Dirty John: The Shocking True Story of Divorce and Murder Behind Season 2

Stacey Nguyen

After a dark debut season on Bravo, Dirty John made its return on USA Network on Monday, this time adapting the true story of Dan and Betty Broderick's acrimonious marriage that ended in a double homicide. The installation of the anthology series stars Christian Slater and Amanda Peet as the ill-fated couple, whose crumbling relationship entailed marital secrets, bitter divorce proceedings, and countless capers before two deaths. Here is what you need to know about this whirlwind story.

Early Marriage

Betty and Dan were once a happy young couple, tying the knot in 1969. Working as a teacher, Betty paid the bills and raised their four children as he studied through Cornell Medical School and Harvard Law School. Dan eventually found work at a San Diego law firm and pursued a lucrative career in medical malpractice.

In 1983, he hired 22-year-old Linda Kolkena as his assistant. Betty became suspicious of an affair. Her husband firmly denied the accusations, calling her "crazy" as well as "old, fat, ugly, boring, and stupid." That year, Betty survived a suicide attempt. Shortly after, she discovered her husband's picture in Linda's office and went home and burned his clothes.

In a 1992 interview with Oprah Winfrey (watch below), Betty surmised that he was going through a mid-life crisis, getting a "red Corvette" and "leather jacket." In 1985, Dan moved out, getting his own house where his wife dropped their children one by one on his doorsteps, wanting Dan to get involved in their family.

The Divorce

After a 16-year marriage, the couple went their separate ways, but their breakup, as Oprah put it, was "vicious." The year he moved out, Dan served her with legal papers, and Betty was anxious that no one would represent her because her husband was well-connected among local lawyers. Frustrated, Betty once rubbed a cake made by Kolkena onto his bed. Dan later had a court-ordered sale of their house without her signature. When she confronted him, he had her held at a mental health facility - a stay for which she received the bill. During this time, Dan also received profane voice messages from his separated wife.

The messy divorce proceedings went on for years. Initially, Betty had representation but would argue her case herself after her lawyers ended their services. The marriage officially dissolved in 1986, but the former couple struggled to set alimony and child custody agreements. Dan filed contempts without planning to have his former wife sentenced, much to their judge's chagrin. Eventually, she received $16,000 a month (most of it went to taxes and house payments), and he would have sole custody of their children.

Related: Dirty John: The Real-Life Betty Broderick Is Still in Jail, and Here's Why

The Murders

During the divorce, Dan admitted to having an affair with Linda since 1983. He would later marry his secretary in April 1989. Betty bought a gun a month before their wedding and reportedly told her sons that she'd kill their father with it. Linda was so afraid of Betty that she insisted they wore bulletproof vests to their wedding. (They didn't, but they did increase the security.) Nothing occurred at their ceremony, but Linda's worries soon came true.

Seven months after the marriage, Betty broke into their house using a key that she stole from her daughter and shot them both in their bedroom. According to Betty, she had wanted to talk to him, but every time she came over, he said he'd call the police. When they attempted to call the police this time, the gun went off. At the time of their deaths, Dan was 44 and Linda was 28.

The Aftermath

Betty's first trial concluded with a hung jury. After the second trial, she was guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, sentenced to 32 years to life in prison. She was denied parole in 2010 and 2017. She will not be eligible for parole again until 2032.

More From

  • If Your Lips Are Always Chapped, It May Have Something to Do With These 4 Things

    Dry, chapped lips can really be a pain - and I'm saying that as a person with a lip balm stashed in every bag and room in my house. Still, annoying as the condition may seem, chapped lips are also extremely common. That's because, according to dermatologist Marie Hayag, M.D., "lips don't have oil glands to produce natural moisturizing factors that protect and hydrate our outermost layer of skin." Lips can also be naturally dry because they lack the layer of skin that acts as a shield from harmful UV rays. If you find yourself with dry lips often, however, there are plenty of other sneaky reasons why, and we had Dr. Hayag walk us through them. Read ahead to see some common reasons why your lips may often be dry, chapped, or peeling.

  • Kacey Musgraves and Ruston Kelly Have Split After 2 Years of Marriage

    Kacey Musgraves and husband Ruston Kelly have split after two years of marriage. On Friday, the country music stars, both 31, announced that they filed for divorce by sharing a joint statement with the Associated Press.

  • Sephora’s Fourth of July Sale Has Us Seeing Fireworks With Up to 50% Off Products

    Sephora marked down the prices on tons of makeup, skin care, hair care, and beauty tools for the Fourth of July, and dare we say we're already seeing fireworks? Now's a great time to restock your stash, and there are plenty of eyeshadows, lipsticks, and blushes . . . at newfound savings of up to 50 percent off. Oh, and if your weekend plans include masking or protective face masks, there are soothing creams, sprays, and other treatments to have skin feeling and looking great. Even if you're (still just) longing to travel, bring the beach home with sea sprays and even a bestselling wave-maker, too. Now through July 6, you'll be able to shop products from Milk Makeup, Pat McGrath, Smashbox, Briogeo, and more. Here are some of the most tempting discounts at Sephora, ahead.

  • Unsolved Mysteries: Were the Berkshires UFO Sightings Aliens? Here Are a Few Theories

    UFOs? In this economy? Netflix's reboot of Unsolved Mysteries is predominantly a true-crime endeavor (think, the mysterious death of Rey Rivera or the disappearance of Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès), but the fifth episode ventures into the realm of science fiction. Or does it simply venture into fact? On Sept. 1, 1969, dozens of witnesses reported seeing an unidentified flying object in different parts of Berkshire County. Unsolved Mysteries interviewed several eyewitnesses in the area at the time. Tom Warner was at a friend's house, where he was supposedly taken by a beam and then disappeared momentarily. Nearby, Melanie Kirchdorfer had just gotten ice cream with her family and went to Lake Mansfield, where she saw a bright light and started levitating. She recalled coming onto a ship with other children and was being laid out. Eerily, Warner said he had seen her in the craft crouching in a corner. They had not known each other before but felt an immediate connection when they finally met. Other interviewees included Thom Reed, Nancy Reed, and Jane Green. Thom Reed was driving with his family through a bridge in Sheffield when loud noises took over and bright lights appeared. Three hours passed by without explanation - after time flew by, Nancy, his mother, had oddly switched spots with his grandma. Jane Green was also around the area. She had been driving back to Great Barrington with a friend when she saw a bright light coming from a huge floating object. In addition to these accounts, dozens of witnesses called into WSBS, a local radio station, to describe some sort of disk-shaped object in the sky. So what could explain this strange phenomenon? As they say, the truth is out there - we just don't know what it is. Here are a few theories as to what happened that night in the Berkshires.