Elisabeth Anne “Betty” Broderick is a woman in jail for the 1989 slayings of her ex-husband Daniel and his new wife, Linda. Her story has been told in multiple books and TV programs, the latest of which is Dirty John season two on the USA Network, subtitled “The Betty Broderick Story.” Ahead of its premiere on June 2, here’s what you need to know about Betty Broderick’s life, the murders, and where she is now.
1. Betty Broderick Was Born Elisabeth Anne Bisceglia in 1947
Born on November 7, 1947, Elisabeth “Betty” Bisceglia was the third of six children born to Frank Bisceglia and Marita Curtin in the New York City suburb of Eastchester. Her two older siblings are Marita-Jane and Francis, and her three younger siblings are Clare, Gerard, and Michael, according to Frank’s 1998 obituary in the New York Times.
In Bella Stumbo’s book “Until the Twelfth of Never,” which details Broderick’s life leading up and after the murders, Betty was raised in a strict Roman-Catholic household, receiving a degree from nearby Mount Saint Vincent College after graduating high school.
“[Betty] was programmed from birth to be a wife, not only by her parents and the girls’ schools she attended, but by her peers. For Betty, it was a world without options. She lived at home throughout college, right up until the day she was married, commuting to school in a sporty little MG,” wrote Stumbo (via Crime Library).
2. Betty Met Dan at a Notre Game Football Game
When she was 17 years old, Betty met Daniel Broderick at a University of Notre Game football weekend. Daniel earned his undergraduate degree from Notre Dame before attending Cornell University Medical School in Ithaca, New York.
Betty and Dan began dating shortly thereafter, traveling back and forth until they were married on April 12, 1969, according to Stumbo’s book. Betty became pregnant with their eldest child, Kim, on their honeymoon. Kim was born in January 1970 and her younger sister, Lee, was born in July 1971.
It was around this time that Dan dropped out of his medical residency in order to go to Harvard Law School. In studying to become a doctor, he had seen how well-paid medical malpractice attorneys were and wanted to change career paths. Betty worked several jobs to make ends meet while Daniel studied, all the while raising their two young daughters.
Stumbo wrote of this time in the Brodericks’ marriage, “Dan devoted himself to his full-time studies while his wife took assorted odd jobs to pay the rent for their small Boston flat and keep the family in food. Betty could often be seen traipsing door to door in her neighborhood selling Avon or Tupperware, her two children bundled under her arms.”
In a 1988 interview with the San Diego Reader, Betty likened herself to becoming Daniel’s “maid” once they got married.
“We had country clubs and cars [growing up]. My mom’s real social, so we had lots of clothes and designer things. I had a maid when I was growing up … here I get married to this doctor, and all of a sudden I am turned into his maid,” said Betty.
3. Betty and Daniel Had Four Children and Several Miscarriages
The family moved to California in the mid-1970s after Dan completed law school and there Betty gave birth to two more children, sons Daniel IV (1976) and Rhett (1979).
In addition to their four living children, Betty gave birth to an unnamed baby boy who died shortly after he was born. She also suffered several miscarriages. When she became pregnant in 1980, her ninth pregnancy in 10 years, she had an abortion because her doctor advised her that her life was endangered, according to Bryna Taubman’s book about Betty Broderick and the murders, titled “Hell Hath No Fury: A True Story of Wealth and Passion, Love and Envy, and a Woman Driven to the Ultimate Revenge.”
During Betty’s trial, Judge Thomas Whelan ruled that Betty’s attorney, Jack Earley, could not mention the nine pregnancies, nor the miscarriages and abortions that ended four of them. According to the Los Angeles Times, Earley wanted testimony about Betty’s miscarriages and abortions to be included in order to demonstrate “what happens to a woman who has gone through that many pregnancies with a man. That’s a lot of hormonal changes.”
4. Daniel Hired His Eventually Second Wife Linda Kolkena in 1983
After moving to San Diego in 1973, Broderick practiced with Gray, Cary, Ames & Frye until he opened his own practice in 1978, becoming one of the most successful malpractice attorneys in San Diego County.
A local attorney said of Dan in the 1988 interview with the San Diego Reader, “Anybody who’s had Dan Broderick on the other side thinks he’s a royal jerk. He’s so difficult to deal with. He’s the coldest man you’ll ever meet, unless he wants something from you.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, in 1983, Daniel hired Linda Kolkena as his legal assistant and that was when the marriage really began to fall apart, according to Betty. She told the LA Times, “The people who knew me before 1983 knew the real me. Nineteen eighty-three was like an ax through my life.”
Betty always maintained Daniel was having an affair with Linda, something he always denied. But in 1985, Daniel filed for divorce, a proceeding that dragged on in the courts for nearly five years. According to the LA Times, Betty drove her car into the front door of Daniel’s house, she spray-painted the inside of a home they had shared, and she left obscene messages on his answering machine, after which Daniel had Betty arrested and briefly committed to a mental hospital.
Daniel and Linda were married on April 22, 1989.
5. 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, 28, was shot twice, 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 beside table and one hitting a wall.
Betty was arrested later that day. Inside her car they found a .38-caliber revolver that was eventually proven to be the murder weapon. She later 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.
During the first trial, the defense argued 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. That 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.