Airlines (where she was a flight attendant) for inappropriate behavior with a passenger.  She was "promoted" from temporary receptionist to Dan's legal assistant/paralegal due to his personal relationship with her.  As a degreed paralegal myself, it's insulting to insinuate that someone with no legal experience or background, nor the ability to even type, can man the phones for a couple of months and then just slide into a paralegal position and perform the job accordingly, as Linda's family and friends have insisted in the past.  Linda got the paralegal title and "job" because she was screwing her boss, that's the truth.  But just like Betty, Linda's life revolved around Dan.  She waited around for six years while Dan dithered over whether to leave Betty, end his marriage, marry his mistress.  Either she was in love, determined or both.  She broke up with Dan once, due to Dan's indecision on whether to end his marriage, but she didn't quit her job and the break didn't last long.  She turned away a man who claimed to genuinely love her to wait around for Dan.  Had she lived, she likely would have spent her married life much as Betty did - - doing for Dan, waiting for Dan, everything for Dan.  Except for her youth as an excuse, it's shocking that Linda appeared to have no sympathy, no compassion, no understanding for Betty - - the woman she was effectively replacing -- whatsoever.  On her own, or through Dan's vitriol, she viewed Betty as crazy, deranged, a monster, a beast.  I can't help but wonder if she and Dan had lived, if she would have found herself in Betty's shoes, or if she would have put Dan in Betty's shoes.  A question that will never be answered. 

Did Linda love Dan?  Or Dan's money?  Did Dan love Linda?  It's been said that Linda cheated on Dan weeks before their wedding with an ex-boyfriend.  It does make you wonder how deep her commitment was.  For his part, Dan strung Linda along for years, while cohabiting with his wife.  Later on, she was concerned with Betty breaking into their house and expressed this concern to a fellow attorney.  She even requested that Dan wear a bulletproof vest at their wedding.  Dan refused.  Neither did he act upon her fear of Betty breaking into the house; there was no alarm when Betty did indeed commit her deadly break-in.   Perhaps most importantly, when their bodies were found on the morning of November 5, 1989, Linda looked as though she had been moving toward Dan, perhaps for protection, when she was shot and killed.  Dan's body was located on the floor, away from Linda, as if he had been moving away from the bed to save himself, not trying to protect his new bride.  Maybe the blast from the gun propelled him from the bed, we may never know.  But Dan seemed to continually act in his own best interests, not in his children's, not in Betty's and not in Linda's. 

This story is just sad all around and claims many victims.  Dan and Linda Broderick lost their lives.  They may not have been sympathetic but their actions did not constitute murder.  I see Betty as a victim as well.  She was (and continues to be) a victim of Dan and Linda but she's also a victim of herself.  She's locked up physically in a prison cell but she appears to be locked up mentally as well.  She simply cannot let go of what Dan did.  Listening to her you would think Dan committed adultery three months ago, not thirty years ago.   

I don't think Betty will ever be paroled and if she is, it won't be for a while.  She has never expressed remorse over the murders.  She has never admitted that she went to that house to murder Dan and Linda.  If she would admit these things, she may likely be given parole.  I also think she's being used as a poster child of sorts, for the San Diego legal system to show the public what will happen if you try to take them on.  Many people have committed murder, and first-degree murder, and received less time than Betty.  I'm not saying that twenty years compensates for the loss of two lives but there most certainly is not equality in the system.

The most easily forgotton victims in this case are the Broderick children - -now adults.  Dan's selfish actions fractured the family.  Betty's selfish actions took not only their father away permanently but also removed their mother from their lives.  In that sense, Betty did far more to destroy the Broderick family; she left the Broderick boys, still minors at the time, orphaned, dependent on various family members to raise them and care for them.  I feel sorry for them.  They grew up in a house parented by two people who clearly should not have married and who acted in a more childish manner than the actual children themselves.

For more information on the Broderick case and murders, the best source is Bella Stumbo's outstanding book, The Twelfth of Never.  It's unbiased, setting forth the facts in a straightforward manner and does not take sides. 

There have been two movies made about the murders and Betty's two trials, Betty Broderick: A Woman Scorned and Her Final Fury:  Betty Broderick, the Last Chapter.  Both movies star Meredith Baxter, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Betty.  However, both movies were made with the cooperation of Dan Broderick's brother, Larry, and the Kolkena family and as such, are heavily biased to represent that Dan and Linda were not involved until after his divorce, that no harassment went on, no shady legal manuevers and Betty was an absolute loon from the get-go.  Meredith Baxter's performance is excellent, if inaccurate, and the movies should be viewed only for entertainment value and not for specifics on the case.

The murder house in Hillcrest

The back door where Betty snuck in

Dan & Linda's bedroom where they were murdered


  1. This is a great article. I have written fairly extensively about the Broderick case over at my blog, and in fact just put up a new series of photos of Dan and Linda. Can I put a link to this article on my latest entry about the Broderick mess?

    I was much like you, by the way, when it comes to Linda Kolkena. Now I just see her as having been young and stupid. Both of those things are not crimes. The true villain in all of this is Daniel T. Broderick III, aka Danny Boy. I can feel sympathy for Linda and what might have been. I feel no sympathy for Dan.

    Also, always remember that the Brodericks and the Kolkenas have nothing to do with each other today. So much for true love, huh?

    Great bit of writing here :-)


  2. Hi Laura,
    Thank you so much for your comment. I will definitely check out your blog and yes, please feel free to include a link.

