Daniel and Linda Broderick were married in April 1989 and by November 1989, they were dead, shot to death in their sleep by Daniel’s first wife, Elisabeth “Betty” Broderick. Daniel and Betty’s famously messy divorce and Betty’s subsequent killing of Daniel and his new wife are the subjects of Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story, premiering Tuesday, June 2 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the USA Network.
Ahead of the premiere, here’s what you need to know about Daniel and Linda’s murders and the trials that followed.
Betty and Daniel’s Divorce Made Headlines Even Before The Murders
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Broderick divorce “played out over five vicious years.” When Daniel filed for divorce in 1985 after 16 years of marriage, what followed was “five years of battles so violent that Broderick vs. Broderick became known as the worst divorce case in San Diego County.”
The LA Times reported that Betty “spray-painted the interior of the $325,000 hillside home they had shared … rammed her car into Dan’s front door, left obscene messages on his answering machine, and defaced court documents.” Betty claimed that Daniel used his influence as a prominent local attorney to obtain sole custody of their four children, sell their house without her consent and withhold her rightful share of his income. Daniel eventually had Betty briefly committed to a mental hospital.
Daniel Married Linda Kolkena in April 1989
Linda Kolkena was Daniel’s legal assistant whom he hired in 1983 despite the fact that “she hadn’t been to college and she couldn’t type,” according to the LA Times. Betty always claimed that Daniel and Linda started having an affair that same year, telling the LA Times, “The people who knew me before 1983 knew the real me. Nineteen eighty-three was like an ax through my life.”
Daniel always denied the affair, saying he and Linda didn’t become involved until after he and Betty were separated. When Daniel and Linda did become involved publicly, Betty began leaving the obscene messages on their answering machine. She also claimed Linda sent her advertisements for wrinkle cream and weight loss products. She further said that Linda refused to return Betty’s wedding china, something daughter Kim confirmed to the LA Times.
Friends of Daniel and Linda said that the two of them were much too busy enjoying their life together to torment Betty.
Betty Killed Daniel and Linda on November 5, 1989
On the morning of November 5, 1989, Betty shot Daniel and Linda to death while they slept in their new Hillcrest-area home. Police Lt. Gary Learn told the Los Angeles Times that Linda was was shot once in the back of the head and once in the chest. Daniel was shot once in the back. Two other shots were fired, one hitting a bedside table and one hitting a wall.
Police arrested Betty later that same day, finding a .38-caliber revolver in her car that was later proven to be the murder weapon. At the trial, she testified that she had been planning to kill herself but instead went to see Daniel. Betty also said she did not remember the shooting and was surprised to find out she fired five times, according to the New York Times.
Betty Was Tried Twice Because the First Trial Ended in a Hung Jury
Betty never tried to deny that she was the perpetrator of the crime, but her defense was that it was a heat-of-the-moment killing. Psychiatrists and psychologists that testified for both sides all agreed that Betty was suffering from major depression and personality disorders. The first trial ended in a hung jury, as 10 members wanted to convict Betty of murder and two wanted to convict her of manslaughter.
The second trial ended in a conviction for second-degree murder. Betty was sentenced to 32-years-to-life in prison. She was denied parole in 2010 and again in 2017. Both times, the parole board did not think Betty demonstrated remorse for her crimes.
Daughter Lee (now going by Kathy) and son Rhett thought their mother should be paroled. Rhett told Oprah Winfrey in 2005 that his mother wasn’t a danger to anyone.
“She’s a nice lady. Everyone here would like her … if they spoke with her on any topic other than my dad. Keeping her in prison isn’t really helping her. She’s not a danger to society — the only two people she was a danger to are dead,” said Rhett.
Children Kim and Daniel IV disagreed that their mother should be released.
Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on USA.