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Harrowing True Story Behind 'Dirty John' Season 2: 'The Betty Broderick Story'

Harrowing True Story Behind 'Dirty John' Season 2: 'The Betty Broderick Story'

Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story landed on Netflix at the weekend, and just like the first instalment - based on the true story of sociopath John Meehan and his victim Debra Newell - the second series is also centred around harrowing real events and characters.

Produced by Herzog & Co and Los Angeles Times Studios, the show focuses on the divorce of Betty and Dan Broderick - which (*spoiler alert*) famously ended with Betty killing both Dan and his second wife Linda.

Betty and Dan are depicted by The Whole Nine Yards actress Amanda Peet and Mr Robots star Christian Slater in the new dramatisation.

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And you only have to look at the Twitter reaction to learn it's an absolutely mad story.

But what actually happened between the heartbroken convict and her late husband?

Dirty John 2 stars Amanda Peet and Christian Slater (Credit: Netflix)
Dirty John 2 stars Amanda Peet and Christian Slater (Credit: Netflix)

Betty (then Elisabeth Bisceglia) and Daniel T Broderick III were childhood sweethearts, having met at a party while at the University of Notre Dame at the age of 17.

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They got married just four years later, in 1969, and went on to have four children together.

From the outside, things seemed pretty idyllic. Betty was pregnant with their first child (daughter Kim) before they had even got back from their Caribbean honeymoon, and their second child, Lee, came along one year later, in 1971.

After completing a medical degree, Dan decided he wanted to study some more and complete his Juris Doctor (JD) degree to become a medical malpractice lawyer, meaning Betty was the sole breadwinner and caregiver for their growing family.

She did everything she could to support them, working multiple jobs including childcare and even selling Tupperware door to door.

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But the biggest commitment was uprooting to California in 1973 so Dan could became a junior partner at a law firm.

Betty had two more children (sons Danny Junior and Rhett) in the years that followed.

Betty and Dan had four kids (Credit: ABC 10 News)
Betty and Dan had four kids (Credit: ABC 10 News)

However, as San Diego lawyer Dan's career began to skyrocket, tensions begun to rise in their relationship, and according to her biography, Betty, The Twelfth Hour, she felt a level of resentment at her own lack of mobility.

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"[Betty was] programmed from birth to be a wife, not only by her parents and the girls' schools she attended, but by her peers. For Betty, it was a world without options," author Bella Stumbo wrote.

It's around this point that Betty's eldest child, Kim, recalls arguments at home. Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, she said: "Mom would get mad at Dad all the time.

"Once Mom picked up the stereo and threw it at him. And she locked him out constantly. He'd come around to my window and whisper, 'Kim, let me in.'"

This was before the infamous Linda Kolkena even came on the scene in 1982.

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When she arrived at Dan's law firm, Linda was just a 21 year old receptionist. But when she was hired as his PA a year later, despite her having no prior legal experience, Betty became suspicious.

Dan denied all of Betty's accusations - although, she claims, he later confessed she'd been correct from the get-go.

Betty and Dan were childhood sweethearts (Credit: CBS 8 San Diego)
Betty and Dan were childhood sweethearts (Credit: CBS 8 San Diego)

And as more and more signs of infidelity cropped up, Betty began to drive herself insane with rage.

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On Dan's birthday, she turned up at his office to surprise him and learnt that he had already left with Linda - causing her to set all his expensive suits on fire.

What followed next was an insanely bitter divorce, which became infamous in their small, tight knit Californian community, and took a huge emotional toll on Betty.

Neighbours claim that Dan and Linda, who went on to move in with each other, flaunted their affluent, loved up life in front of a scorned Betty, and mocked her openly in their social circles.

Worn down and psychologically broken, Betty is said to have left abusive messages on the phone to Dan, driven her car into the front door of his new house, and eventually left their children on his doorstep one by one, claiming she refused to raise them while he was with somebody else.

And, in return, he filed restraining orders against her, deducted alimony money as a means of manipulation, and even had her arrested and sent to a psych ward for 72 hours on one occasion.

Betty attending her divorce and child custody hearing in 1989 (Credit: PA)
Betty attending her divorce and child custody hearing in 1989 (Credit: PA)
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As their divorce was finalised in 1989, Betty struggled to get a good lawyer, seeing as, by this time, Dan was president of the San Diego Bar Association.

The outcome was she was left with just $16,000 a month - something she believed to be desperately unfair given all the years she had supported Dan and the family.

But, even more crushingly, she lost custody of all their four children.

Dan and Linda married the very same year, and by this point, things had become so frosty with Betty that friends had even advised Dan to wear a bulletproof vest at the wedding.

While the nuptials went uninterrupted, it wasn't long after that Betty committed the murder, killing the couple in their bed.

Linda and Dan Broderick's grave (Credit: PA)
Linda and Dan Broderick's grave (Credit: PA)

Betty got into the pair's house by stealing a key from her daughter, and shot them while they were asleep.

Forensic evidence suggests that she also moved a phone from reach to prevent Dan - who did not die instantly - from calling for help.

Originally, Betty claimed she was going to take her own life afterwards, but didn't, due to lack of bullets. However, this detail is contested.

Just a few hours after the killing, Betty turned herself in to the police.

While Betty never pleaded innocent or denied the killings, the first trial ended in a hung jury, with some jurors unsure if she meant to commit the crime.

In 1991, she was found guilty of the pair's second degree murder, and was sentenced to a minimum of 32 years behind bars.

Betty testifying in her own defense, during her trial (Credit: PA)
Betty testifying in her own defense, during her trial (Credit: PA)

She has since been denied parole three times since this conviction, most recently in 2017, and even her children have disagreed on whether she should be freed, with two arguing for her release while two think she should stay in jail.

Board of Prison Terms Commissioner Robert Doyle famously told Betty during one parole hearing: "Your heart is still bitter, and you are still angry.

"You show no significant progress in evolving".

In 2018, after this, Betty admitted for the first time that she was wrong to kill the couple, despite the bullying and abuse they allegedly subjected her to.

She will next be eligible for parole in January 2032, at the age of 84 years old.

Prosecution holds up a picture of the Broderick family (Credit: PA)
Prosecution holds up a picture of the Broderick family (Credit: PA)

The Betty Broderick Story show-runner Alexandra Cunningham told Variety: "Betty, I would argue, is a victim in her own mind.

"I cannot justify what she ultimately did, but I wanted to tell a story about why she got to that point... [because] she's not the first or last person to shoot people dead in this country because of perception of what has happened to their self-identity and their lives."

You can watch Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story on Netflix now.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: TV Entertainment, Netflix

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Joanna Freedman

Joanna is a journalist at Tyla with a particular interest in highlighting women's issues and telling inspiring first person stories. She's also their resident foodie, and loves covering exciting new beauty launches, too. Contact her at [email protected]