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In an instant, the lives of Betty Broderick’s four children were forever altered.
During the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 1989, Betty shot and killed their father, attorney Daniel "Dan" Broderick III, and his new wife and legal assistant, Linda Kolkena Broderick, while they slept in their bed. Just seven months before they were murdered, Dan had married Kolkena, with whom he had an affair prior to separating from Betty.
Although the former Mrs. Broderick never denied pulling the trigger, she claimed she had suffered emotional and psychological abuse during a bitter divorce case that captivated the nation.
Betty's first trial ended in a hung jury, and during the second, she was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 32 years to life in prison. An all-new episode of "Snapped," airing Wednesday, July 15 at 8/7c on Oxygen, looks back on the infamous murder case and explores what led Betty to kill.
But what ever happened to the children she left behind, and what do they think of her today?
Betty and Dan’s children have mostly stayed out of the spotlight since their mother’s conviction, and they appear to be split on whether they think she should be released from prison.
Betty’s two oldest children — daughters Kim and Kathy Lee — both testified in her trials. Kim testified for the prosecution, telling jurors about her parents’ volatile relationship and Betty’s often violent outbursts.
“Well, I love her, but I am mad at her,” Kim said of her feelings for her mom at the time, according to testimony found on CourtTV.com.
Kathy, who also goes by the name “Lee,” took the stand for the defense, recounting the frantic phone call she got from her mother that fateful morning.
Betty drove to her daughter’s apartment a short time after the murders and asked Lee to go to her house to check on her little brothers. Betty also asked Lee to get a key for a safe room where she kept her valuables and her address book, according to her testimony available at CourtTV.com. Lee couldn’t find either item, but she did encounter the police at her mother’s home.
She told the police she hadn’t seen her mother and was just at the home to get her laundry.
Betty turned herself in to the La Jolla Police later that day.
Lee was the only one of the couple’s four children who had been cut from Dan’s will. Dan took her out of the will shortly after she had left his house to go stay with her mother, according to a 1993 article in The Los Angeles Times.
In the years that followed Betty’s conviction, her children occasionally visited her in prison.
Betty told the San Diego Reader in 1998 that she asked her children to stay away on Christmas and school holidays and visit instead on her birthday, Mother’s Day, and sometime over the summer.
“I didn’t want for all their memories of those times to be of visiting Mom in prison,” she said.
During some of the visits, the family was able to stay together in “family living units” within the prison walls that looked like small cottages.
“My kids — being my kids — always showed up with something like $800 worth of groceries,” she said of the visits, adding that they often brought her favorites like Swiss cheese and Häagen-Dazs bars.
At the time, she told the news outlet her daughter Kim had gotten married and was expecting her first child. Kathy was living in San Diego and was a computer wizard. Her son Daniel had just graduated from Stanford and was considering going to law school.
Betty’s youngest son, Rhett, later appeared on "The Oprah Show" to discuss how his father’s death and his mother’s conviction had impacted his life. Rhett remembered waking up at his mother's house the morning Dan was killed and said he wasn’t surprised when he saw police at the door.
“I kind of suspected that my mom was getting into trouble,” he said. “Every time she went over to my dad’s house, he would immediately call the cops, and she’d be violating her restraining order. So that’s what I figured had happened.”
He would later learn from a family friend that his father and Kolkena had been shot to death.
“I just remember thinking, ‘Wow.’ I wasn’t really surprised,” he said. “On multiple occasions, [my brother and I] went to my dad and said to him that we wanted to live with my mom, and that not having her kids was driving her crazy — and that she could do something extremely irrational if she didn’t have us.”
At the time, Betty had lost primary custody of the children to Dan and only had visitation with them every other weekend.
After his father was killed and his mom went to prison, Rhett said he was shuffled between relatives as a child. He also spent time at various boot camps for rebellious teens.
“I constantly felt like I was under a microscope, like everything I did they were trying to blame on my parents’ situation,” he told Oprah.
He told the talk show host that he eventually came to terms with his family’s tumultuous past and said he believed it was “your integrity as an individual that really makes you who you are.” While appearing on the show, Rhett also said he believed his mother should be released from prison.
“She’s a nice lady,” he said. “Everyone here would like her ... if they spoke with her on any topic other than my dad. Keeping her in prison isn’t really helping her. She’s not a danger to society — the only two people she was a danger to are dead.”
His sister Lee also advocated for her mother’s release at her first parole hearing in 2010. She told the parole board she missed her father but also wanted her mother to live with her if she was released, according to a CBS News article that ran in 2010.
“She should be able to live her later life outside prison walls,” she said.
But not all of Betty’s children felt the same — two of her kids advocated for her to remain behind bars. Daniel told the parole board he believed his mother was still “hung up and justifying what she did” and needed to stay in prison.
"In my heart, I know my mother is a good person," he said. "But along the way she got lost. Releasing a lost person into society could be a dangerous mistake."
In 2014, Kim released a book — told by Nanette Elkins — titled “Betty Broderick, My Mom: The Kim Broderick Story.”
The book described the tumultuous relationship between her parents even before the marriage dissolved. She described one occasion where Betty threw a bottle at her father’s head.
“Dad just sat down and ate as though nothing had happened,” she said in the book, according to local San Diego station KGTV.
Kim explained although her mother had asked for a letter recommending her release from prison, Kim didn’t feel she could grant the request.
“In all of these years, the mother still believes she’s a victim,” Elkins told the station while promoting the book.
Elkins said although the children have differing views about whether or not Betty should be let out of prison some day, the family has agreed to disagree. Kim agreed to tell her story in the book, Elkins said, because of her family.
“She wanted the legacy of her family to be one of strong people that overcame a tragic situation,” she explained.
Oxygen.com reached out to all four of Betty’s children, but did not receive a response.
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