"Hell Hath No Fury..."- The True Story of Betty Broderick.
Almost all of us heard the proverb "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" at some point. How many of us witnessed firsthand the depths a scorned woman will go to enact revenge on a man who wronged her? The people closest to Betty Broderick saw the steady increase of her hurt, depression, anger, and eventual rage against her ex-husband, which escalated dramatically on November 5, 1989. This is the true story of Betty Broderick and how her role shifted from the dutiful wife of a prominent lawyer to a murderer.
Life, "Love", and Children.
Elisabeth Anne Bisceglia, better known as Betty, was born November 7, 1947, and raised in Bronxville, New York. Betty was the third of six children to strict Catholic parents, and she, along with her siblings, was expected to find a Catholic spouse, support him through everything, and aim to conceive children.
According to her memoir, "Betty Broderick: Telling on Myself", Betty met Dan Broderick in 1965, when she was seventeen and had minimal life experiences. She was enrolled at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx to obtain an early childhood education degree, while Dan was attending the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and pursuing his medical degree. Betty stated Dan wanted the couple to get married right away, but she refused to do so until after her college graduation.
The two dated on and off for several years, and eventually married in April 1969, at the Immaculate Conception Church in Tuckahoe, New York. Betty felt a sense of foreboding in her marriage due to her mother's hectic wedding planning, Dan's refusal to respect her mother's wishes regarding his suit, and her own apprehension about getting hitched.
According to Betty, the couple's Caribbean honeymoon was no better than the wedding ceremony. Dan got drunk off of champagne that was available on their flight to The British Virgin Islands, and once they arrived, they had to check into a less desirable hotel until the next day. Betty stated the two consummated their marriage that night, but the sex was "terrible", and not as romantic as she had imagined.
Upon their return to New York after a rather...interesting honeymoon, Dan laid out ground rules for his new wife to adhere to. There were to be no joint accounts for the couple since "they are too confusing" and she was to give all her funds to Dan for proper money management. As was the norm during that time, Betty was expected to do all of the cooking, cleaning, and ironing while Dan focused on finishing his medical studies. In addition, the two were living in Dan's college dorm at the beginning of their marriage.
Betty became pregnant during the couple's honeymoon and gave birth to their first daughter, Kim, on January 29, 1970. Dan graduated from medical school that same year and decided after the fact that he wanted to study law instead of pursuing a full-time career in medicine. Betty gave birth to the couple's second daughter, Lee, in July 1971. During his time at Harvard Law School, Betty took on teaching jobs, sold Avon and Tupperware, and worked other odd jobs to provide for her family while her husband focused on his studies.
Betty gave birth to their first son in 1973, but the baby only lived for a day before passing away. Dan expressed his anger, not for the loss of their son, but for Betty ruining his first ski trip in years.
Later that same year, Betty attempted to take her life for the first time but was unsuccessful after ingesting most of the pills found in their apartment.
The Brodericks packed up and moved to San Diego and into their Coral Reef home in December 1975. Betty was pregnant with the couple's son during the time of their move, and Daniel IV was born in 1976. Dan began practicing medical malpractice law at Gary, Cary.
In 1979, Betty gave birth to the couple's last son, Rhett, and had her tubes tied immediately after. Dan was very successful practicing medical malpractice law and decided to open his own practice in San Diego. The family accumulated more money due to Dan's prominence, and eventually bought more cars, took European trips, and spent money lavishly to reflect their wealth.
Meeting Linda Kolkena
Betty was not directly aware of Linda Kolkena's existence, or the connection to her husband, but she first heard the name during a conversation Dan had with a colleague at a Christmas party in 1982. Kolkena was described as "beautiful", and this caught Betty by surprise because, according to her, he never described anyone in such a matter. Dan was asked about Kolkena by his wife, and he simply stated she was a young lady half his age, who worked in the building where his law office resided.
By 1983, Betty was convinced her husband was having an affair with Linda, but he vehemently denied all accusations and called his wife crazy. In September 1983, Dan brought up a conversation with Betty about needing help due to overworking and explained he found a solution to this issue. He hired help, but the name he called took Betty by surprise. Dan advised he hired Linda Kolkena to assist him at the office, and Betty was appalled. How could this young woman easily obtain an important position with practically no skills or credentials?
Dan was given an ultimatum right then and there. Get rid of Kolkena, or move out of his familial home. He refused to acknowledge either threat and employed Linda full-time, eventually setting her up in a posh office directly next to his.
November 7, 1983, was another pivotal day in Betty's life and marriage. It was her 36th birthday, and she along with the kids waited at home that evening for Dan to arrive and kick off the celebration. For reasons unknown, he did not show, and Betty then attempted for a second time to end her life. This attempt was also unsuccessful.
