Netflix, true crime, TV

Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story…

This week, I binge watched Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story. This is the second season of the Netflix series, which I had never heard of until I noticed so many people hitting my reposted review of Nanette Elkins’ book about Kim Broderick. Netflix decided to turn Betty and Dan Broderick’s sordid story into an eight part series. Amanda Peet stars as the older version of Betty, while Christian Slater impressively portrays Dan Broderick.

A 1992 era Oprah Winfrey interview about Betty Broderick’s children.

I found the show pretty compelling, and weirdly comical at some points. The fact that Betty and Dan’s story has turned into entertainment should probably disturb me. I have to admit that Betty Broderick is a fascinating character, though. Lots of people have held her up as a heroine to divorced women who get “shafted” when their powerful husbands dump them for someone younger. In Dan Broderick’s case, it was Linda Kolkena, who had been Dan’s pretty secretary. In Dirty John, she’s played by Rachel Keller. Funnily enough, Rachel Keller wasn’t even born when this crime happened, back in 1989.

I’m not sure why this story out of so many was chosen to be highlighted on Dirty John, but people are obviously intrigued by it. Based on what I’ve read about the Brodericks, both Dan and Betty seemed to be self-absorbed and unkind to each other. Here was Dan Broderick, a brilliant doctor turned lawyer, who made lots of money after his first wife worked to put him through school. And Betty was a great housewife and mom who went nuts when Dan decided he loved someone else. And here was Linda, a so-called “homewrecker”, carrying on with an obviously married man.

On one hand, I can see why Betty Broderick went a bit crazy. She put everything into her marriage and her image… and it seemed like it was all suddenly taken from her. On the other hand, there is absolutely no justification for her decision to kill her ex husband and his second wife, even though it does seem like he abused his powers as an attorney. Or, at least that was how it was portrayed on the show. But let’s think about this. Betty Broderick did some legitimately crazy things. She harassed her ex husband and his wife. She drove her car into his house, ruined his clothes, and mashed Boston Cream Pie all over the bed.

America’s “messiest” divorce.

My husband was married to a woman who never went as far as Betty Broderick did, in terms of being destructive to objects. However, she did her very best to ruin his relationships with other people, and she told outrageous lies about him, and me– a woman she’s never even met in person. So, when Rachel Keller as Linda Kolkena says, “What I’ve seen, I don’t like.” as Betty’s friend tries to get her to give up Betty’s wedding china, I can definitely relate. Being a woman in that position is infuriating and nerve wracking. Granted, Linda had an affair with Dan, while I didn’t start dating Bill until a year after he was divorced, but I still can’t say I condone the way Betty behaved. It was crazy! Even her children thought so, which you can hear in Oprah’s interview above. And no matter what, she had no right to commit murder.

But… as I watched the Netflix series and saw the courtroom antics and the heavy fines Dan tried to levy on his ex wife, I can also see how frustrated and angry she became. It might have seemed like there wasn’t another choice. I know from personal experience that mental illness can really screw up your thinking. I don’t think Betty would have committed murder if she wasn’t legitimately sick. I don’t know what she’s like today, having been locked up for so many years. It’s also hard for me to tell if she was always a little bit disordered or this was something that came on suddenly, in the wake of Dan’s betrayal. The movies and books make it seem like it was kind of a sudden thing, but I have a hard time believing that this kind of behavior came out of nowhere. Only the people who know Betty well can say for sure, though.

Listening to Betty’s children on Oprah’s show reminds me of Bill’s conversations with his daughter. There was a time when she was the most estranged of the three kids Bill claimed as his– as Ex’s eldest son was actually her first husband’s child. But now, she is the only one who talks to Bill, and the more they speak openly and honestly, the clearer the picture becomes on how everyone is treated in Ex’s family. If you see what she puts online, it looks like she’s this very positive, affirming person. But if you know her more intimately, the truth emerges. I suspect that a similar dynamic was present in Betty’s family. Especially when I read and hear about some of the really over the top things she did, like leave her children at Dan’s house in a rage.

