Betty Broderick was convicted of murdering her ex-husband, Daniel T. Broderick III, and his second wife, Linda (Kolkena) Broderick, on November 5, 1989. At a second trial that began on December 11, 1991, she was convicted of two counts of second degree murder and later sentenced to 32-years-to-life in prison.
Just before 7:30 AM on November 5th, 1989, the San Diego police department was called to the upscale neighborhood of Hillcrest, San Diego. The caller, Brad Wright, tells the dispatcher that Dan Broderick and his new wife, Linda needed help. When police arrived, Brad said that he had been inside the home and believes there were two dead bodies in the master bedroom and it looked like they had both been shot. Linda was lying face down on the bed and there was a gunshot wound to the back of her head and to her chest. Dan was half underneath the bed with a gunshot wound to the chest.
Dan Broderick grew up in Pittsburgh and he was the oldest of 9 children. He was extremely ambitious and attended Notre Dame and enrolled as a pre-med major. While he was in his junior year of college, he met 17-year-old Betty Bisceglia (bish-egg-leah). She was a model from New York and she was in town visiting a friend. Betty and Dan both came from large, Catholic families and both families had money. Betty was majoring in child psychology at Mount St. Vincent College in New York City. Dan asked her out on a date, but she declined. In 1966, Dan graduated from Notre Dame and enrolled in med school in New York. He sent a telegram to Betty, asking her out and she agreed this time. The two of them got married in the spring of 1969 and Betty got a teaching job so they could afford rent while Dan continued med school. By 1973, Dan had earned both medical and law degrees and he was recruited to work at a large law firm, making a 6 figure income and Betty became a stay at home mom to their two daughters and they later had two sons as well.
To the outside world, this was a picture perfect family life. Betty was a well-known socialite and she was very active in the community. Dan was a successful attorney and the couple lived in a lavish home located in an upscale part of town. They both had a similar vision for their future. They wanted money, status, and children. When Betty described Dan she said, “He was very ambitious, very intelligent and very funny. And I am those three things. We were from the same kind of background. All I wanted to be was a mommy. He promised me the moon.”
Dan was working hard and his hours were very long at the office, so, he was coming home late and this put a strain on the relationship. Betty said, “I went from being accomplished, well connected and free to being isolated from family and friends and trapped with two children for whom I was 100% responsible. Dan went from being a student on his own, with no possessions, no savings, no connections or contacts, to being an MD who had many, many contacts.” They had grown apart and ultimately decided to end things in 1989. This is where Linda Kolkena (Coal-keena) enters the story. She was a 25 year old Paralegal that worked in the office across from Dan. They dated for 3 years and got married in the backyard of the home they had just purchased in Hillcrest. Betty also moved on and began dating Brad Wright.
On November 5th, when the bodies of Dan and his wife, Linda were found. Investigators noticed that there was a white froth coming from Dan's wound. He was shot in the chest and it damaged his lungs, so he didn't die right away, his air was blocked and he bled to death. The medical examiner estimated that he was alive for about 20 minutes after being shot. Investigators tried to piece together the scene. Dan and Linda were in bed and the first shots were fired at Linda. Dan would have heard them and he tried to roll off the bed. There were two bullets in Linda, one bullet in Dan, one bullet in the wall, and one in the nightstand. The murder weapon was a 38 caliber and police believed it was likely a revolver. The telephone wires were hanging loose in the bedroom and the phone had been removed and placed in the hallway. So, someone took the phone out of Dan's reach when they left him.
The police talked to the man that called 911 and that was Brad Wright. They wanted to know why Betty's boyfriend was at her previous husband's house. He said he spent the night at Betty's home with her children and he woke up around 7 AM when the phone was ringing over and over. When the phone wouldn't stop ringing, he realized that Betty wasn't there, so he assumed she had gotten up early to go to the beach, so he got up to get the phone. One of Betty's friends was upset and all she would say was something happened at Dan's house, you need to go check.
