Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

The Serpent Enters the Garden

Betty gave birth to her first child, Kimberly, in January of 1970, and, pregnant immediately after, bore another child, Lee, who was born in July, 1971. Only after months into his medical residency, Dan decided to change careers and enrolled in Harvard, bent on becoming a medical malpractice attorney. Moving to Massachusetts, Dan devoted himself to his full-time studies while his wife took assorted odd jobs to pay the rent for their small Boston flat and keep the family in food. Betty could often be seen traipsing door to door in her neighborhood selling Avon or Tupperware, her two children bundled under her arms.

On the flip side, Dan maintained that image is an all-important factor to a burgeoning wannabe lawyer, so he clothed himself in an array of well-cut sport coats and ties on campus, earning the nickname of "Dapper Dan."

In early 1973, the Brodericks moved again, west this time, to California, so that Dan could complete a summer clerkship in Los Angeles. On advice from an attorney friend, Dan sought a legal position in San Diego where he wanted to be, in Betty's later words, "a bigger fish in a smaller pond." Dually degreed, in medicine and law, Dan was a catch to most legal firms and soon accepted a position as junior partner with Cary, Gray, in San Diego. Elated at suddenly having climbed a social and financial ladder, the couple celebrated by dropping their first down payment on a beautiful home in the Coral Reef neighborhood.

Money didn't pour in right away. To help supplement their income, Betty taught religious classes at the local school and, in 1979, she received a real estate license. "It was five years before Dan finally began to earn enough money that she could stay home," says Bella Stumbo. "From the day they were married until the year Dan Broderick's income first hit $1 million, his wife was never too proud or too lazy to work twice as hard as most women could or would."

A shade of trouble edged in somewhere in those early years when Dan became obsessed with not only his work, but with ingratiating himself into the social life that he saw mandatory to becoming one of San Diego's top-echelon attorneys. Because he arrived at work at 5 a.m. every morning and spent many evenings with his associates after the office closed, Betty saw very little of him. While she cooked and kept house, Dan could usually be found evenings in one or another Irish bar trading law anecdotes with his partners or singing Irish songs with his fraternity, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. Through it all, his wardrobe continued to be name brand, hers discount store. In fact, she didn't own a washer or dryer until well into her married life, carting her's and her children's second-rates to the local laundromat.

Betty remained basically silent, however, her misgivings replaced in the attention she threw on her children she had conceived two more during the seventies, Danny, Jr. (born in 1976) and Rhett (1979). She totally supported her husband when he chose to leave the offices of Cary, Gray in 1978 to venture his own law practice. She helped him decorate his new quarters and sat with him evenings to choose the "right" conservative décor and patterns to emulate a law office.

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