Originally published August 29, 2013
Elizabeth Anne “Betty” Broderick made headlines when she shot and killed her ex-husband, high-powered attorney Dan Broderick, and his second wife, Linda (formerly Linda Kolkena) on November 5, 1989. The case attracted widespread attention as many people saw Betty as an older woman who had been callously discarded for a younger woman. Betty had worked for years so her husband could attend law school. After years as a fulltime homemaker, she lost custody of her children. Her attorneys argued that Dan and Linda had deliberately mistreated and goaded Betty. They also said the killing had not been pre-meditated but the impulsive result of Betty’s fear and turmoil. Nevertheless, a jury convicted her of two counts of second-degree murder. She has been repeatedly denied parole and is still imprisoned as of this writing.
When I wrote to her, I stated, “Many people sympathize with you because your case seems emblematic of a common and painful situation: a husband leaving a good wife who has been with him since his youth for a younger woman.”
Betty wrote back to me. In the envelope, she included my original letter to her. She underlined the part of the above statement about a husband leaving a good wife for a younger woman, penned an asterisk close to it, and wrote “not the basis of my case.”
In Betty’s letter, she thanked me for writing to her. Since I had mentioned in my letter that I am handicapped, she said she was sorry that I am disabled but added that I
seem to “have made the best” of my situation and noted that making the best of whatever situation we are in is “all we can do in life.”
She then wrote, “I need stamps!” She said she had many letters to which she wanted to reply and badly needed stamps for them. I have long known that inmates often crave stamps.
Betty elaborated on the point she made when she penned on my letter that Dan’s leaving Betty for a younger woman was not the basis of her case. She asserted, “My case was about custody of the kids – not about his mid-life affair.” She continued that his “abuse of power” to take the kids and deprive her of assets she considered rightfully hers was the basis of the bitterness that ended with two people dead and a third imprisoned. Betty wrote, “He was a total bastard who abused his power in the courts to take house, kids and all the assets after a 20 yr. marriage. Everything he did was so uncalled for!!” She also complained, “He said, ‘the law says you own it but it doesn’t say I have to give it to you . . . try and get it!!”
She ended the letter stating that she hoped “good people” help me cope with my handicap and added she was “jealous” I have a computer.
The next letter I received from Betty was dated early in January 2013. She began by stating that she “didn’t deserve the lovely Christmas card” I had sent her since she had not gotten around to replying to my most recent letter by that time. She also mentioned that although I sent the card on December 19, 2012, Betty did not receive it until January 5, 2013.
Betty continued that she was “off track” because she had been crying for “an entire month” because her “dear brother” was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often called Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Her brother had been healthy most of his life so it shocked his family when, at 66, he was found to have this illness.
In a letter I sent Betty before Thanksgiving, I included a season-themed essay I had written entitled “Behold, the Terrific Turkey.” She told me in her second letter that she sent that essay to her son Danny who “dressed as a turkey and ran in a marathon in San Diego called ‘The Turkey Test’ at Thanksgiving.”
She went on to write that she is relieved the holidays are over. She writes, “I hate all the emotions of missing my children and the happy lives we once had 30 years ago before Linda invaded our marriage/family.”
Then Betty wrote about her profoundly mixed feelings at the birth of a grandchild. She drew a happy face about the event and a sad face because she does not want to meet her granddaughter in prison. Betty writes, “I should be out!”
I had sent Betty stamps and she thanked me for that. She also asked a series of questions about how I spend my time. She stated that “answering mail” takes up most of hers but she tries to do other activities as well.
Her letter ends on a note of sadness because she cannot help her brother.
Although Betty killed Dan and Linda over two decades ago, she continues to write about them with anger and bitterness. Parole boards have cited that anger as a reason for her continuing imprisonment. It is truly sad that she cannot let go of the fury that put her in prison and keeps her away from those she dearly loves.