Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Big for a Big Shot

The calendar on the wall told Betty's two tired eyes that it was November 5, 1989. Only a thin red light of morning lit her kitchen in a tremulous pose of half-shadow. Like the new day she faced, she was half-conscious but already on a runaway schedule. Her adrenaline pumped and her temples ached from confusion. On the kitchen table where she tried to swallow a tepid cup of coffee sat the latest two letters from her ex-husband's current representing lawyer, Kathleen Cuffaro. Two more letters in a succession of threats from various attorneys who had belittled her, condemned her for four years through the separation from Dan, and during and after their bitter divorce.

Dan had gotten what he wanted his freedom and Linda and he still hadn't let up. All those letters, all on Dan's request, calling her irresponsible, incapable, untrustworthy. Wicked. Batty.

Just because she couldn't stop leaving those messages on his answering machine telling him what absolute scum both he and Linda were. Now married, they were Mr. & Mrs. Scum.

One letter this morning claimed she continued to show signs of a "pathological obsession" with her ex and therefore still not in the right frame of mind to fulfil the latest child custody obligations. The other chastised her for using foul language on Big Shot Dan's telephone answering machine. Awwww, Betty smirked, foul mouth language hurting Miss Bimbo's precious ears?

Her two boys, whom she was watching this weekend, slept down the hall. Quiet so she wouldn't wake them, she dressed in a flash, grabbed her purse, checked to be sure it contained the .38 caliber Smith & Wesson she had recently bought, and walked out into the morning sunrise. She left her small apartment, one she had moved into after the divorce, and sickened at the sight that met her the shopping mall across the street with its tall neon signs and its stark parking lots, not the placid suburban serenity of glistening, tile-roofed stucco homes and tree-lined avenues she had been used to and shifted her ignored, overweight body behind the wheel of her auto.

La Jolla didn't seem the sort of place to incubate a murder. "Curled around one of the most spectacular half-moon coves in California, La Jolla is the quintessential Southern California dream town, a compact little colony...of pastel homes streaming down the hillsides to the sea," writes Bella Stumbo in The Twelfth of Never.

She turned her car towards the southern-bound freeway that led her through the awakening city of San Diego, through its center, and didn't pause her vehicle until she came to the picturesque little suburb of Balboa Park. There, she rounded a quiet cul-de-sac empty of pedestrian life in this early morning and pulled in front of Dan's large home with Doric columns and pretty shutters and winding walkways and manicured lawns and carved shrubbery. She jiggled the front door, but the key she had the one she had stolen from one of her daughters months ago didn't work. She went around to the back door. This time, she heard the click of the tumbler when the key turned without budge in the lock. Betty walked into the house.

As on the same locomotive course she had been the last several years she headed non-stop up the carpeted stairway to the bedroom where Mr. Big Shot and his new wife, that ex-airline stewardess cum secretary cum home-wrecker slept. And she pressed the trigger. The bimbo shook. Betty pressed the trigger again and the bimbo jumped this time never to jump again.

Now it was Mr. Big Shot's time. Awake in time to see the scorned ex-wife standing over him with smoking pistol, he muttered something, tried to roll off the bed, but took one of Betty's next bullets in the back. He yelped, coughed blood, gagged and continued to gag until he choked to death.

Bang-bang! went the echoes...bang-bang, you're dead!

Betty would later claim in court that she hadn't necessarily planned to kill them that morning that when she climbed into her car outside her apartment she wasn't sure if she was even going to wind up at Dan's. A daze, that crisp, clear morning. But, it was over now. History. The years of money battling, custody battling, hurtles of insults, violent threats. All over except for what would definitely be one hell of a crazy trial.

She turned herself into the police, almost with relief.

The worst part of it: She still loved Dan.

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