Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

No Boundaries

Betty encountered closed gates when trying to obtain legal help in San Diego, mainly because most of the town's best divorce and property lawyers were also Dan's best friends and Dan's political influences had spread so far that he had been named president of the San Diego County chapter of the American Bar Association. Her first choice for counsel had been a mutual friend named Thomas Ashworth, but he politely refused her case explaining that he had been appointed judge and was not accepting any new cases. However, not long after that, she encountered Ashworth again this time while he represented Dan in the early stages of the divorce proceedings. She was literally forced to turn to Los Angeles to find a lawyer who dared represent her. She found one in Beverly Hills by the name of Daniel Jaffe, considered a top-ranker.

Jaffe had his hands full with Betty almost from the beginning. Her acts of vandalism on her husband's premises would seriously harm her chances for a fair trial, he warned. She continued to vandalize the Coral Reef home, however, as well as verbally assault Dan in front of tearful kids and astounded neighbors whenever he dropped the children off at her house for agreed-upon visitations. Despite Jaffe's pleas to stop, Betty time and time again snubbed her nose at the restraining order. Once, when she learned Dan had taken Linda away for a weekend trip, she entered his house and smashed a window with a bottle.

Dan retaliated harder this time. According to author Stumbo, "His weapon of choice was a judicial order called an Order to Show Cause, or OSC, in legal shorthand. In the next year he used it repeatedly to haul Betty before a judge to explain why she should not be held in contempt of court for violating the restraining order...The first OSC cited the Boston cream pie mess and the broken windows. In time, the list of OSCs would expand to include a tossed toaster, a smashed stereo switch, a broken bedroom mirror, more windows and countless other similar offenses against his property. No incident was too small to escape him."

He detailed every item and years later in divorce court was able to recite the agenda of transgressions like a student naming the events that led to the American Civil War. "You pounded a hole with a hammer into the wall. You broke the answering machine with the hammer. On another occasion, you broke the sliding glass doors. You spray-painted the wallpaper in several rooms, including the fireplace. You broke the television..." The list went on.

And attorney Jaffe was beside himself. "If you can live within the guidelines, I will continue to represent you," he communicated to Betty, "But I want to spend my time on finding what happened to the Broderick monies and getting you some of them, rather than spending my time keeping you out of jail."

Betty spent Christmas 1985 by herself. Linda and Dan had taken the children on a winter's vacation and she sat feeling unloved, useless, discarded in the gloom of loneliness. Outside her house, carolers sang of merry tidings, but inside, around her, Betty's walls closed in to suffocate. She couldn't stand another minute of being smothered so, to hell with them all anyway, broke into the Coral Reef house once again ripping open every gift-wrapped box marked "To Linda" that lay under Dan's expensive Christmas tree. Tossing the presents willy-nilly throughout the living room, she then left a Christmas greeting that Dan would be sure to recognize: She thrust a blunt object through the room's mirror. And left.

Good will to men was not on her mind that Christmas evening.

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