Trailer for Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story…

As everybody knows, people like to armchair quarterback things. Lots of people take sides of an issue in the media based on their own experiences. I’m probably more sympathetic to Dan and Linda because they turned out to be murder victims and I am married to a man who was extremely alienated from his children after a divorce. Of course, in Bill’s situation, the divorce was initiated by his ex wife. And it turned out she hadn’t actually wanted to divorce; it was just a ploy to gain more control and humiliate Bill. She never expected that he would agree to splitting up and decided to punish him (and a lot of other innocent people) for it.

In Betty’s case, it was Dan who decided to divorce, and after he’d had an affair. I know I would be hurt and angry if Bill ever did that to me. It’s very disrespectful, especially given that Betty’s help was a large part of why Dan eventually became so successful. I don’t think Dan Broderick was a saint at all. He definitely did a lot of “dickish” things. But he didn’t deserve to be murdered, and neither did his wife, who had never made any vows to Betty. I think the worst thing Linda did was not insist on waiting until Dan was divorced until she had a relationship with him. Of course, if she had done that, she might never have married him, since Betty was very much an obstructionist when it came to the break up. And when you’re in love, sometimes you don’t make the best decisions. I suspect that if Linda hadn’t been murdered, she would have wound up divorced from Dan, too. It’s been my observation that a lot of people who have affairs repeat them in subsequent marriages. Dan seemed to be very concerned about his image and appeared narcissistic to me. He probably would have wanted a younger woman as Linda aged.

Meredith Baxter on playing Betty Broderick.

Anyway… I feel a little bad having enjoyed Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story. Two people died for that story. Maybe we shouldn’t turn such tales into entertainment for the masses, complete with songs by Cyndi Lauper, Laura Branigan, and Howard Jones. I did really like the soundtrack and even downloaded a couple of Lauper’s albums. I think Amanda Peet did a good job playing Betty. She was more sympathetic than Meredith Baxter was thirty years ago, when she played Betty in the two made for TV movies about her. I also really enjoyed watching Christian Slater. It’s hard to believe he’s the same guy who played Binx in the 1985 film, The Legend of Billie Jean (a truly ridiculous but entertaining movie). But then, it’s also hard to believe that Bradley Whitford, who plays Commander Lawrence in The Handmaid’s Tale, also famously played Elisabeth Shue’s jerky boyfriend in the 1987 film, Adventures in Babysitting. It’s always nice to see actors evolve over the years!

I guess now that I’ve seen the second season of Dirty John, I’ll go ahead and watch the first. In just five days, I’ll be all set to emerge from the COVID-19 quarantine cocoon. I hope it doesn’t blow my mind.

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movies, true crime

Repost: A review of A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story…

This is a review I wrote in March 2011 of the first of two made for television films starring Meredith Baxter and Stephen Collins as Betty and Dan Broderick. It appears here as/is.

From April 2014

Since I’m reading Betty Broderick’s story as told by her daughter, Kim, I’ve decided to repost the movie review I did of her life story.  I think I only reviewed the first film.  There were two done.  One was about how Betty Broderick ended up in prison and the other was about how she was convicted of murdering her husband and his second wife.  Naturally, this story is compelling to me, even though from what I can tell from other sources, the movie makes Dan Broderick seem too nice.  Of course, Stephen Collins portrayed him and I think Stephen Collins is kind of a boob, so there you go…

From March 2011

I just read Meredith Baxter’s bio, so I thought it would be fun to watch one of her many made-for-television movies.  It so happened that one of Baxter’s most notorious flicks, A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story, was uploaded in its entirety on YouTube.  Naturally, I had to watch it and see Meredith Baxter portray the infamous murderer Betty Broderick.  It was a role completely opposite of Baxter’s turn on the hit sit-com, Family Ties and it also satisfied my love of true crime films featuring psycho women.

Who is Betty Broderick? 

For sixteen years, Betty Broderick was the loyal wife of Dan Broderick, one of Southern California’s most prominent medical malpractice lawyers.  Raised a strict Catholic, Betty Broderick believed in marriage for life.  She reportedly worked very hard to raise the four children she had with Dan Broderick and give him a beautiful home.  She also reportedly worked hard so that he could attend both medical school and law school.  As both a physician and a lawyer, Dan Broderick was a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom.  By Betty Broderick’s rather hysterical account, he couldn’t have achieved that success without her.

