The True Story of Betty Broderick Is Even Wilder Than ‘Dirty John’

Mehera Bonner
Photo credit: YouTube
Photo credit: YouTube

From Cosmopolitan

I think we can all agree that Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story is fully insane. Like, almost too crazy to be true. But friends, the real-life story of Betty Broderick is just as bonkers as the show would lead you to believe. Settle in while we dive into why this San Diego “housewife” killed her husband, Dan (and his new wife, Linda) after the world’s messiest divorce.

Betty and Dan’s Drama Started Before His Affair

Betty and Dan met at a party when she was just 17 and got married four years later in 1969. Dan became a successful lawyer, they had four kids, and, honestly, life seemed pretty good—from the outside, at least. But Betty and Dan’s marriage wasn’t all sunshine and roses—even before he started cheating on Betty with his assistant, Linda. According to Betty’s daughter Kim, Betty would get mad at Dan “all the time”—she once threw a stereo at him and would frequently lock him out of the house.

But then Linda entered Dan’s life in 1983, a year that changed everything for Betty. “The people who knew me before 1983 knew the real me,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “Nineteen eighty-three was like an ax through my life.”

Dan and Linda’s affair was a huge problem for Betty (I mean, understandable) and eventually culminated in their divorce. Which, uh, casually lasted for five years. Throughout their lengthy split, Betty’s animosity toward Dan and Linda—whom Betty called a “dumb, uneducated tramp”—became more and more intense, and her behavior became more and more erratic.

Betty Snapped, Basically

Betty and Dan’s divorce was extremely acrimonious, and over the years, Betty did a bunch of pretty !!! things—ramming her car into Dan’s house, spray-painting his bedroom, burning his clothes, smearing pie on his bed, throwing wine bottles at his walls, and leaving obscene messages on his answering machine. Things became so bad that Dan got a temporary restraining order against Betty and filed criminal contempt charges against her. He also had her arrested and briefly put in a mental hospital.

At the same time, Dan bought Betty a home for $650,000 in La Jolla and was paying her $16,100 a month in alimony—but she was still pissed, partially because Dan had sole custody of their kids. At one point, Betty wrote:

“I wish I could finish this tale of woe. I tried to finish it five years ago, when I burnt his clothes and threw him out. If this is the way domestic disputes are settled in the courts, is there any wonder there are so many murders? I am desperate. What is a nice girl to do?”

Betty Killed Dan in His Sleep

We all know how this story ends. In November 1989, Betty used one of her daughters’ keys to break into Dan and Linda’s home, where she shot and killed them both in their sleep—although she says she has no memory of pulling the trigger. During her trials (note: the first one resulted in a hung jury), Betty claimed she was a victim of psychological and physical abuse, but she was eventually convicted of second-degree murder. So what’s she up to nowadays? Aside from getting famous all over again thanks to Dirty John, Betty is in prison and won’t be eligible for parole until 2032—which we can all agree is a long-ass time from now.

On that note, go ahead and watch her prison interview with freakin’ OPRAH:

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