In the early morning hours of November 5, 1989 Betty Broderick entered her ex-husband’s home, walked into his bedroom, and opened fire on him and his new wife. After six years of contentious divorce hearings, abusive phone calls, and sometimes even vehicular violence, Betty’s final chapter with Dan Broderick was over. However, in a narrative soon pounced on by national media outlets, one question loomed over her trial: was Betty simply a cold-blooded killer, or a victim who felt she had no other option?
There’s no doubt Betty Broderick killed Dan Broderick and Linda Kolkena. She admitted it almost immediately after committing the act. For author Bella Stumbo, then, the compelling part of the case isn’t the mystery of the crime itself, but rather, what caused it. Fortunately, she’s more than a capable reporter, and the level of journalistic detail enshrined in this book verges on overwhelming. Through numerous interviews involving family members, friends, lawyers, acquaintances, and even Betty herself, Stumbo provides an all-encompassing look at the marriage, the murder, and all that followed.
Unfortunately, both Betty and Dan could be odious people. Through copious vignettes, Stumbo shows the painful two-year period where Dan cheated on Betty, while denying it all the way. And she doesn’t hold back from documenting Betty’s habit of breaking into his home after their separation—including when she drove her car through his front door. At points, this seemingly shifts into a tug of war to see who can inflict more damage on the other.
While this all makes for shocking reading, it does lead to Until the Twelfth of Never’s one obvious flaw: Stumbo ultimately attempts to equate Betty and Dan’s actions. There are points where this works. Betty would leave obscene phone calls on Dan’s answering machine, and in retaliation he would withhold promised money from her. His actions are even crueler when considering that he only became a hugely successful medical malpractice attorney based on her sacrifices early in their marriage. Yet at some point, their petty, destructive actions elevated and Betty, no doubt, became wholly unreasonable—certainly long before she bought a gun and targeted Dan in his home. Still, Stumbo seems to suggest that if Dan had given her everything she wanted, then he never would have been murdered. It’s an odd argument, and seems against the rest of her thoughtful analysis.
Altogether, though, this represents the most comprehensive book on the Broderick saga. Expertly written, it’s a highly readable page turner in the true crime genre, though it does require a critical lens for some of Stumbo’s conclusions.
Title: Until the Twelfth of Never: The Deadly Divorce of Dan & Betty Broderick
Author: Bella Stumbo
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: July 1993
Classification: True Crime