Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Betty Broderick: Divorce... Desperation...Death


"I realize now that he was right when he said our battles would continue until one of us was dead."

Are these the words of a highway bandit referring to a prophesy of a pursuing lawman?
A mountain man speaking of a member of an ages-old feuding family?
Or a wise old Mafia godfather recalling the threats of a top FBI investigator?

None of the above. They come from a scorned wife whose husband seemed to be as bent on her destruction as she was determined to get him back from another woman who took him away.

Betty and husband Dan Broderick's war of divorce in the late 1980s is the epitome of the tragedies encountered when one spouse realizes suddenly that his or her happiness has ended while the other desperately clings on to keep the marriage alive, an untouched fairy tale despite reality. It is a landmark case wherein it thrust to the forefront of the American family landscape a stark realization that often in cases of divorce one of the parties usually the one who controls the money can win big while the other is lucky to be left with the clothes on their back unrumpled. More so, it raised to the attention of women's divorce-reform groups as well as men's a truism that the divorce laws that currently exist do not adequately protect everyone in every particular situation.

Betty Broderick, after a four-year uphill battle to keep her dignity (which she often failed to do) and her sanity (which she rarely failed to do), killed her ex-husband, who had been one of California's top attorneys, and had made their divorce a virtual hell of humiliation, jail sentences and disgrace. Dan Broderick knew the ropes, knew how to manipulate his selected team of divorce attorneys who would bow and jump and bark and reel to his every single finger-click until his wife was smashed.

Along with the ex, she also blew away the perennial "other woman" to leave the two lovers stiff in a mattress soaked with their own blood. She proved, unfortunately, that the gun click is stronger than the finger click of power.

Betty is definitely not a villainess, nor is she a heroine by any means. Some women's groups use her case as an example of how not to give oneself totally to a man. But, that's hindsight. The fact remains she did, and while she lived (what she mistakenly thought was) the life of an American woman and wife in the total American dream, there was a reality check waiting to dent the armor of her Prince Charming.

His armor, once scratched, would clank off piece by piece to reveal to her a man whom she never knew.

And Betty, once scratched, revealed to the jester knight the nakedness of a woman in insulted love.


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