Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Betty Broderick: Divorce... Desperation...Death

An Unlikely Champion

They weren't long in coming. To her, selling the old house represented bidding goodbye once and for all to the life she thought she had found, but had lost evermore to whom she called a bastard and a bimbo. She refused to consent to its sale, but once again Dan turned legal wheels and manifested a court order to sell the marriage residence without her consent. Before she knew what had happened, an appointed proxy signed the transaction papers for her and the Coral Reef house was history.

Betty obtained her share of the sale, but was not appeased. She was livid. She quickly retaliated by driving her Suburban van through the front door of Dan's stuffy castle, this time detonating King Dan's usually restrained temper. He vaulted over the shreds of wood that were once his front door and yanked Betty from the vehicle, slapping the crazy woman with whom he finally had had enough.

Police came, and this time they didn't shrug off the incident. At the mental hospital where she was brought squirming, kicking and weeping in a strait jacket, she refused to cooperate with the doctors who tried to sedate her. Throughout her three days of confinement, she would utter, "Look it here, he is the crazy one, not me!" When they released her, she walked out face to face with another of a long line of unending OSCs that Dan was piling up against her deepening frenzy.

A divorce hearing was set for July 16, but Betty declined to make preparations, physically or mentally. She fired her lawyer Daniel Jaffe and did not show up at court the day of the hearing. Her absence defaulted her claims to all properties and custodies, ruled the judge, and Dan, more sound of mind, took everything he wanted full custody of the four children, reiteration of the restraining orders against Betty, and a ban on visiting rights for the mother until she submitted to psychiatric care. As for support or alimony, he would continue to pay her what he had been paying her, $9,000 a month, until a forthcoming trial would formalize other financial arrangements, including property and insurance settlements.

But the victors' elation was short-lived. Betty fought back, again in absentia, and through the loyalty of a friend she didn't know she had had. Even though lawyer Jaffe was officially off the case and had nothing to gain or lose from the court's decision, he was irate at its advantage-taking of a woman mentally incapable of defending herself. On his own volition, he contacted Dan's lawyer, Tom Ashworth, enforcing Betty's right to a guardian at litem.

"Unless I hear from you concerning the setting aside of Mrs. Broderick's default, I plan to contact the legal powers that be and the Bench in San Diego so that someone is made available to protect Mrs. Broderick's legal right," Jaffe wrote. Suddenly, Dan Broderick had a change of heart and even paid Betty the retainer for a new lawyer, William Hargreaves.

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