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