Warning: Spoilers for Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story ahead.
Season 1 of Dirty John focused on the gripping dating nightmare that belongs to successful interior designer Debra Newell and the pathological liar who nearly destroyed her life, John Meehan. Season 2 of the anthology series, however, is taking a decidely different route to true-crime mayhem.
This time, Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story is dedicated to an infamous true story of marriage, deception, and double murder. It belongs to Betty and Dan Broderick: She’s a socialite, he’s a successful San Diego lawyer, and the two share four children. Things begin to veer off into madness, however, once Dan sparks up an affair with his legal secretary, Linda Kolkena, and Betty can’t handle it.
Pieced together from news reports and trial history, Season 2 of Dirty John charts all the unbelievable events leading up to Betty’s pulling the trigger, her subsequent arrest, and beyond. And though the show most certainly takes artistic liberties, there is no doubt truth to this mind-bending tale. Here, a chronological timeline of the actual events that inspired Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story.
Betty meets Dan for the first time.
Elisabeth Anne Bisceglia was just 17 years old when she met her future husband for the first time. As reported by the San Diego Reader, “She’d been invited to a football weekend at the University of Notre Dame. Dan was just beginning his senior year there and was looking forward to starting medical school at Cornell University’s Manhattan campus.” The publication claimed that, according to Betty, “Dan told his friends that Betty was the woman he would marry.” However, Dan disputed this claim to the San Diego Reader.
Fall of 1966
Dan moves to New York and starts dating Betty.
The couple didn’t start a relationship immediately after their first meeting. However, a year later, Dan moved to New York and took Betty out. Of reconnecting with Dan, Betty recalled to the San Diego Reader, “The instant I saw him, it was like a lightning bolt, that sudden and that intense.”
April 12, 1969
Betty and Dan tie the knot.
After dating for just over two and a half years, Dan and Betty got married at the Immaculate Conception Church on April 12, 1969. Dan proved stubborn at the wedding and refused to wear a formal suit, much to Betty’s mother’s dismay. Aside from clothing, Betty revealed that her parents approved of Dan, as she told the San Diego Reader, “After all, I was marrying a doctor. What else does any mother want? He was 99 percent already a doctor, and he was from a Catholic family, and he wasn’t from a divorced family.”
However, it would seem that trouble quickly started brewing, as Betty told San Diego Reader, “My life just went to the dogs so fast!”
The Brodericks welcome their first child.
After getting married, Betty got pregnant very quickly. The San Diego Reader reported, “A few weeks after returning from their honeymoon, Betty was shocked to discover she was pregnant.” The baby, a daughter named Kimberly, was born a month prematurely, per the Los Angeles Times.
Life wasn’t easy for the Brodericks, with Dan still training to be a doctor. Betty revealed during an interview with the San Diego Reader, “We literally had nothing, not a single diaper or shirt, and nowhere to put her down. We put her in a dresser drawer, and my mother had Saks Fifth Avenue deliver a few clothing essentials.”
With Dan still at school, Betty was reportedly forced to earn money by babysitting for another couple, along with caring for her own newborn, to support the family.
Betty gives birth to a second daughter, and Dan goes to Harvard.
Dan applied to Harvard to study law after realizing that he didn’t want to practice medicine. He planned to specialize in the medical malpractice field. Of the couple’s move to Somerville, Massachusetts, the Los Angeles Times reported that “Betty felt isolated. Pregnant for a second time, economically strapped and envious of Dan’s involvement in the world, she again wanted out, she says, but she hung on.”
Daughter Lee arrived in July 1971. Per the San Diego Reader, Betty also “became pregnant with a third child, who subsequently died at birth, all while Dan was studying at Harvard.”
Dan graduates and the family moves to San Diego.
Betty felt the tables turn during the four years she’d been married to Dan. According to the Los Angeles Times, she detailed in an unpublished, 90-page description of her marriage, “I went from being accomplished, well-connected and free to being isolated from family and friends … and trapped with two children for whom I was 100% responsible.”
Meanwhile, Dan found his footing within the legal community pretty quickly, joining San Diego law firm Gray, Cary, Ames & Frye.
Dan and Betty welcome a son.
Daniel IV, the couple’s third child and first son, was born in 1976. That same year, the Brodericks purchased their very first home, but according to Betty, they were far from solvent. The San Diego Reader reported that the mother of three “continued to work nights as a cashier and hostess at the Black Angus restaurant in Kearny Mesa.”
