Read an Excerpt
Hell Hath No Fury
By Bryna Taubman
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1992 Bryna Taubman
All rights reserved.
Shots in the Dark
About five a.m. on November 5, 1989, a white Chevrolet Suburban van turned onto the empty street and stopped at the two-story brick house near the end of Cypress Avenue. The curved driveway passed in front of the four white columns that rose to the overhanging roof; the two in the center framed the pediment-topped front door. White shutters decorated the second-story windows, and two wings covered in white clapboard grew from the central structure. The Georgian-style mansion seemed out of place next to the more traditionally California outlines of its tile-roofed neighbors in the tiny enclave of wealth known as Marston Hills.
But that seemed to be the point for the house's owner, Daniel T. Broderick III, a medical malpractice attorney and a major figure in San Diego legal circles. A dashing dresser who wore only custom-tailored suits and had a top hat and cape for more formal occasions, he identified with the mansion's Southern plantation aura of red brick, double chimneys, and columns. The big house represented success to Broderick, at least as he had defined it years earlier — "mansions, cars, and boats" — to his first wife.
Elisabeth Anne Broderick, known as Betty to her friends, emerged from the Suburban dressed in casual clothes and a diamond necklace and earrings. She walked to the front door. A tall, slightly overweight woman with a puffy face, she wore her blond hair pulled back into a ponytail. She peered through the door's glass side panels to the dark interior. She looked like a suburban matron, but her stealthy movements were those of a burglar, checking for signs of life inside the big house.
She clutched an almost comically large key in one hand and tried it in the lock. Her other hand hung down by her side, as if she were gripping something heavy. When the door wouldn't open, Betty turned to the back of the house. The back door was more cooperative, and she entered quietly. She was inside without a sound to break the stillness.
Upstairs in the master bedroom above the front door, no sense of impending violence disturbed the sleep of Dan Broderick and his bride of seven months, Linda Kolkena Broderick. They had spent Saturday on the water with friends, on Dan's powerboat. Fresh air and salt spray are terrific soporifics. He wore only undershorts in the cool San Diego night, but Linda was dressed more warmly in pajamas. He slept on the side of the double bed nearest the door that led to the stair landing. In the relatively small room, he was also closest to the wall.
The closed door of their bedroom faced Betty Broderick at the top of the stairs. Undaunted, she walked down the hall, going through the open doorway of another room closer to the back of the house. She knew the small TV room led to a bathroom adjoining the master bedroom. From that doorway she would be inside before Dan knew she was there. It was part of her plan that he have no warning of her presence.
Pushing on the door from the bathroom, Betty Broderick stepped into the bedroom. Drapes covered the window, keeping the brightness of the dawn out of the room. She could see only the vaguest shapes of furniture and people. Two years later she wept as she recounted the next few seconds of that morning:
"The door to their bedroom was partially open ... it wasn't closed ... like ajar ... the motion I made, although I don't think it was a big motion, the movement I made into their bedroom woke them up and they moved. Somebody screamed: 'Call the police!' and I said, 'No!' I just fired the gun and this big noise went off and then I grabbed the phone and got the hell out of there. But I wasn't in that room ... it was just an explosion. I moved, they moved, the gun went off it was like Aaahhh!!! ... it was that fast."
That fast and one explosion, set off by a slight movement, perhaps a scream. Betty Broderick is the only one left alive to tell the story. She remembers only one explosion, but the gun fired five times. Three of the hollow-point bullets hit the two people on the bed. The police found two more bullet holes, one in the wall beyond the bed and one embedded in a bedside table.
Betty Broderick insisted she didn't remember pulling the trigger five times or even aiming the revolver she was holding. The curtained room was dark, the furniture only "dim shapes," and she didn't recall seeing the pair on the bed, just what she described as "an impression" of someone on the mattress near the door as she entered the bedroom. Questioned about those seconds, Broderick explained she had visual memories, like slides, but some of them are blank:
"... I remember opening the door to the bedroom, so I see myself doing that, but then, I don't see anything else ... I know I grabbed the phone, but I don't remember leaving the house or running down the stairs or anything, so it's like there are these spots missing. It's like a flash of this and then she's over there and a flash of that ..."
Betty thought she remembered someone screaming, but could not be sure if it was Linda yelling "Call the police," or her own anguished howl. "I just went Aaagghhh!! I felt like I made a huge scream, but I don't know if I made any noise. It was just — just all sensation. I moved in and they moved ... then there was this huge explosion and scream and everything all at once."
Her next visual memory puts her on the other side of the bed, by Dan and the door that led to the stairs and the front door: "I'm grabbing the phone so he couldn't get on it. I tried to get out of the room, and it kind of jerked and I jerked it back and pulled it out of the wall, and I think I threw it on the top of the stairs."
