Broderick Knew Life in Danger, Records Show


Three years before his death, Daniel T. Broderick III wrote to his ex-wife, warning her not to kill him.

“I know your first impulse upon reading this letter will be a violent one,” he told Elisabeth (Betty) Broderick in a letter detailing deductions from her monthly spousal support check.

“You have told the kids that, if I withhold any money this month, you will kill me and see that not a brick is left standing in my house.


“You better think twice about that. If you make any attack on me or my property, you will never again get a red cent out of me without a court order. You better take a minute to think about the implications of that before you go on a rampage.”

That letter, and hundreds of pages of other court records, declarations and financial sheets obtained by The Times, chronicle in exhaustive detail how the Brodericks’ marriage, built on affluence and social standing, unraveled in a long and bitter fight over money, respect and the custody of their four children.

Dan Broderick, an influential attorney and doctor who once headed the San Diego County Bar Assn., was shot to death two Sundays ago in the upstairs bedroom of his stately Hillcrest home. He was killed in his sleep, found dead alongside his new wife, Linda.

Betty Broderick is in the Las Colinas jail, locked up on two murder charges in what police say was a years-long campaign of harassment that she waged against Dan and Linda, culminating in the early-morning slayings Nov. 5.

Left behind is her ex-husband’s letter from three years ago, dated Halloween, 1986. Dan Broderick kept an unsigned copy of the missive, and later attached it to legal papers filed with his divorce case.

The letter now is defaced, reportedly by Betty Broderick herself when she thumbed through the records one day at the clerk’s office.

Where Dan Broderick indicated in his letter that his warning should be taken seriously, written in the margin is: “reason he writes them.” In another margin is written: “lies.” The words “violent one” are underlined. And under the unsigned salutation, dubbed in is the word GOD.

Other documents suggest that Dan Broderick felt helpless to stop the harassment, even after the divorce was finalized in 1986 and he married Linda Kolkena, his legal assistant, last April.

He said in one court declaration that the divorce was causing such problems that his children had begun seeing a child psychologist, Dr. Stephen Sparta.

He said Sparta recommended that he curtail his children’s contacts with their mother because “her conduct was becoming even more destructive and was likely to cause them severe, permanent emotional damage.”

Because of these concerns, Dan Broderick said, he eventually won full custody of the children. Still, he said, she twice told their two young sons to “sneak away when the housekeeper wasn’t looking and meet her up the street so she could take them to her house.”

He obtained a court order preventing her from coming within 100 yards of his residence. Then, he said, “She began to visit the property and enter the house at whim when I wasn’t home.”

In a second declaration, dated February, 1986, Dan Broderick said he could not keep his ex-wife out of the home. Or even out of his bedroom.

He described one incident in June, 1985:

“Elisabeth smashed the telephone answering machine in my bedroom, broke a large mirrored closet door in my bedroom, smashed a hole in my bedroom wall and spray-painted the walls of my bedroom and bathroom, the walls of the family room, the curtains in the family room and the brick fireplace, with black Rustoleum paint.

“The children were home when this occurred.”

He described another incident in October of that year:

“Elisabeth took a Boston cream pie from the kitchen and smeared it over the bedspread on my bed, the carpet in my bedroom, the mirror in my bathroom and 10 or 12 sweaters and shirts from my dresser.

“The children were home when this occurred.”

Four days later:

“Elisabeth went into the house, threw bottles of wine through two large windows, smashed a sliding glass door, upended a television set, broke the plexiglass cover on the stereo, smashed two lamps (gouging the adjacent wall in the process) and pulled a closet door off its track, damaging the frame.

“The children and I came home from the store to find this devastation.”

And more, he said:

In November, 1985, she swung an umbrella through a large picture window, smashed a new toaster and damaged a cable TV control box.

In December, 1985, she tore the wrapping paper off Christmas presents he had purchased for the children, broke a mirror, gouged a wall and “slammed the front door open with such force that it pulled loose from its hinges and the doorknob punched a hole two inches in diameter in the wall.”

And she drove her car into his house.

“My daughters Kim and Lee and I were in the kitchen fixing dinner when we heard a loud crash, almost like an explosion, and a racing engine at the front of the house,” Dan Broderick said in a December, 1986, court declaration.

“We ran to the front door to see what it was and found that Elisabeth had crashed her Chevrolet Suburban into the house, knocking the front door off its hinges and out of the frame and causing extensive damage to the brickwork on the outside and to walls on the inside of the entry.

“I ran out of the house to try to see what was happening.”

He said Elisabeth slipped the vehicle into reverse and then tried to ram the house a second time.

“I opened the door to try to pull her out,” Dan Broderick said. “As I did so, she reached for a large butcher knife under the seat.”

He said he restrained her until police arrived and she was taken to the county mental health hospital in Hillcrest. He said he looked through the vehicle and found a receipt for the knife and a gas can. He then drove to her La Jolla home on Coral Reef Avenue.

“I found that the chandelier in the front hallway had been smashed, and one of the sliding glass doors at the back of the house had been shattered,” he said in the declaration.

“There was a very strong odor of gasoline, particularly on the stairway from the first floor to the second. There was a large burned area in the carpet on one of the stairs and several spent matches strewn about.”

