Inside The Murder Of Linda Kolkena, The 28-Year-Old Bride Killed By Her Husband’s Ex-Wife

Published December 19, 2021
Updated October 16, 2022

Dan Broderick and Linda Kolkena were happy newlyweds — until his ex-wife Betty Broderick shot them dead in a jealous rage.

Linda Kolkena was an aspiring mom and housewife, and she had found love in lawyer Dan Broderick while working as his secretary at his San Diego law firm in 1983.

But Dan was a married man, and his subsequent divorce to be with Kolkena saw them both killed on Nov. 5, 1989, when his spurned ex-wife Betty Broderick shot them in their bed.

Linda Kolkena

Oxygen/YouTubeLinda Kolkena began dating Dan Broderick when she was 21 years old — and he was still married to Betty Broderick.

While their murders have been chronicled in season two of the Netflix TV series Dirty John, and Betty Broderick’s crimes are well-documented, Linda Kolkena’s story warrants a closer look.

Inside The Relationship Of Linda Kolkena And Dan Broderick

Born on June 26, 1961, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Linda Kolkena was the youngest of four sisters. They were raised Catholic by Danish parents who had immigrated in the 1950s.

Dan Broderick And Linda Kolkena

Oxygen/YouTubeAccording to Betty Broderick, Linda Kolkena purportedly sent her cruel anonymous messages in the mail.

Kolkena was 11 years old when her mother died of cancer and her father remarried shortly after. Kolkena’s older sister Maggie Seats recalled how they prayed before every meal. Raised to be housewives, the Kolkena girls were also taught that high school was the only education they needed.

“Our expectation was to grow up and have children,” said Seats. “You worked to work, not to have a career. We weren’t cultured that way. The man would always be the breadwinner.”

In 1981, Linda Kolkena became a Delta Airlines stewardess but was reportedly fired the following year for “conduct unbecoming a Delta employee.” Apparently, Kolkena and four friends were on an off-duty skiing trip when she and a male passenger were seen kissing and sneaking into the bathroom.

After working briefly for an attorney in Atlanta, Kolkena followed a boyfriend to San Diego, California. It was here that the 21-year-old met Dan Broderick while working at his law firm. He had been with his wife Betty since the mid-1950s at that point.

A Catholic herself, Betty had supported her husband during his time in law and medical school, and by now, the Brodericks had it all. Earning more than $1 million per year, Dan Broderick financed three kids, country club memberships, a La Jolla mansion, a ski condo, a boat, and a Corvette.

But the marriage began to sour when Betty overheard her husband tell a friend how “beautiful” his new secretary Kolkena was at a party. The marriage worsened when Broderick made Kolkena his legal assistant a few weeks later, despite the fact that she could not type.

The two had long leisurely lunches together while Broderick denied the affair to his wife. Meanwhile, colleagues and even Betty herself whispered about how Kolkena looked so much like a younger version of Betty. In revenge for the affair, Betty burned her husband’s clothes and even threw a stereo at him.

Betty told her husband to “get rid” of her by the beginning of October or “get out.” Broderick chose Kolkena.

Linda Broderick’s Tumultuous Marriage And Betty Broderick’s Mounting Rage

Rachel Keller And Christian Slater

NetflixRachel Keller as Linda Kolkena and Christian Slater as Dan Broderick in Dirty John.

Despite the fact that the Brodericks were beginning to separate, Kolkena did not find herself in a romantic situation with Dan. When they moved in together in 1984, Betty broke into their house and spray-painted their bedroom.

The cruelty between the Brodericks, with Kolkena in the middle, continued. Dan filed a restraining order and Betty responded by leaving angry messages on his answering machine. Betty later claimed that Kolkena was not without fault herself.

After receiving an anonymous letter in the mail containing a photo of Dan and Kolkena with the words, “Eat your heart out, bitch,” Betty blamed the stunt on Kolkena. She also thought Kolkena mailed her advertisements for wrinkle cream and weight-loss products.

Mug Shot Of Betty Broderick

California Department of Corrections and RehabilitationA mug shot of Betty Broderick.

When the Broderick divorce was finalized in 1986, Dan received custody of the kids, the house, and was required to provide Betty with an allowance. In retaliation, Betty crashed her car into Dan and Linda’s front door. She had a knife on her and was held in psychiatric care for 72 hours.

Nonetheless, Kolkena was overjoyed when Dan proposed to her in 1988. She knew her dream wedding was at risk of turning into a nightmare, however, and begged Dan to wear a bulletproof vest at the ceremony.

He refused but did hire security guards for the wedding at their mansion in April 1989. Like the Caribbean honeymoon to follow, it went without a hitch — but they would both be dead within six months.

The Murder Of Linda Kolkena

At 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 5, 1989, Betty Broderick used a key she had stolen from one of her daughters to enter the house of Dan and Linda Broderick. She brought a .38-caliber revolver she had purchased eight months earlier and skulked upstairs to the couple’s bedroom. Linda Broderick awoke screaming.

Betty fired five shots, hitting Linda once in the chest and once in the head, killing her. Dan was hit once in the lung, and before dying he said, “OK, you shot me. I’m dead.” Betty ripped the phone from the wall and escaped, only to turn herself into La Jolla police hours later.

Linda Broderick's Grave

engl103fall2020/InstagramThe graves of Linda Kolkena and Dan Broderick.

The trial of Betty Broderick began in the fall of 1990. Broderick maintained she only wanted to kill herself and force the newlywed couple to watch but was startled into firing her gun when Linda Kolkena cried out. The prosecution provided evidence of her intent to kill by playing messages she had left on the couple’s answering machine, however.

Betty Broderick was found guilty and sentenced to two consecutive terms of 15 years to life. As for Dan and Linda Broderick, their funeral five days after their deaths at St. Joseph’s Cathedral saw over 600 attendees.

Linda Kolkena’s wooden coffin was covered in white roses and Dan’s in red. Kolkena’s tombstone bore a line of poetry from William Blake that read, “She who kisses the Joy as it flies, Lives in eternity’s sunrise.”

After learning about Linda Broderick, read about why famous 1960s singer Claudine Longet murdered her Olympian boyfriend. Then, read about how Dalia Dippolito launched a failed murder-for-hire plot.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.