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