    The Broderick case has always interested me. I have a handful of others I plan on writing about, just need to get the time!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

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  4. The Children are divided Dan jr and Kim saw Betty do crazy stuff to their father and step mother. Dan was an ass and Jerk but Betty is a narcissistic . betty is all about making Betty look good and Dan's and Linda's family were all about making them look good. and there are evidence to support both the victims claims and Betty's claims. Betty got a nice house , a large settlement and she had a boyfriend when she shot Dan. I did much research on the case , the children were divided and each camp and supporters had claims of each ex spouse abusing the other.. I don't believe the movies and I don't believe the books. no one knows what happen between Dan and Betty , only they know. Dan's brother claims Betty didn't support dan in school, betty claims she did. Dan and Kim said that their father never laid a had on their mother and loved them, Lee gives an side. so I am writing to say with all this different stories and accounts of what happen, people need to stop blaming Dan who is not here to defend himself and realize that the truth may not be than Dan treated made her crazy but the fact that while he cheated on her and lied, Betty refused to let go and and some the things she did was disgusting . so which camp is lying Dan jr and Kim and their uncle and several witness or lee, betty and several other witness...........

    1. Do you suppose, that before attempting to communicate, you could please acquaint yourself with spell check, or grammar check, or like, brain check? It is nearly impossible to follow your thoughts here, and they are also all over the place, so add construction check to all the other needs you have. sheesh

    2. It might be that English is not their first language. I hope you have a great day. =)

  5. Sorry Lori Johnston, but Linda had to have more than just a high school education in order to work for Delta Air lines! Delta will not even look at anyone without a college degree!!

    1. Check your time indicated by anonymous above, degrees were not an issue at that time. Again, could you really high class writer/researcher types get an education, before sticking foot in mouth?

  6. Maybe Delta requires their flight attendants to have a degree now, Anonymous, but in the early 80s, they did not. Linda did not have a college degree or education. She was a high school graduate who began working in Dan's office as a temporary receptionist.

  7. This comment makes me sick, read below to see it. I have copied and pasted it so it is word for word. The "Anonymous" that wrote the reply below is obviously mean spirited

  8. Sorry, it didn't copy/paste. I am referring to the person that recommended a spell checker, etc.

  9. Regardless of how hurt Betty was and how insensitive Dan was he and Linda did not deserve to be murdered "in cold blood" - period. If they did deserve death, then we all have free rein to kill whomever wrongs us which means probably 1/2 the planet would be wiped out and the other 1/2 would be constantly watching their backs! Betty is a pathologically narcissistic woman and this mental illness led her to commit murder but in that respect she is no different from other mentally ill murderers. She deserves life in prison - hope that's where she stays.

  10. I've read a lot and have followed this case for over 20 years. What a great piece you wrote here. I do believe Betty will probably never get out of prison as she refuses to take responsibility. What she really needs is professional help. I often wonder if they were alive today what their life would have been like. Sadly, none of us will ever know. On a side note...I have read that Linda is actually buried somewhere else. Does anyone really know or have any proof?

  11. The best article I have ever read on this subject! "Dan's selfish actions fractured the family" is what really happened. I too have been through an ugly divorce where the father came out looking like the hero after he was an emotional terrorist only looking out for himself. I think of Betty Broderick often and truly understand how she felt. Although what she did was wrong, he drove her to it.

  12. MEW, I agree. If cheaters were punished by death there would be a lot fewer people on this earth and many more in prison. Betty should have gotten the best revenge by letting Linda have Dan (no prize) and realizing that by marrying Linda, he had created a job opening for a new mistress.
    Thanks for your comment!

  13. Anonymous from June 25, thank you for the compliment! Like you, I don't believe Betty will ever get out and I also wonder what the lives of Dan, Betty and Linda would be like today if the murders had not happened.

    I don't know personally about Linda's body being buried elsewhere but I have read it. It wouldn't surprise me. She wasn't from San Diego, she and Dan weren't married long and apparently there is zero communication between the Brodericks and Kolkenas now.

    Thanks for posting!

  14. Anonymous from August 24, thanks so much for the compliment! I'm glad you liked my post.

    I too understand Betty's actions although I don't agree. The best revenge is to go on and be happier. I firmly believe that karma will always get those that wrong you. As the saying goes, karma = life's way of saying "let's see how the f**k you like it!"

    Thank you for posting!

  15. I just saw this case again on television and now older and as a graduate in psychology, I can tell you that everyone is right and everyone is wrong because they are looking at the case through their own perspective. All the players in this case are human beings with their own weakness and mistakes. Betty committed a horrible crime that left her children without parents. This case should serve as an example for parents who are in the midst of a divorce to put the needs of their children first and not their own needs to win in a divorce case.

    1. Betty and Dan were BOTH equally bad parents during this divorce.

  16. I'm surprised she didn't kill them sooner. I believe Dan and Linda were trying to drive Betty to suicide. I hated Betty until I read a lot about her case and realized what an alcoholic psychopath her Dan was and what a total slut Linda was. Dan also abused animals but, of course, that was never talked about. Linda also was not known to be the most hygienic person around. Her nickname in the office was 'Linda Vagina' because she didn't bathe very frequently. Also, Dan never considered that he would have given Betty an STD by screwing a low life like Linda Kolkena? Nice guy, very thoughtful of him. Disgusting pair Dan and Linda were. Too bad Betty didn't let them self-destruct, which they would have. Linda could barely hold a job and didn't hold a candle to Betty's intelligence. Dan would burn himself out or someone else would have killed him eventually. I wish Betty would have risen above the abuse; she would have been a better person than Dan and Linda ever were.

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  19. You can't wreck a home that doesn't want to be wrecked. It's the honest truth. If somebody in a marriage is unhappy, it will surface. Better to be honest in the beginning....than feel the burden of deceptions piling on top of one another later. If a relationship isn't working out drop it - don't keep it just because you "want to be married"