Behind her, she left Linda Kolkena Broderick sprawled facedown across the double bed, twisted in the bloodstained sheets. One bullet hit the twenty-eight-year-old woman in the chest, a second in the head, killing her instantly. Dan Broderick lay on the floor next to the wall, half under the bed. He had a bullet wound in his upper back that penetrated his lung. Seventeen days before his forty-fifth birthday, he died a few minutes after he was shot, still trying to reach the nightstand phone that had been snatched from his grasp.
The prosecutor in California v. Broderick, Kerry Wells, described the deaths of Dan and Linda as "cold-blooded murder." A long-time deputy district attorney in San Diego County and head of the Domestic Violence Bureau, Wells acknowledged no rationalization or provocation for Betty Broderick's actions on that morning in early November, and the lawyer maintained a cold fury as she prosecuted the case for more than two years.
Broderick herself never denied firing the fatal shots, although she always insisted she did not remember pulling the trigger. She contended the emotional and psychological abuse that she endured during sixteen years of marriage and four years of divorce from Dan Broderick had turned her into "an electrified crazy person" and drove her to desperate, violent actions.
Betty's defense attorney, Jack Earley, argued that her crime was manslaughter, not murder; the distinction could mean the difference between life in prison without parole and a sentence of fifteen years. It was an improbable alternative for a woman who once thought her future included nothing more threatening than climbing the ladders of social success in the country clubs of La Jolla and the ballrooms of San Diego.CHAPTER 2
Unsure if she had hit anyone in the dark panic of Dan and Linda's bedroom, Betty Broderick ran down the stairs and out the front door in the silence that followed the gun blasts. She was convinced that Dan was even then calling the police to have her arrested, and, terror-stricken, she drove off as quickly as she could.
"I had nowhere to go," Broderick testified at her trials. "I was afraid that Dan was after me. I was afraid when I went into that house of confronting Dan, and then when I left I thought he was after me."
She said she did not remember driving away from the Broderick house in Marston Hills, nor could she recall how she came to be heading back toward her own home in La Jolla. The most obvious and easiest route for a driver as familiar with the area as Betty Broderick begins on the Cabrillo Freeway just a few blocks from Dan's house. That major San Diego highway connects to the Camino Del Rio which goes west and meets Interstate 5.
I–5 is also known as the San Diego Freeway, the coastal highway that runs south from Los Angeles and divides the older shore communities from the newer inland developments in the mountains to the east. It is the fastest route between Cypress Avenue in central San Diego and Betty's home near the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Somewhere along the way back home she became worried that the police would be looking for her at her house, frightening her two young sons.
That morning, Danny Jr., thirteen, and ten-year-old Rhett were asleep in her home on Calle del Cielo about ten miles away, but that was only temporary. After a long and nasty divorce in which Dan emerged victorious in every court action, he had full custody of the boys, and Betty complained bitterly and unendingly to everyone she knew, accusing him of stealing her children.
"I thought, 'Oh man, you can't go home,' because he's going to have called the police, and the police are going to be waiting at my house. I didn't want to scare the boys and everything. So I ended up at a phone booth in Clairemont," she recalled for the jury.
Apparently turning off the San Diego Freeway, she stopped at a gas station in the next community inland from La Jolla. She recalled making one call. "I only remember dialing," Betty said, "and calling and talking to Dian Black."
Black, another woman who had been through a bitter divorce, testified in court about a "rambling, disoriented" call from Betty, who seemed to be "in shock."
"I need help," were the first words Dian Black heard.
A short, attractive woman with shoulder-length dark hair, bangs, and glasses when she testified at the second trial, Dian had known Betty Broderick for about two years when the phone rang early that Sunday morning. They had become close friends over the shared experiences of their divorces, and had supported each other through several emotional crises. This would be something else.
"[She] sounded like she was crying," Black recalled. Broderick was also "rambling about something that just happened." The call became even more bizarre because Betty would "start talking really fast, then stop."
Her rambling sounded "incoherent" to Black. "She said she had just come from Dan and Linda's house. She said she fired a gun. It was dark and she didn't know whether she hit anybody ...
"The concept of her going over there and having committed anything over there, whether it was just to confront Dan, was so shocking to me, I didn't believe it. Confrontations I understood were in court."
Black wanted to know where Betty was calling from but her friend could provide only the vaguest clues to her whereabouts:
"She thought it was Clairemont. I asked specifically and she couldn't tell me. I asked her to look around and identify the building, the restaurants and gas stations. From the things she was describing, I could figure out where she was. She read me the phone number. I told her to stay put. I'd call back right away ... [she was] not to leave the phone until someone calls her."