The chaos did not stop there. About two weeks later, on November 22, Betty visited Dan's office to surprise him for his 39th birthday. She found that a celebration had occurred without her due to the remnants of balloons and cake and learned that Dan had left for the rest of the day with Kolkena. Betty returned home, and in a fit of anger, threw Dan's clothes over their bedroom balcony, and lit them on fire. Present were her children and friends, Vicki and Wilma. Dan still refused to admit to having an affair.
1984 Move and Further Disintegration of Marriage
The Brodericks moved out of their Coral Reef home into a rental home in La Jolla Shores in September 1984. This was Betty's last residence. Dan moved back into the couple's Coral Reef residence alone, leaving Betty and their kids in the rental, which she described as becoming "infested with a plague of rats". Linda Kolkena eventually moved into the Coral Reef home with Dan in 1985, and this was revealed to Betty through her kid's sitter.
This revelation enraged Betty, and as an expression of her anger, she removed a Boston Crème Pie that was found on Dan's kitchen counter and smeared it all over his bed. Dan took out a restraining order on Betty after this incident.
Further escalating matters between the two was the inclusion of their kids. Betty dropped the children off at Dan's home one by one and this resulted in her losing custody of the kids during the divorce proceedings. Her behavior became more and more erratic, and this was displayed through vulgar messages left on Dan's answering machine, throwing objects at and inside of the home, and constantly entering the residence, even though she was barred from doing so.
Frustrations Mounted Further by September 1985
Dan filed for divorce officially in September 1985, and a long, arduous proceeding ensued. The couple fought viciously over finances, the Coral Reef property, and custody of their four children.
Betty expressed difficulty in retaining good legal counsel, as Dan had served as the president of the San Diego Bar Association, and had a very prominent reputation amongst his peers. She was crippled, legally speaking, and each time she committed an "offense" toward her husband, he deducted money from the monthly support he provided.
In 1986, Dan sold the Coral Reef home without Betty's permission and moved into a mansion-style home in the Balboa Park neighborhood with his kids and Linda. According to the Los Angeles Times, Betty eventually found out, and in response "crashed her Chevrolet Suburban into the house, knocking the front door off its hinges and out of the frame". She attempted to run her vehicle into the house again, but Dan was able to stop and restrain her until the police arrived.
Divorce Finalization & Second Marriage
Dan and Betty Broderick were officially divorced in January 1989, and in the end, Betty did not get full custody of her children back, and her monthly settlement was less than she had requested, totaling $16,000 a month.
This was not the end of their story, however.
Dan Broderick and Linda Kolkena officially tied the knot on April 22, 1989, and the wedding was outfitted with security guards that Dan hired as protection against Betty.
1989 Double Murders
On November 5, 1989, Betty had trouble sleeping and decided to read some legal papers that were sent to her by Dan, highlighting custody proceedings and violations due to vulgar answering machine messages. Betty felt as if she was at the end of her rope because she did not want to go back to jail or risk losing visitations with her young sons.
Betty got into her car and contemplated going to the beach to shoot herself with a gun she had purchased a few months prior. She stated she began driving but was unaware of exactly where she was heading. Ultimately, though, she drove directly to Dan and Linda's home.
Betty was in possession of a set of keys her daughter Kim owned, and the L.A. Times reported the keys were initially found by her maid behind a chair at her (Betty's) home.
Betty walked upstairs to the pair's bedroom, a .38 caliber revolver in hand, and thought she would force them to hear her out as well as leave her alone. In her memoir, she states Linda lunged at her as soon as she stepped into the bedroom's doorway, and she fired the gun in response. The only confirmation of what exactly happened is that both Dan and Linda were shot and killed by Betty with all the bullets in her five-shot revolver.
Dan was on the floor next to the bedroom's phone, and upon noticing this, Betty disconnected the phone and fled from the house. She said she did not remember exactly what happened on that fateful morning, but she asserted she had no intention of murdering Dan and Linda, and essentially wanted to get their attention.
She turned herself in to the police and pleaded not guilty to the killings.
Trial and Sentencing
Upon being tried for the murders of Dan Broderick and Linda Kolkena, Betty defended herself by stating she was a battered wife, who had suffered years of various forms of abuse from her ex-husband.
Her first trial ended in a hung jury due to two of the jurors holding out for manslaughter, and the presiding judge declared a mistrial. A year later in 1991, Betty was retried again for murder, and this time she was found guilty on two counts of second-degree murder, and received a sentence of 32 years to life. She is incarcerated at the California Institution for Women.
Several made-for-TV movies, books, and documentaries were used to retell Betty's story to the world. A particularly well-known TV movie, A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story, starring Meridith Baxter depicted Betty's story in 1992. She appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show from prison in 1992. In June 2020, Netflix debuted Betty's story through the second season of the popular series Dirty John.
In 2010, Betty was denied parole, and again in 2017 due to her refusal to show remorse and acknowledge any wrongdoings in the murders of Dan and Linda. She will be eligible again in January 2032, when she is 84 years old.