San Diego Killings Make Bitter Divorce Final

Times Staff Writers

Two months ago, a frightened Linda Broderick confided to a friend that a bad situation was growing worse.

The second wife of well-known attorney and doctor Daniel T. Broderick III, Linda had become accustomed to the constant, intrusive role Elisabeth Broderick, Daniel’s first wife, played in her life. But now, she said, she was scared to death.

“Books were disappearing from Linda’s bedside stand, right next to the bed,” said Marshall Hockett, a lawyer and friend of the newlyweds. “She indicated to me they were surprised by the ex-wife in the house one night. It scared the hell out of her, and she asked me to speak to Dan about it. I didn’t, which I’ll probably regret for the rest of my life.”


Early Sunday morning, Daniel and Linda Broderick were shot to death while they slept together in the upstairs master bedroom of their large, Colonial-style home in Hillcrest.

This afternoon, Elisabeth Broderick is scheduled to be arraigned on two counts of murder.

Police Lt. Gary Learn said Monday that Linda Broderick, 28, was shot twice, in the back of the head and the chest. She was found lying on her stomach in the bed, dressed in her pajamas.

Learn said that Daniel Broderick, 44, sleeping in his boxer shorts, was shot once in the back. His body was found lying on the floor, and the lieutenant said it was possible that the force of the blast knocked his body off the bed.

Police said the shootings apparently occurred about 5:30 a.m. Sunday. There was no sign of forced entry, and police confirmed that Elisabeth often entered the house unannounced, sometimes to visit two of her four children still being raised by Daniel.

“She entered the bedroom,” Learn speculated. “She was in a position in the room where she fired these shots, just standing adjacent to the bed and shooting over it. Now, as to the movements and who was shot first, we don’t know yet. We may never know.”

He said that, besides the three shots that struck the couple, two more shots were fired, one hitting a bedside table and the other pounding into a wall beside the bed.

Later in the day, before Elisabeth Broderick surrendered to police, authorities found her car in Pacific Beach. Inside, they found an empty .38-caliber, five-shot revolver, Learn said. He added that additional evidence was found at the suspect’s condominium in La Jolla, but he declined to elaborate.

Monday night, Elisabeth Broderick was being held in the County Jail at Las Colinas. Her attorney, Ronald Frant, declined to comment on the case, but said, “She is OK, and she surrendered yesterday without any incident, voluntarily. She was cooperative, but she made no statements to law enforcement.”

Those who knew Daniel and Elisabeth Broderick and were familiar with the hurt caused by their protracted divorce case indicated that it was often feared that their differences would end as Daniel Broderick had once predicted: “It’s not going to end until one of us is gone.”

“This is not something that apparently happened overnight,” said Robert W. Harrison, a defense attorney who knew all three of the Brodericks.

“He was nothing but a shining star through and through, but in his world there was something that he did not have control over. It was like a specter hanging over him.

Friends of Elisabeth Broderick described her as a woman scorned. After 16 years of marriage to Daniel Broderick, a pillar in the San Diego’s legal and social community, she felt suddenly cast aside when their marriage unraveled. Raised in an affluent Catholic family in Connecticut, Elisabeth, 41, suddenly worried that she would no longer fit into what one friend called “the prim and proper Junior League type.”

Further frustrating to Elisabeth was the fact that her ex-husband, through his command of the law and influence in local legal circles, was able to obtain custody of their four children and court orders sealing their divorce records.

Two friends, one close to Elisabeth, the other close to Daniel, said that Elisabeth had most recently been upset about not being able to see the two younger children on Halloween night.

According to police and family acquaintances, the two preteen sons who were being raised by Daniel Broderick are now being cared for by close family friends, and two college-age daughters reportedly live away from San Diego.

Friends of Daniel and Linda Broderick said their new life together was tormented by Elisabeth. They said that Daniel and Linda began a courtship only after Daniel and Elisabeth separated. Still, the friends said, Elisabeth continued to harass them, even as his career as a leading medical malpractice attorney grew.

They recalled how she drove her car into his living-room window, how she told friends she was taking target practice with a handgun. The friends said that, before Daniel and Linda Broderick were married, Elisabeth stole their wedding guest list. And they said she was a familiar face at the courthouse, where she allegedly would deface the divorce court records wherever Linda’s name appeared.

Although the divorce case is closed to the public, the bitterness it engendered made headlines in an article in January in the Reader, a weekly newspaper.

According to that article, Elisabeth sought more than $250,000 a year in alimony and child support payments from her ex-husband, who she said earned more than $1 million a year.

In an interview with The Times on Monday, Gerald L. Barry Jr., who represented Daniel Broderick in the divorce, said that Elisabeth eventually was awarded $16,000 a month.

The divorce went to trial in December, 1988, four years after the case was first filed. In the midst of the legal proceedings, Daniel Broderick also obtained protective orders aimed at keeping Elisabeth away from his new family. According to the Reader, Elisabeth Broderick ignored some of those orders and was jailed for several days and fined thousands of dollars.

Those who know Elisabeth said she remained bitter toward her ex-husband. One neighbor of Elisabeth and Daniel Broderick when they lived in La Jolla said local housewives were sympathetic to Elisabeth because it appeared she had been dumped for a younger woman.

“It destroyed her,” said the friend, who asked not to be identified.

Whereas once Elisabeth was a common fixture in La Jolla, driving her kids in the family van with the LODEMUP license plates, she felt like an outcast.

“She gained a lot of weight,” the friend said. “She used to be so gorgeous, always slim. That was the main thing. And, in La Jolla, it’s not a pretty picture to be a divorced wife. You don’t have any status. There’s no place for you.”

Marilyn L. Huff, an attorney, described Elisabeth this way: “A very bright, intelligent person who felt considerable hurt and betrayal by the second marriage and, before that, by Dan’s losing interest in her and gaining interest in another woman.

“Some people are able to move on in life and take a constructive attitude. Some people are not. She was in the second group.”

Ed Whitney, an insurance agent who served with Elisabeth on the court-watching group, Help Abolish Legal Tyranny, remembered how she stood before their group six or eight months ago and described in detail how she felt Daniel Broderick had used his legal influence in the court system to beat her in the divorce.

“She mentioned the original court date,” Whitney said. “That Dan showed up in court, and that the judge said, ‘Good morning, Mr. Broderick. To what do we owe this honor?’ ”

Daniel Broderick’s legal background was indeed impressive. With an undergraduate degree at Notre Dame, he went on to graduate from the Cornell University Medical College and to earn a law degree from Harvard University.

Admitted to the State Bar of California in 1973, he became an expert in medical malpractice cases. He represented the families of National Steel & Shipbuilding workers killed and injured in a highly publicized crane accident. He represented the late Monte Kobey after the swap meet czar contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion. And he won a $1.25-million jury award this year for a girl who was sexually molested by her father.

He also served in 1987 as president of the San Diego County Bar Assn.

Even as he grew more prominent, however, his colleagues and friends realized that his former marriage was “something that did not get better,” said Harrison, the fellow attorney.

And yet, according to Barry, his former lawyer, Daniel Broderick decided “he couldn’t live life looking over his shoulder constantly. He had to look forward. It would have paralyzed him.”

Laurel Summers, a paralegal who had worked with Broderick, said, “Dan’s major feeling about (Elisabeth) was that, if he acted in a rational, kind manner that she would come around and be that kind of person, too.”

Ned Huntington, another attorney and close friend, agreed.

“He recognized she was the mother of his children and really didn’t take the strong measures he could have taken,” he said. “It had gone on so long that Dan just adjusted to her craziness.”