At first Black thought Betty was having "a nervous breakdown," but she also feared the emotionally distraught woman might really have confronted Dan Broderick. Dian knew Betty's friend Brad Wright would be asleep at the house on Calle del Cielo in La Jolla with the Broderick boys. She called and told him about the unsettling phone call from Betty.
Betty herself was too nervous to wait alone at the gas station for Dian to call her back. Convinced that Dan had reached the police, and aware that the distinctive LODEMUP vanity plates on the Suburban made her easy to find, she called her younger daughter.
Estranged from her father when she dropped out of high school and briefly coped with a drug problem, the eighteen-year-old Lee lived in Pacific Beach with her boyfriend, Jason Prantil. It was shortly after seven in the morning when the phone rang in the small apartment that the young couple shared on Sapphire Street.
In emotionally wrenching testimony, Lee recalled that early Sunday morning conversation with her mother for jurors at both trials:
"She said she was in trouble and needed my help ... She told me she shot my dad; she shot the son of a bitch and wanted to come to my house."
Betty testified that she hadn't wanted to involve Lee in her troubles, but "Dan didn't know where Lee lived ... so if he was sending the cops to get me, he couldn't send them to Lee's house because he didn't know where Lee lived. Nobody knew where Lee lived, except me."
The rest of that call Lee remembered as being "pretty hysterical." Her mother talked about taking her own life, the teenager said, but "there weren't any bullets in her gun." Betty recalled telling her daughter that she would be right over, but she had added, "If I don't arrive, honey, it's because the police got me."
When her mother hung up, Lee tried to call her father at home, she said, but "I picked up the phone to call and remembered I don't know the number there. My dad had a separate line in his room and his office ... and I was not allowed to know the number."
Unable to reach her father, the young woman waited with Jason for Betty to arrive. When she walked in, Lee was shocked at her mother's condition.
"Her voice was trembling," Lee testified. "She was talking very fast, walking around the room, and she wouldn't sit still ... She told me that she thought she shot Dad, but didn't know because it was dark and the drapes were drawn. She wasn't sure."
Uncertain whether to believe her mother or not, Lee asked if anyone was hurt, if there had been any blood or screams. She remembered her mother saying that "she didn't think she had hurt my dad because he sat up and said, 'Okay, you shot me. I'm dead.'" Then, Lee recalled, Betty said she pulled the phone from the wall and ran away.
"She said she couldn't go on like this anymore," Lee testified.
Jason Prantil also remembered a woman who was clearly distraught that November morning.
"She wasn't making a lot of sense," he told the jury. "She looked like she had been up for a couple days. She looked like she was sick, like she was panic-stricken."
Betty insisted that Dan had called the police and that they would be looking for her car. She wanted Lee and Jason to drive her to the police station so she could surrender. Trying to calm her nearly frantic mother, Lee made a cup of tea for Betty, who took one sip and ran retching to the bathroom.
In fact, the police were just then getting to the house on Cypress Avenue. When Dian Black called Brad Wright, he wasn't sure what to do. He considered calling the police himself but was worried about the young Broderick boys. Instead, Wright called Brian Forbes, a lawyer who was a good friend of Dan's and who lived close to Betty in La Jolla.
Forbes and his wife Gail were having coffee when Wright called about seven that morning. Explaining that Betty had called Dian and that the story was secondhand, Wright was still anxious, and suggested that he and Brian drive into San Diego to check on Dan and Linda.
While Gail Forbes went to stay with the Broderick boys, Forbes dialed the house in Marston Hills. When no one answered, he called both an ambulance and the police, but, he told the jury, "They didn't believe me."
Wright drove to Cypress Avenue with Brian, giving him directions to the nearly inaccessible blocks of large homes tucked into a corner overlooking Balboa Park. They found the front and back doors of the Broderick house locked. Forbes, an athletically built man in his thirties, noticed an open window, and after tearing through the screen, climbed over the washer and dryer into the laundry room.
Concerned he would be mistaken for an intruder, Brian yelled a warning to Dan and Linda. There was no response, and he ran up the stairs "two at a time as fast as I could." He found the door to the bedroom open and a gruesome scene in front of him.
"I felt Dan's throat for a pulse ... he was cold," Forbes remembered. "I felt a presence behind me. Brad said, 'They're both dead.'" The lawyer testified that he also remembered seeing what he described as "a pool of vomit [that] looked like cookies-and-cream ice cream."
Excerpted from Hell Hath No Fury by Bryna Taubman. Copyright © 1992 Bryna Taubman. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.