Betty Broderick conceded to the court that she was responsible for some of this damage and destruction, including ramming her van into his house. But she felt fully justified in her anger toward her ex-husband since, in her eyes, he ignored her problems.

“In a state of fear, I tried to talk to Dan about what was happening,” she said in a December, 1986, court declaration. She had found out that day that Dan used a legal maneuver to sell her house without her permission.

“He refused to talk with me, slammed the door in my face and ordered me off his property. I was panic-stricken, and desperate to get his attention, so I drove my vehicle, a Chevy Blazer, through his front door.”

In a second declaration, dated January, 1987, she said that, although once she had worked hard to sustain their “married life style,” Dan Broderick was willing to toss it aside in favor of a younger woman.

“It is important to note here that, in the early years of our marriage, while Dan was still a student, I was the major earner,” she said.

“Despite the fact that I was pregnant nine times in 10 years and had five children (one died), I baby-sat other people’s children at our home during the day, and went out to work nights in department stores and restaurants as a salesperson and a waitress so that my husband could study during the evenings at home.”

She said they moved 12 times in the first seven years of their marriage, “in order for Dan to have summer jobs while completing his studies.”

Eventually, she said, they moved to the Coral Reef home, with five bedrooms, three bathrooms, three garages and two family rooms, a large yard, a pool, Jacuzzi, swings and a trampoline. They also had five vehicles, she said, “an MG, a Gazelle, a Corvette, a Jaguar, and a Suburban for me and the kids.”

“We traveled to Europe once a year, took frequent ski trips, cruises, island trips, and often paid the expenses of couples traveling with us, always first class,” she said.

“There were unlimited funds for trips with the kids, summer camps, etc. I entertained frequently and extravagantly, including two to three large parties (200 or more) per year, and had people in for dinner at least once each week.”

This idyllic life was shattered, however, when Dan Broderick “became entangled with his office help,” she said, a reference to Linda Kolkena, who was working as Dan Broderick’s assistant.

“Daniel’s life was professionally, socially and emotionally stable when he saw fit to dump his wife and children in 1985,” Betty Broderick said in the declaration. “He did this in his own time on his own terms.”

She said she asked him to either “get rid of her or to get out.” He refused, she said, and “Dan transformed himself from a husband to a lawyer plotting strategy in his case.”

She said Dan Broderick adopted a plan of using all his immense legal knowledge against her and adopted a legal philosophy of not “negotiating with anyone until you’re sitting on his chest.”

She said he “never once” acknowledged having a romantic affair with Linda.

“In fact,” she said, “he engaged in moment-to-moment blatant lies. He resorted to the most unconscionable words and actions--accusing me of being old, fat, boring, ugly, crazy, stupid, etc.”

He canceled their annual Christmas party, was gone a lot from their home, and started working every Sunday, she said.

“Dan is very convincing and very credible, very cool and very calculating,” she said.

“I had always trusted and believed him. He continually stated that he had no intention of leaving his family, and when confronted with hard evidence of his many indiscretions (too disgusting and too embarrassing to even mention here), he swore to me, eyeball to eyeball, that he had never slept with anyone.”

Betty Broderick said she still tried to make a go of the marriage.

“Being the Catholic that I am, dedicated to my family, divorce was never an alternative,” she said. “You vowed your lives to one another, and this was just another ‘valley’ of our lives.”

She tried to confront Dan Broderick with her allegations of infidelity, but he refused to talk to her and threatened to call the police, she said. “I felt absolutely desperate,” she said. “There was no one to help me.”

In the December, 1986, court declaration, she described the sharp differences in their life styles.

“The home I now have is small, with no family room or sufficient bedrooms for our children,” she said. “I have no money to paint, decorate or furnish my home.

“Dan, on the other hand, has remodeled his (new) home sparing no expense. He has added a pool, tennis court and huge gates.”

Her feelings of loneliness and despair were backed up in a February, 1987, Superior Court hearing in which her attorney, Tricia A. Smith, noted that Dan Broderick was spending more of his money on his girlfriend, Linda, than his ex-wife, Betty.

“He and his girlfriend went to Europe for three weeks, spent thousands and thousands of dollars on the trip, which he should,” Smith said. “I mean, that’s normal in his financial situation. He should do that kind of thing.

“But a wife of 17 years should not be left without a certain standard of living.”

Noting that Betty Broderick had helped put Dan through Harvard Law School and Cornell University Medical College, Smith said Betty “was part of the foundation of this man’s starting out.”

“She was the one that kept all the home fires burning so he could be the workaholic that he turned out to be,” Smith said.

The lawyer conceded that both husband and wife did well financially through Dan Broderick’s huge success as a medical malpractice attorney. She pointed out that Betty Broderick had $2,000 dresses and ball gowns that cost $8,000.

But, the lawyer said, Dan Broderick suddenly turned against his wife, withheld money, and left her unable to continue the life of social standing she was accustomed to from her early days in fashionable Bronxville, N.Y.

That, she said, is “the very powerful and dictatorial man that he is.”

Broderick FINANCES: Financial papers document the role that dividing up the money played in splitting up Daniel and Elisabeth Broderick. B1