The Brodericks have a fourth child.
The youngest son of Dan and Betty, Rhett, was born in 1979.
Cracks start to form in the couple’s marriage.
Per the Los Angeles Times, money was no longer an issue for the Brodericks during this period of time. Dan and Betty were joining country clubs and private resorts reserved for the elite. Their children apparently attended private schools, vacations were plentiful, and the family owned a selection of prestige cars. However, the couple’s marriage was reportedly far from perfect.
In 1990, Betty’s daughter, Kim, told the Los Angeles Times, “Mom would get mad at Dad all the time. Once Mom picked up the stereo and threw it at him. And she locked him out constantly. He’d come around to my window and whisper, ‘Kim, let me in.'” According to the publication, Dan’s brother, Larry, corroborated the account and revealed, “[Dan] didn’t pay much attention to her. The more it happened, the more he would tune out.”
Kim also alleged to the newspaper that Betty “was always telling me they were getting a divorce. She’d say, ‘Who are you going to live with?’ I was dying for Dad to divorce her. I’d say to Dad, ‘Just take me the day you leave.'”
Dan hires an assistant.
It appears that Dan and Betty’s marriage took a turn for the worse in 1983 when Dan hired a new legal assistant, Linda Kolkena.
Betty alleged to the San Diego Reader that while at a cocktail party, she overheard her husband remark, “Wow, isn’t she beautiful?” She believed that Dan was talking about a receptionist in his building, and her fears were confirmed when her husband hired Kolkena as his new assistant. Betty candidly told the Los Angeles Times, “Nineteen eighty-three was like an ax through my life.”
Betty gets suspicious on Dan’s 39th birthday.
Despite having her suspicions that her husband was having an affair with his assistant, Dan had refuted the accusations over and over again. Betty wanted to believe him. She decided to surprise Dan on his 39th birthday by arriving at the office unannounced. However, per the San Diego Reader, Betty was “told by the receptionist that Dan and Linda had left about 11:00 a.m. and hadn’t yet returned.”
Betty waited in her husband’s office and told the publication, “They never came back. And that’s when I saw the refrigerator and my wedding crystal and all this imported wine. And the stereo. And his picture on her desk. Only it was a picture that was taken of him before we were married.” Convinced that Dan was having an affair, Betty returned home, set fire to her husband’s clothing in their backyard, and told him to move out. However, Dan wouldn’t leave, and the Brodericks muddled along with family life for a little longer.
Dan finally moves out.
The Brodericks had moved into a rental property after structural damage was discovered on their house in late 1984. Per the Los Angeles Times, “Three months after his 40th birthday, Dan moved out, returning to the damaged Coral Reef house.” Even though Betty was sure he’d been having an affair with Linda, Dan continued to deny the allegations and said he needed space.
Betty told the San Diego Reader, “He literally walked out three months after his 40th birthday party—with a red Corvette and a 21-year-old. Are we the American joke or not? If you weren’t my husband, I’d think you were real funny. He’s got a scarf around his neck, and he wanted those Ray-Ban sunglasses from Risky Business.”
Dan revealed to the San Diego Reader that after he’d moved out, Betty would leave all four children at his place without warning and say, “Here. They’re yours. You want to be apart from me. Well, see what it’s like raising a family by yourself.” This abandonment would later negatively impact Betty’s custody battle.
Betty allegedly becomes violent.
According to the San Diego Reader, Dan revealed before his death that when they were separated, Betty “would come into the house whenever she wanted to, but in June 1985, she started on the rampages. Throwing stuff through the windows and breaking mirrors and spray-painting the walls. I mean, unbelievable things … windows broken, and chandeliers cracked, and a stereo smashed.”
As for what he did about his wife’s behavior, Dan told the publication that he contacted the police, but as he was residing in their formerly shared property, there was nothing law enforcement could do.
September 23, 1985
Dan files for divorce.
Prior to Dan filing, he allegedly “wanted [Betty] to be paying [her] own bills,” per the San Diego Reader, and agreed a monthly allowance of $9,000 with his ex.
