Betty Broderick, played by Brockmire star Amanda Peet, is one of the main characters on Season 2 of Dirty John. In real life, Broderick was convicted of a double murder and sentenced to 32 years to life.
Betty Broderick was a SoCal socialite and mother-of-four whose divorce was so bitter it caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey–and that was before she killed her husband, 44-year-old Daniel T. Broderick III and his new wife, 28-year-old Linda Kolkena, in the middle of the night with a .38-caliber revolver. Their divorce played out in the media for five years, as noted by the Los Angeles Times.
Broderick Loved to Wear Designer Clothes
Before things soured, they seemed like the perfect couple from the outside. Dan was a medical malpractice attorney with degrees from Harvard Law School and Cornell School of Medicine. By, the ’80s he had become one of the most powerful attorneys in California.
While Dan was at work, Broderick always looked after the children and look great while doing so, dressing in designer clothes from Oscar de la Renta, Burl Stiff from the San Diego Union told the LA Times.
By 1983, however, Broderick suspected that her husband was having an affair with his new, much-younger employee. Dan denied her suspicions, but by 1985 he filed for divorce, ending 16 years of marriage. Broderick was furious. She left him expletive-filled voice messages and rammed her car into the front of his house. He obtained restraining orders against his estranged wife, which led to Broderick being arrested three times and institutionalized three times.
The final straw for Broderick was on November 1, 1989, when Dan threatened to file criminal contempt charges against her unless she stopped leaving offensive messages on his answering machine. She later said she was “exhausted” by the constant court appearances.
At the time of the double-murder, Broderick was receiving $16,000 per month from her ex. She claimed after the payments for her house, taxes and upkeep, there was nothing left for herself. But Broderick was known to be materialistic, reportedly buying a $40,000 fur coat following her split from Dan, her friend, Helen Pickard, said at her trial.
“She was real close to money,” Pickard said. “She loved money. She worshiped it. She was a very materialistic woman. She always was.”
Broderick Shot Dan Broderick and Kolkena While They Were Sleeping
On November 4, 1989, Broderick couldn’t sleep. She tossed and turned in bed and just before dawn on Sunday, November 5, 1989, she got dressed and drove to her ex-husband’s house. She let herself into the estate with her daughter’s key and went into the master bedroom where Dan and Kolkena were sleeping.
She fired five rounds with her .38-caliber gun. Two bullets hit Kolkena, one in the chest and one in the head; she died instantly. One bullet hit Dan in the chest, where he reportedly said, “OK. You got me,” and died shortly after. The other two bullets went into the wall and the nightstand.
Broderick confessed to the killings, though she claimed Dan “drove” her to it. “I have never had emotional disturbance or mental illness–except when he provoked a ‘disturbance,’” she said, according to the LA Times. “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?”
A psychiatrist during her trial said she suffered from dual-personality disorders, but claimed she was in charge of her mental illness. “The disorder is not controlling her,” Dr. Park Elliott Dietz said, according to the LA Times.
“Mrs. Broderick frequently stated to other people that she had a gun and was going to kill Dan and Linda, and rationalized that, when she did so, she wouldn’t get in any trouble for it because the world would thank her for it,” Dietz said. “And, in fact, she even said the world would be better off.”
She was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, and later sentenced to 32 years to life in prison. Her next parole hearing is scheduled for January 2032. She’ll be 85 years old.
Don’t miss Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story when the true-crime murder debuts on Tuesday, June 2 at 9 p.m. ET on USA Network.