Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Casualties of War

But, not so Betty's children they couldn't laugh and walk away unhurt. Many times, they inadvertently heard the playback's oathing words that their mother had told them never to use and then some. Some words they didn't understand, but knew they were wrong. The children's tender souls had already been cut by their parent's divorce and all the maligning that accompanied it, and did not need to hear such messages as the following, which made them, in their innocence, feel that maybe just maybe they were the cause of all the trouble to begin with:

"This is a message to f-head and the bitch. You have one hell of a nerve dumping the kids here on the sidewalk and zooming away without making any attempt to communicate with me about my plans for the weekend. Make me sick, both of you. I have a good mind to dump the kids back on you and drive away. Call me. We have a lot to talk about, asshole. And come pick up your four children that you're working so hard to have custody of. Congratulations. You can have them."

These and hundreds of other messages like it were not the real Betty Broderick talking, the woman who only months earlier would have died before intentionally hurting her kids' feelings. These were, of course, a result of a vehemence damming up inside a powerhouse of hate that used to be Betty Broderick. But, she was now a volcano crammed with loathing and teetering under the madcap of events that violated all reasoning as she understood the word reasoning to mean.

As with the children of any divorce, the Broderick kids were feeling the pressure - and the blame of the parents' breakup; their daily lives were painfully shattering. Graphic words, graphic scenes had replaced the harmony of domesticity They heard their mother call their father a brute, and their father call their mother a madwoman. Their pressure to choose between the parents overwhelmed them. Betty and Dan saw their daughters slowly turning to drugs for solace and heard the school counselors call their sons on the verge of suicidal. The experts called for the warring couple to call a truce, any truce, for the sake of the children but the white flag never rose.

In court later, the children would be forced to testify. Of Dan, they told of a man whom they hardly knew, a figurehead merely, rarely at home. Of Betty, they sadly described a woman so preoccupied with her own anger that she forgot to hug them and reassure them of her love. Taped conversations between Betty and her children reveal a tormented woman unaware of the binding nuances between a mother and her flesh and blood. Her children represent just another set of supporting characters who fail to see the nightmare she sees, and because they can't see it, their opinions don't matter.

In one conversation taped in the midst of one of many custody battles, 12-year-old Danny begs his mother to quit screaming at dad so he will let him visit her again. Betty's reply sounds like she's talking to an adult next-door neighbor rather than to her son: "I was the best mommy in the whole world and the best wife in the whole world. It's not my fault your father is such a f-head...I cared about my family enough to put up with him f-ing Linda for two years..."

In her disillusionment, Betty turned her back on four people who could have loved her when no one else loved her, her children if only she would have shared a little heart with them in return. But, her heart quit beating except as a metronome to pace the war drum for Dan and Linda.

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