Brad headed to Dan and Linda's house and rang the doorbell, but no one answered and the front door was locked. He went to the side door, broke the glass, reached in to open the door, and ran upstairs. Brad says he hadn't heard from Betty all day and he wasn't sure where she was. If Brad's story is correct, that means someone had access to the house and was able to lock it when they left. Police checked Brad's alibi and everything matched up with what he said. One of the officers at the scene said they had responded to a domestic violence issue at this house before, but it wasn't between Dan and Linda, it was Dan and his ex-wife Betty...and Betty was the aggressor. About a month and a half prior to the murders, Betty drove her Chevy Suburban into the front doors of the house. When the police arrived, she fought with them, so they took her to a mental health facility, held her for 72 hours and Dan got a restraining order against her. Betty said, “I have never had emotional disturbance or mental illness except when he provoked a disturbance. My emotional outbursts were only a response to Dan's calculating, hateful way of dealing with our divorce. He was hammering into me and everyone else that I was crazy...How long can you live like that?”
Investigators looked into Dan and Betty's divorce and discovered that it was pretty messy. She did not respect his space and she felt that she had the right to show up to the house whenever she wanted and she called him at all hours of the night. After Betty drove her SUV into the house, Dan filed for primary custody of their two boys, ages 10 and 13. Their two daughters were grown, so they were already out of the house.
Investigators got a search warrant for Betty's house and during the search, they found a case for a handgun. It was a Smith & Wesson 38 caliber 5 shot, Chief's Special. They didn't find a gun, but they found the ammunition. Then they found a transcript and the book was called What's a Nice Girl to do? By Betty Broderick
Everything that happened between Betty and her ex-husband, Dan, was recorded in this book. She wrote about the things leading up to the divorce, their fights, the custody battle, and court experiences. She provided her perspective on all of the events and investigators say she played the total victim. Nothing was her fault, it was all Dan's. She described him as a complete monster. The last line of the book said, the only impact I'm going to have on this man is to kill him.
Investigators received a tip that Betty's vehicle was seen at her daughter's house. When they got there, Betty was not present, but she left her purse inside her daughter's house and inside the purse was the 38 caliber gun. Betty was receiving $16k per month in alimony and she enjoyed living her upscale life, so police were wondering what her motive would be for murdering the man that was providing the money. As police were out searching for Betty, she showed up at the police station with an attorney to turn herself in, but she refused to talk.
The police began working on the investigation and they started with the gun. Betty had purchased it in April and the salesperson at the gun store remembered her because she asked the clerk for ammunition that would do the most damage to a person's body. The clerk sold her bullets called Black Talons and they expand when it hits you. After Betty purchased the gun, she went to the San Diego Police Department pistol range on Saturday mornings because they do courses where they teach people how to shoot.
Police started interviewing Betty's friends and it became obvious that the turning point in her relationship with Dan was at a law firm function in 1983 when she realized he was attracted to his new Paralegal, Linda. According to Betty, she heard Dan say that Linda was really pretty and it hurt her feelings. He never said that stuff about her. Soon after this party, things began to change. Suddenly, Dan was coming home late from work and getting a lot of phone calls. Betty's friends pointed out that Linda looked eerily similar to how Betty looked when she was younger. They look like they could have been sisters. Linda was the receptionist in the law building where Dan worked and he hired her as his assistant after he became involved with her and Betty was very upset. Dan didn't have any employees at the time because he liked to have total control. When he finally told Betty that he hired an assistant, she was thrilled because she thought he would be spending more time with the family, but she soon found out he had hired Linda and this didn't make sense to her.
Betty said that Linda didn't have any law or medical experience, so she shouldn't have been the logical choice. She told the Los Angeles Times reporter, “I asked him how the hell he could be hiring Linda Kolkena to be his assistant. She wasn't a paralegal, she didn't have a college education, she didn't even know how to type!” She asked Dan if he was having an affair and he denied it. A secretary at Dan's law firm told investigators that the affair between Dan and Linda had become common knowledge and everyone in the office knew about it by late 1983. The two of them would disappear on long lunches and would leave empty wine bottles and food containers in Dan's office.
Linda Kolkena was the youngest of four children, grew up in Salt Lake City, and her parents worked hard to send their children to private schools, but they couldn't keep up with the expenses, so the kids ended up being transferred to public schools. The family was very religious and they recited four prayers at every meal and strictly observed holidays according to the book. Linda's mother passed away from cancer when she was only 11 and her father ended up getting remarried shortly after to another widow in their community.
