Former SoCal socialite Betty Broderick killed Linda Kolkena, her ex-husband’s second wife, by shooting her in the early morning of November 5, 1989. Kolkena was hit twice and died instantly. One of the five bullets Broderick fired hit ex-husband Daniel T. Broderick III in the chest, with his final words being “OK, OK, you got me.” He died soon after, but Betty Broderick was afraid he would call the police, so she pulled the phone out of the wall and fled the scene.
Broderick confessed to the killings, though she maintained self-defense, saying Dan Broderick drove her to kill. She also said she didn’t remember firing the gun, claiming that her eyes had barely adjusted to the dark room when the gun when off. In 1991, she was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to 32 years in prison.
1983 Was an ‘Ax’ Through Betty Broderick’s Life
Kolkena started working as a receptionist for Dan Broderick, a medical malpractice attorney, in 1983 when she was 22 years old. As noted by a 1990 Los Angeles Times article, Betty Broderick said 1983 was when her marriage started to crumble, though she considered her marriage “perfect” before that. “Nineteen eighty-three was like an ax through my life,” she said, as noted by the publication.
During an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Betty Broderick again cited 1983–the year Kolkena was hired–as the year things changed for her marriage. “In 1983 I noticed Dan talking about some girl he thought was really beautiful and that was my first clue that Linda Kolkena existed,” she said.
In a prison interview after the murders, she again cited 1983 as the year things went wrong. “I feel terrible remorse for what we’ve all been through since 1983. It’ll almost be 10 years now. Ten years,” she said. “I find it so meaningless what we’ve all been through.”
Dan Broderick soon promoted Kolkena to be his legal assistant. At first, Betty Broderick wasn’t threatened. “This was just a phase, a bad time–too stupid to be true,” she wrote about the marriage, according to the LA Times. “That girl had nothing on me. I am prettier, smarter, classier; she is a dumb, uneducated tramp with no background or education or talent. He’ll definitely get over it.”
Betty Broderick soon became suspicious, and on her husband’s 39th birthday she stopped by his office to find the remnants of a party–and that Dan Broderick and Kolkena were both gone. The receptionist said they had been missing most of the day. Betty Broderick was furious, went back home, gathered her husband’s clothes and lit them on fire. Despite Betty Broderick’s suspicions, Dan Broderick denied having an affair with Kolkena.
Betty Broderick’s behavior became more erratic, leading Dan to file for divorce in June 1985 after 16 years of marriage. Her antics continued, smearing pie on his bed, throwing wine bottles through windows and damaging glass doors. Dan Broderick took out a restraining order against his estranged wife and by 1986 their divorce was finalized.
Dan Broderick had custody of the four children and Betty had no visitation rights, but she was still getting money. At the time of the murders, Dan Broderick was paying his ex $16,000 a month in alimony–but that wasn’t enough for Betty. She said after paying for the house and taxes, she had nothing left for herself.
Betty Broderick Thought Kolkena Was Antagonizing Her
Betty Broderick was insistent Kolkena wanted to take the “Mrs. Broderick” title away from her, the LA Times wrote. Betty was convinced Kolkena sent her a picture herself and Dan in the mail with the note, “Eat your heart out, b****!” Betty claimed she also received ads for wrinkle cream and weight loss, saying she had gained 60 pounds since her divorce.
Betty Broderick was reportedly pushed to the edge when she received another court document on November 1, 1989, after she continued to leaving threatening voice mails on her ex’s answering machine. It was days before her 42nd birthday.
Broderick’s story is being featured on Season 2 of Dirty John. Executive producer Alexandra Cunningham was inspired to tell the story through the lens of unfulfilled promises. “Everyone is yearning to matter to someone,” she told the New York Daily News. “We can all relate to wanting to be loved and wanting to trust someone and not wanting to believe that the person we love and trust and who knows us better than anyone is someone who’s hurting us.”
Don’t miss Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story when Cunningham’s version of the true-crime murder debuts on Tuesday, June 2 at 9 p.m. ET on USA Network.