Marital Woes Recounted at Murder Trial : Courts: Betty Broderick describes collapse of relationship and bitter divorce from prominent attorney. She is charged with murder of ex-husband and his second wife.


Testifying tearfully in her own defense, La Jolla socialite turned murder defendant Elisabeth Anne (Betty) Broderick told her life story Tuesday, portraying herself as a wife and mother scorned by a husband who jilted her after 16 years of marriage for a younger woman.

Recounting the events of her bitter divorce from attorney Daniel T. Broderick III--whom she is accused of shooting to death, along with his bride--Betty Broderick said he walked out on her and began a legal campaign during which he secured custody of their children and manipulated her finances, leaving her emotionally and financially deprived.

In addition, Betty Broderick said, her husband called her names--”old, fat, ugly, boring and stupid”--after beginning an affair and suggested that she was crazy for thinking he was cheating on her.


Months later, he admitted she was right to suspect him, but maintained that she was mentally ill, the defendant said.

Betty Broderick said the name-calling, the repeated suggestions and dozens of other indignities and insults led her to an unsuccessful suicide attempt.

The day’s testimony concluded before she could talk about what led her to sneak into her ex-husband’s suburban Marston Hills home last Nov. 5 and kill him and Linda Kolkena Broderick, his new wife, the woman with whom he had begun the affair six years before. Daniel Broderick, 44, was a prominent medical malpractice attorney and a former president of the San Diego County Bar Assn. Linda Kolkena Broderick, 28, was his office assistant.

When the trial began last week, defense lawyer Earley conceded that Betty Broderick fired the fatal shots, but said she did not have the premeditation the law requires for first-degree murder because she intended only to kill herself when she crept into the couple’s home.

Interest Tuesday in the case was extraordinary. One San Diego television station, KNSD (Channel 39), asked for permission to broadcast the trial live, but San Diego Superior Court Judge Thomas Whelan declined, a station spokesman said.

Daniel Broderick’s brother from suburban Denver and two of his sisters, from Pittsburgh and suburban Seattle, attended. So did one of Betty Broderick’s brothers, who flew in from Tennessee.


At a morning recess, 43 people were waiting in line for about 20 open seats.

Emotions also ran high. Kim Broderick, Betty Broderick’s oldest daughter, who testified last week against her mother, burst into tears after one of the morning sessions.

Betty Broderick’s testimony was punctuated by frequent sobs.

She said her ex-husband--consistently using the present tense--”loves clothes” and “looks very good in clothes.” She said she often called him “Dapper Dan” and then she burst into tears.

She cried, too, when she said, “Dan’s opinion of me was really all I cared about. I didn’t care what anybody else thought.”

Betty Broderick said she and Daniel Broderick were married in 1969, when he was a medical student. Instead of becoming a doctor, he decided to go to law school, she said.

The couple--and, by then, their two daughters--moved to San Diego and Daniel Broderick began practicing law, she said.

In 1978, Daniel Broderick decided to strike out on his own, leaving the law firm where he had worked for five years, Betty Broderick said. As it had been while they struggled through medical school and law school, there was little money, so she not only took care of the children but worked full time.


At a marriage counseling session about that time, Daniel Broderick “apologized profusely and said he wasn’t the kind of husband or father he wanted to be or I should have,” Betty Broderick said. “He said he wanted to be a very important man, a very prominent man, a very rich man. He needed to concentrate on those goals.

“We were almost there. If I would just give him more time, it really was for the children and me that he was doing all of it,” she said.

By 1982, Daniel Broderick’s law practice was blossoming and, for the first time, the family--now with four children, two girls and two boys--had plenty of money, Betty Broderick said.

The next year, he hired Linda Kolkena as an office assistant, he said. Soon afterward, she said, he began telling his wife she was “old, fat, ugly, boring and stupid” and saying he “just wasn’t having any fun in life anymore.”

Betty Broderick said she was crushed. She said she let her hair grow, fixed her teeth and “tried to be perfect, absolutely perfect for Dan Broderick.”

He denied the affair, she said.

In November, 1983, on her 36th birthday, Betty Broderick said, she slit her wrists and “swallowed every pill I could find in the house.”


Defense lawyer Jack Earley said he expects to ask his client about the killings when she resumes the stand today. If convicted, Betty Broderick, 42, could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.