Linda grew up always wanting to be a wife and mother, so she decided not to pursue a college education. She became a Delta Airlines attendant for a short time, but she was fired for “Conduct unbecoming a Delta employee.” There was an incident on a plane when Linda and some friends were off duty. The group of four women were flying from Atlanta to Salt Lake City for a ski weekend and they met two male passengers that were drunk. Linda was sitting on the lap of one of the men, speaking vulgar language and apparently snuck to the bathroom and they were kissing. She was confronted by someone from the airline and provided a fake name. Linda later admitted to using a false name and using offensive language, but says she never went to the bathroom with the man.
Betty knew something was different with her husband and says that she thought Dan was exhibiting behaviors of someone that was going through a midlife crisis. He was getting close to 40 and seemed dissatisfied with everything in his life. He wasn't happy with their home or the children and started telling her that she was old, fat, and ugly. Keep in mind, Dan is no longer here, so we don't know the validity of these claims. Betty says she started reading books about a midlife crisis and encouraged him to see a therapist, but he said no.
On Dan's 39th birthday, Betty decided to surprise him. She got all dressed up, bought him gifts and showed up to the office and thought she could take him to dinner. When she got there around 4-5 in the afternoon, she realized that Dan and Linda were gone and neither of them had come back from lunch. She looked in Linda's office and saw a picture of Dan on the wall. Betty felt a sense of betrayal, so she went home, put some of his clothes on the grill and lit them on fire.
Linda's friends did urge her and Dan to be honest with Betty and tell her that they were seeing each other and the marriage was over. One day, Betty received a letter in the mail and it had a photo of Dan and Linda and it said “Eat your heart out, bitch.” There were some taunting advertisements for wrinkle cream and weight loss products also. Betty believed this came from Linda, but some of their friends say that's not possible.
Betty decided to give her husband an ultimatum. He had to get rid of Linda by October 1st, or he can get out. Shortly after this, Dan filed for divorce, but Betty felt that no matter what she did, things wouldn't turn out fair because Dan was a lawyer. It was a little shocking that Dan was the one filing for divorce because Betty had been threatening it for years. Betty reportedly smashed the mirrors and graffitied the walls in their home, and he had enough. The divorce went on for 5 years as Betty cycled through 5 lawyers. During this time, she allegedly vandalized the home many times and Dan had to file a restraining order. The trial was in January of 1989 and she represented herself. She was awarded $16k per month in alimony, but she wasn't happy with this amount. Dan was granted sole custody of the kids and Betty had no visitation rights. After things were settled in court, she would stop by the house to pick up the boys for their soccer games and Dan would humiliate her by saying no. She couldn't take her kids. He also deducted money from the alimony payments every time Betty “misbehaved”.
Dan wrote Betty a letter that said if you don't stop harassing me, I'm going to withhold $200 for every obscene word you use. $500 every time you come into my house and $1,000 every time you take the kids away without telling me in advance. One time, Betty says that instead of receiving money, she received notification that Dan had fined her and she owed him $1300 for going to his property while he was in Europe with Linda for 3 weeks. She says that her children were home with a babysitter and would need things, so she would drop by.
On the day that she rammed her vehicle into the house, she had been calling Dan repeatedly and left obscene voicemails because she learned that he had sold the house and it was the only asset that had both of their names on it, she didn't understand how he was able to do that. Dan asked her to sign her half of the home over to him many times so he could sell it, but she refused and he even bought her a different home for $650k. When this didn't work, he went to a judge, who signed over Betty's portion. After she rammed her car into the door, Dan tried to pull her out of the vehicle and she pulled a butcher knife on him.
She also got all riled up when the answering machine featured Linda's voice instead of Dan's. Betty asked several times if she could have her wedding china, but Linda refused. Things were escalating and people were warning Dan that he should move to protect himself and the children. There was an incident where Linda Kolkena made a Boston cream pie and Betty took it to the master bedroom and smeared it on their clothes. In 1984, she allegedly broke into their home and spray painted the bedroom. Betty agreed to smearing the pie on the clothing, but says she didn't spray paint the room.
Dan and Linda planned on having children and starting a large family of their own. Dan proposed to Linda in 1988 after dropping to one knee in front of a crowd of attorneys, paralegals, and legal secretaries at the popular Dobson's Bar. When the couple got married, their friends begged them to be careful. They were having an outdoor wedding and Dan's friends actually asked him to wear a bullet proof vest because they were convinced that Betty would do a drive by shooting. He didn't wear a vest, but he hired security at the wedding and the guests were all on high alert and were told to “hit the deck” if they heard anything that sounded like a gun shot. After months of ongoing threats, Dan finally decided to seek full custody of the boys. The night before the murders, Betty received a letter from Dan's office saying he was taking her to court for custody of their kids.
