Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Trouble in Paradise

Happy times
Happy times

For a time, it seemed to Betty that Dan, now away from his (what she called) "drinking buddies," was becoming more of the kind of husband she had hoped for. He would work late at the office, but come home immediately afterwards to share with her the day's professional events. He even hired a maid to help her around the house so she could devote more time to community clubs, activities which she adored.

His new law practice skyrocketed. Because of his medical background he was able to combine that knowledge with that of his law, and he soon enjoyed the reputation in southern California as the lawyer to seek in medical practice cases. "Eventually," adds Stumbo, "even settlements in the low six figures seldom interested him."

But, as the Broderick bankroll piled, the Broderick marriage began to dissolve. That Betty began to feel second place to his career might have been manageable to her, but she noticed that his interest in her waned. Once on a family vacation, a fight erupted when he spent more time in the hotel bar than with her and the children. Where most families' troubles might stem from a lack of money to live the life they want, in the Broderick's case many arguments generated from how to spend the money. Dan constantly berated Betty for her purchases of furniture and clothing, money that she claimed she had earned as a real estate agent. In turn, he never failed to drop an investment in property or on a wardrobe that he claimed he needed as a man of his profession.

A candid view of the state of their marriage at that time comes from two sources. One, the household maid, wrote home to her family that she did not like her employer, Dan Broderick. He is, she wrote, "cold and unfriendly," and intimidated his wife. The other, a neighbor, recalls how Betty would change character every afternoon as time came nearer for Dan's expected arrival home from the workday. "Betty...would stop laughing and panic and run around the house, picking up all the children's stuff because she said Dan hated to have it underfoot. When he was around, she was completely a different person...She seemed afraid of him."

As his business prospered, Dan sought ever-the-more to manifest his image. He exchanged his glasses for contact lenses, had his hair layered, and had a minor operation to change the shape of his nose. Betty's interests remained more at-home and on her children. She made sure they enrolled in the best of the town's many schools and took part in activities where they would acquaint others of their age in the neighborhood. She loved celebrations and holidays, and she threw herself into decorating their Coral Reef dining room in the personality of the event whether with balloons and bunting for birthdays or wreaths and garland for Christmas.

In her Lexxicon interview, a by-then embittered Betty states, "I was the perfect little Catholic schoolgirl...Marry the man of your dreams who will be a good provider for you and your many children. Be beautiful, have a beautiful home, beautiful children, be active in church and community, watch the kids grow, marry them off and be grandparents. I am not a scorekeeper everything we did we did as a couple. If we were poor, we were poor together. I viewed everything as 'us,' the good, the bad or the ugly. Dan never seemed to have that view. 'We' were poor, but 'he' was rich."

Dan's interest remained on his business and, yes, on getting wealthy.

And, by 1983, he found something else to add to his riches.

He wanted Linda, too.

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