Betty revealed that she was surprised when Dan filed for divorce, despite the fact that the couple had been living apart for more than six months. She told the San Diego Reader, “I give everyone the benefit of the doubt until they come up and shoot me between the eyes. So I was real surprised and upset, and I needed a lawyer fast.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that Betty’s concerning behavior continued, and she would return to the property she once shared with Dan. The publication noted, per Dan’s own reports, “She took a cream pie from the kitchen and smeared it all over the master bedroom. Four days later, he said, she threw bottles of wine through two windows and smashed a sliding-glass door.” As a result, Dan took out a restraining order against Betty and “filed criminal contempt charges.”
Dan sells their former home, and all bets are off.
As Dan was such a well-connected lawyer, Betty allegedly found it difficult to find adequate legal representation for the divorce. And everything came to a head in February 1986 when Dan convinced a judge to allow him to sell the couple’s former property without Betty’s consent.
Upon finding out that Dan had sold their marital home without her permission, Betty drove her car into the front door of Dan’s new house. Per the Los Angeles Times, “In court documents, Dan declared that when he opened the car door to pull Betty out, she reached for a large butcher knife under the seat. He restrained her, and she spent three days in the San Diego County Mental Health Hospital in Hillcrest.”
July 16, 1986
The divorce is finalized, and Dan receives sole custody.
Betty did not have legal representation when her divorce was finalized and, per the Los Angeles Times, she alleged, “There was no custody hearing and that Dan and the judge cut a deal behind her back.” Dan received sole custody of the four Broderick children.
Following the divorce, Betty’s behavior only worsened, especially when Dan went public with his relationship with Kolkena. Per the Los Angeles Times, “She chose obscene nicknames for Dan and Linda … and used them in frequent messages on his answering machine. So Dan began to withhold $100 for every obscene word she used, $250 for each time she set foot on his property, $500 for every entry into his house.” According to the publication, Betty also left “dozens of profane and often sexually explicit messages” on the couple’s answering machine.
Dan wrote Betty a letter regarding her actions, which said (per the Los Angeles Times), “I know your first impulse upon reading this letter will be a violent one. You have told the kids that if I withhold any money this month … you will kill me and see that not a brick is left standing in my house.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with the San Diego Reader, Betty said, “I am madder than hell, and I want to kill him for being lied to and cheated. But that has nothing to do with being crazy.”
It was also reported that Betty was sent a photo of her ex with his new beau in the mail, along with a note which said, “Eat your heart out, bitch!” And as the Los Angeles Times reported, “Linda refused to return Betty’s wedding china, even after purchasing new dishes of her own—an action Kim confirms,” which further seemed to aggravate matters.
April 22, 1989
Dan and Linda marry.
With his divorce from Betty finalized, Dan proposed to Linda in June 1988. The couple got married in their front yard on April 22, 1989. The Los Angeles Times reported, “Dan hired undercover security guards, but he refused to wear a bullet-proof vest, as Linda requested.” He reportedly believed that, as he was paying all her expenses, Betty wouldn’t murder him.
November 5, 1989
Betty murders Dan and Linda in their home.
Per the Los Angeles Times, “In November, 1989, four days before Betty’s 42nd birthday,” Dan had threatened “to file criminal contempt charges” over his ex-wife’s offensive answerphone messages. According to the publication, it might have been this act that set Betty on the path to murder.
Early on November 5, 1989, Betty reportedly drove to Dan and Linda’s home near San Diego and let herself in with her daughter’s key. Betty used her .38-caliber, five-shot revolver to shoot Linda and Dan as they slept. According to the Los Angeles Times, “One bullet hit a bedside table. Another pounded into the wall. But three bullets struck the sleeping couple. One pierced Linda’s neck and lodged in her brain. Another hit her in the chest. A third perforated Dan’s back, fracturing a rib and tearing through his right lung.” Per CNN, “Broderick had bought the gun a month before her husband remarried.”
Linda apparently died instantly. Dan reached for the phone, which Betty pulled out of its wall socket and ran off with. She later surrendered herself to the police.
November 20, 1990
The first trial is declared a mistrial.
After pleading not guilty to two counts of murder, Betty’s first trial ends in mistrial. Per the Los Angeles Times, “Jurors say they were split by the defense’s strategy of emphasizing Daniel Broderick’s alleged mistreatment of his ex-wife and children.”
December 11, 1991
Betty is found guilty.
At her second trial, Betty is found guilty on two counts of second-degree murder and is sentenced to 32 years to life in prison.
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