During trial, Betty pleaded not guilty. She said she did murder Dan and Linda, but says it wasn't premeditated. The first trial ended in a hung jury because they couldn't reach a decision on sentencing. A year later, the second trial began and Betty was charged with second degree murder. Her daughters had to basically pick a side, so Lee supported her mom and Kim took her father's side. The family was split apart.
Kim Broderick testified that her mom had an awful habit of using her kids as ammunition against her husband. In 1985, the Brodericks relocated to a rental property so their home could have some repairs done. Betty believed the repairs were just an excuse to push her out, especially because Dan moved back to the house while it was being worked on. Betty decided to drop the kids off at the house at random times to teach Dan a lesson in parenting. Kim said it was terrible for everyone involved and the kids would beg their mom to stop leaving them there. When Betty would get angry, she would lock Dan out of the house and he'd show up at the windows and whisper to his kids to let him in.
Betty allegedly had a habit of throwing things when she was in a rage and on one occasion, she threw a stereo at Dan and at other times, she threw food. As things progressed, Betty became more abusive and started spanking her children. Lee told her it didn't hurt, so she spanked her with a fly swatter until it broke and there were welts down her daughter's legs. Dan disowned Lee after she dropped out of school and even omitted her from his will.
On the day of the murders, Betty got up really early. She was fuming about the custody letter she received from Dan and she felt that her world was crumbling around her. During her interview with Oprah in 1992, she said it was a combination of very single injustice, indignity, and horror that she had experienced as the victim of Dan and Linda. She said it was unnecessary for them to abuse her and the children as much as they did.
She took the house keys out of her daughter's purse and she let herself into Dan and Linda's house. She knew the kids wouldn't be there because they were at her house. After she murdered them, she removed the phone and left the house. A powerful scene was painted during the trial because Betty claimed that she was being abused by Dan, both mentally and physically. She testified that she never wanted to murder them and she showed up to the house, while they were in bed, to convince Dan to change his mind. If Dan refused, she was going to threaten to kill herself. When she got there, Linda yelled, call the police, and Dan went for the phone, so Betty reacted by shooting them. She didn't want them to call the police because the whole point of her going there was to work things out so they could be done with all the fighting. She says that she had no idea that she even hit anyone and she thought Dan would come after her, so that's why she grabbed the phone when she left and she went to her daughter's house to hide.
Betty says the only thing she ever wanted in her life was to be a super mom. She loved attending all of their activities and taking them to their appointments and just being there to care for them and Dan liked working to provide for the family. She genuinely liked this, but she didn't like that her husband was never home. He was working 14-15 hour days, staying late at the office, and going out with friends after work. He also taught courses to other lawyers and he was trying to build his name. Betty said that she felt like a single parent and she was sacrificing a lot for him to succeed.
Betty Broderick was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to 32 years to life in prison. Her parole request was denied in 2017 and she is not eligible for parole again until 2032 and she would be 84 years old. She wrote a 4-page letter in 2017 where she expressed her frustration at her request being denied for parole. She wrote, “I have no one to speak for me. This was a case of domestic abuse: a pattern of coercive control that lasted throughout our marriage until the day I killed them. I have met all criteria for parole and my release date was 2010. Now I am only a political prisoner. They have no reason to deny my parole.”
The Broderick siblings are still split about the murders. Rhett and Lee have advocated for their mother's release. Lee has urged the courts to free Betty and said she could move in with her when she got out. Lee says, “She should be able to live her later life outside of prison walls.” Rhett feels the same and says he's not surprised by his mothers actions and “On multiple occasions my brother and I went to my dad and said to him that we wanted to live with my mom, and that not having her kids was driving her crazy. And that she could do something extremely irrational if she didn't have us.”
