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Broderick Tells How Marriage Fell Apart : Murder trial: San Diego socialite takes witness stand, describes insults by husband she is accused of slaying.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Testifying tearfully in her own defense, La Jolla socialite 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, 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, Daniel Broderick called her names--"old, fat, ugly, boring and stupid"--after beginning an affair and suggested that his wife was crazy for thinking he was cheating on her. Months later, he admitted she was right to suspect him but still maintained she was mentally ill, she said.

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

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Betty Broderick did not, however, have the opportunity Tuesday to explain the violence at the center of her double-murder trial. The day concluded before she could testify about what led her last Nov. 5 to sneak into her ex-husband’s Marston Hills home and kill him and Linda Kolkena Broderick, his new wife, the woman with whom he had begun the affair six years before.

Betty Broderick’s testimony is due to continue today. Defense lawyer Jack Earley said he expects to ask her today about the killings.

If convicted, Broderick, 42, could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. She has pleaded not guilty and is being held in the Las Colinas Jail in Santee.

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.

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When the trial began last week, defense lawyer Earley conceded that Betty Broderick fired the shots that killed her ex-husband and his second wife. But, according to Earley, 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 to grant permission for extended live coverage, a reporter for the station 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 the morning recess, 43 people were waiting in line at a courtroom with 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.

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And Betty Broderick’s testimony was punctuated by frequent sobs.

She said her ex-husband--using the present tense, with which she consistently referred to him or his activities--"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 gaining practical experience as a doctor, he decided to go to law school, she said.

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The young couple--and, by then, their two daughters--moved to San Diego, and Daniel Broderick began the practice of 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 night.

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,” she said. “He needed to concentrate on those goals.

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“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.”

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, she 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.”

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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.”

She survived the suicide attempt. Two weeks later, she visited her husband’s office for his 39th birthday, discovered the remnants of a party and her husband’s picture on a wall in Linda’s office and was told the two of them had left.

She said she returned home and burned his clothes. When he returned home, again he told her he was not involved with Linda Kolkena, she said.

In February 1985, however, he moved out, she said. By then, she said, the family was living temporarily in a rental home where she had to cope with rats--a “horror show,” she said.

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From the day he moved out, Betty Broderick said, her husband refused to talk with her about the rats--or about anything. Never did they talk about alimony, child support or child custody, she said.

In October 1985, however, Daniel Broderick told his wife that she had “been right all along,” that he had been having an affair with Kolkena since 1983, Broderick testified.

By then, she had dropped all four children on his doorstep. “I wanted Dan to get involved in our family,” she said.

Eventually, as the divorce wound its way through the courts, he obtained sole custody of the children and she had no visitation rights, she said.

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He began the divorce proceedings, she said she learned later, by attempting--unsuccessfully--to serve her with legal papers in fall 1985 at a society luncheon.

The only communication Daniel Broderick had with his ex-wife was through lawyers, and she ended up with a “big stack” of letters, she said. She tried to complain to him that no lawyer in San Diego would take her case, but he refused to listen, she said.

Frustrated, in October 1985, she entered her ex-husband’s house and rubbed a cake made by Kolkena on his bed.

In February, 1986, he engineered the court-ordered sale of their house without obtaining her signature, a “totally unnecessary, brutal, ugly, bullying thing to do,” she said. She drove her car into the front door of Dan’s new home, for which he had her held at a county mental health facility for 72 hours, then had her billed for the stay, she said.

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“I was upset,” she said about ramming the door. “I’d never done anything like that in my life. I needed someone to listen to me.”

She added, “I had no one to talk to. I just wanted to talk to Dan.”

Instead, they saw each other in court. In 1986, the marriage was dissolved but without a court order on alimony or custody, she said.

During that year, Daniel Broderick decided when his ex-wife could see their children, she said. He paid her “sometimes considerable” voluntary support but subtracted sums when she left obscene messages on his answering machine, she said.

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One month, she owed him $1,300, he calculated. She said the messages were rooted in frustration at not being able to reach her children.

In December, 1986, a court ordered him to pay her $12,000 a month, she said. The amount was raised to $16,100.

Still, the legal battle was not over. In the first six months of 1987, according to defense lawyer Earley, there were 37 legal filings, notices or court hearings in the Broderick divorce case, more than one a week.


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