Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Snake Pit

"What followed for the next several years was a ceaseless, dizzying series of complex legal maneuverings and manipulations, many of which were overseen and directed by Dan's professional colleagues," says a report on Betty Broderick done by Lexxicon. "Twice, Betty was jailed for contempt...Finally, an eight-day divorce trial took place but in a sealed courtroom, at Dan's formal request and judge's orders. The Broderick marriage was officially dissolved in January, 1989."

The particulars of this scenario read like a hard-to-believe gothic novel where a na´ve woman is ruthlessly mistreated, encumbered and driven to a bedlam of instability by a one-sided law and a conceited, conniving villain who avails every puppet-string of that law. Dan Broderick, no doubt a brilliant lawyer, saw to it that all loopholes of a law his layman wife didn't understand were used in his behalf against her. Whenever she flipped out, he was there to hand her a shovel to let her dig her grave deeper.

Years later, Betty realized she had played right into his hands. "(He) was a professional arguer," she told Lexxicon. "He loved putting the other side down he loved winning and humiliating and torturing the other side even beyond winning. He was always proud of seeking punitive damages as a personal assault on the other side, not covered by insurance...I was just another victim of his."

Betty had indeed been Dan's victim, and because of her obsession with a man who no longer cared, she also victimized herself. Every time he made a move away from her, towards Linda, towards a distant life, she was right there behind him counter-attacking. And one didn't vex Dan Broderick, the sharpest lawyer in town.

By the mid-1980s, Dan was earning nearly $2 million a year and was considered by those in and outside of his profession as one of the men to watch in southern California. It wasn't strange to see him, often embracing Linda, engaged in one or another social activity in the photographic registers of the town's glittering who's who. In early 1986, not long after he came home to find that Betty had invaded his Christmas serenity, Dan decided to move into another house, to once and for all dump the old place in Coral Reef that reminded him of the days he had determined to forget those days when he was just a skinny nerd dependent on a working wife to put him through college. He relocated to old, baronial Balboa Park to a two-story pillared colonial mansion that he envisioned as his alone no longer his and Betty's and into which he poured money to redecorate to his taste, down to the door hinges.

And in the meantime he braced for repercussions from Betty.

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