Daniel Jr. and Kim are against Betty's release. Kim refused to write a letter supporting her mother's release. She said they had always had a rocky relationship and Kim claims that her mother regularly cut her down, saying things like, “I hate your guts” or “you make me sick. The sight of you makes me want to throw up. I wish you were never born.” Daniel Jr. told the court that his mother continued to defend her actions and it would be a mistake to release her. It was determined that Betty showed little remorse during both parole hearings. In 2010, Board of Prison Terms Commissioner Robert Doyle told her, “Your heart is still bitter, and you are still angry. You show no significant progress in evolving. You are still back 20 years ago in that same mode. You've got to move on.” After the denial of her hearing in 2017, it was determined that Betty was blaming her victims. Deputy District Attorney Richard Sachs said, “She was unrepentant, unremorseful, and callous.” He explained that she was “banging her fist calling her ex-husband an SOB...apologizing to friends, saying I'm sorry you lost your drinking buddy.”
Betty's boyfriend, Bradley Wright, continued to communicate with her well after the sentencing phase and would send her money. Brad had a storage locker where he kept their letters from 2003 to 2006, but he quit paying rent and the locker was auctioned off, so the love letters were found. In one letter, Betty wrote, “If I had a penny for every time I think of you, I'd be a millionaire many times over.” Brad was in a new relationship and Betty asked him to leave his partner for her sneak away to visit her in prison. In one letter, Betty wrote “Sorry to hear your life is a mess. I don't want to come back to a mess. Did you go to counseling? Whatever patterns you have will continue for better or worse. You know the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I should know!”
She wrote to him asking for money, “Today is September 14th and I still don't have the August money. Please send me August and September. This place is stressful enough without stressing over the money every month.” In another one she said, “I check the obits regularly, so far I haven't seen yours. Where are you? And where is my money? Help!!! I need to see you, it's been too too long.” Another said, “No Halloween card-Boo! No birthday card, no Thanksgiving, no Christmas, no Happy New Year. How about Valentine's Day??”
Brad had kept log books and he was sending money to Betty and he was also sending money to her children, but he is married to someone else and moved on with his life now.
Dan's brother, Larry has spoken out about Betty and says she is an incredible monster full of greed and hate. As this story played out in the media, people chose sides. Many people felt sympathy for Betty who claimed to have suffered years of abuse, but others saw a brutal execution.
In an interview, Betty blamed her ex-husband for his own murder. She said this wouldn't have happened if Dan went along with everything she wanted in the divorce. She said, “I would've been fine. I would've had my house, my kids. I would've still worn a size 6. I could've done my superior dance.”
This case has been highly publicized and Betty Broderick's murder trial was the first one in the county to air on Court TV. The most surprising thing was that Betty instantly had tons of supporters and hundreds of people wrote to the local papers. According to the Los Angeles Times, Betty's supporters were mostly women who sympathized with her alleged domestic abuse, but they didn't condone her actions. One supporter wrote, “Lawyers and judges simply refuse to protect mothers against this type of legalized emotional terrorism. I believe every word Betty says because I've been there.”
During the trial, Betty claimed that Dan was an alcoholic, but his autopsy showed that he didn't have any type of liver damage that would be commonly linked to alcohol abuse. She also explained that it wasn't fair that Dan moved on so quickly and spent 5 years with another woman, while she was alone and didn't get closure, but that's not true, she had a boyfriend.
Her daughter Lee explained during the trial that her father was the one with the hot temper and he allegedly called Betty names like, fat, disgusting, beastly, the beast, the monster, and he said she was on the rampage, or on the warpath. Lee didn't get along well with Dan and she wasn't allowed to have a key to the house because he didn't want Betty to have access. When Lee went to the house, she had to knock on the door and if no one was home, she had to go somewhere else to wait. Dan told her he was writing her out of his will, but she never thought he would truly do it. His estate was split equally among the three other children and she didn't get anything.
Linda's friends say she was a comedian and she could recite the airline safety instructions that she had memorized when she was a stewardess and everyone thought it was hilarious. A friend of the couple said that during a recent dinner, they were playfully acting out a scene from a move and Dan was playing a dog, so he crawled under the table and bit his sock. Dan and Linda were placed in two matching wooden coffins. Linda's was covered with white roses and Dan's was covered in red roses. The service was an hour long and it was filled with a mixture of tears and laughter as people shared their memories of the newlyweds.
Paralegal Laurel Summers said the following at the funeral, “Linda offered a new life, a second chance. She gave him the optimism to marry again and to hope for a second family. Together, they were such a delight with their broad smiles, twinkling eyes, rich laughter, and sweet terms of endearment.”