Despite his brilliance in the courtroom, by many accounts, Dan Broderick was also a bit of a scumbag.  In the early 80s, he hired a beautiful blonde 21 year old named Linda Kolkena to work as his assistant at his law firm.  Despite the fact that Linda couldn’t type and had little experience, Dan paid her lavishly and it wasn’t long before they were having a very public affair. 

Betty Broderick evidently felt pushed aside as Dan reportedly fooled around with his young lover, but she wasn’t one to take such shenanigans lying down.  While Dan Broderick carried on with his girlfriend, Betty Broderick carried on with his personal property, setting fire to his clothes, smearing Boston Creme Pie all over their bed, and eventually driving a car into the front of Dan’s house.  Dan and Betty got divorced and Betty was served with many restraining orders, but Betty continued her harassment, breaking into his home, vandalizing his property, and attempting to alienate their children and mutual friends. 

When Dan and Linda eventually married, Betty Broderick completely snapped.  On the morning of November 5, 1989, she visited the newlyweds in their expensive home and shot them both as they slept, killing them.  After two trials, one of which ended in a hung jury, Betty Broderick was convicted of two counts of second degree murder.  By all reports I’ve read, she has yet to express any remorse.  Nevertheless, a lot of people feel Betty Broderick was perfectly justified in what she did and even today, she serves as sort of a role model/heroine to disenfranchised women.  She’s even been held up as an example in women’s shelters as someone who invested too much in a relationship.

The film version of the “war of the Brodericks”

A Woman Scorned was not originally aired on the Lifetime Movie Network, but it was destined to become a staple of that channel.  Stephen Collins (of 7th Heaven fame) portrays Dan Broderick, with Baxter playing his wife, Betty, and Michelle Johnson playing Linda Kolkena Broderick.  One interesting aspect of watching a film like A Woman Scorned on YouTube is that people leave comments.  Many people who had followed the Betty Broderick case claim that the film version made Dan Broderick out to be a much nicer guy than he actually was.  Some people also claimed that Linda Kolkena Broderick was, in real life, a “gold-digging hussy”. 

It’s true that the jerkier aspects of Dan Broderick seem to be tempered by Stephen Collins’ “nice guy” portrayal.  Even when he’s threatening to cut off Betty’s alimony for harassing him, he seems sympathetic.  While I don’t know the Brodericks personally, I’m guessing that the real Dan was probably much more of a cut-throat bastard with more of a killer instinct.  Most extremely successful malpractice attorneys are like that. 

I think Meredith Baxter was an excellent choice to play Betty Broderick.  She pulls off the over-the-top behavior of her character without a hitch.  Betty Broderick supposedly has narcissistic personality disorder.  If that’s the case, I think Baxter portrayed that type of person to a tee.  I almost cringed as her character set Dan Broderick’s wardrobe on fire on the front lawn of their swanky home and calmly said, “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”  It was perfect.

I wasn’t as impressed with Michelle Johnson’s portrayal of Linda Kolkena Broderick.  She came off as too nice and lady like for the role.  I’m guessing the real Linda wasn’t as dignified as the film version of her was.

The Brodericks’ children are portrayed by Kelli Williams (Kate Broderick), Jandi Swanson (Debbie Broderick), Aaron Freeman (Grant Broderick), and Jordan Christopher Michael (Tommy Broderick).  The characters’ names have been changed from the real Broderick children’s names.  I suppose that was to protect their identities, though this case got a lot of coverage on Court TV and is widely written about on the Internet. 

My thoughts about Betty Broderick    

As much as I enjoyed A Woman Scorned, I certainly don’t condone Betty Broderick’s actions, even if the real Dan Broderick was a scumbag.  For one thing, despite her personal sacrifices to aid Dan Broderick’s career– a choice that she apparently made of her own free will– Betty Broderick comes off as a personality disordered individual.  Even if Dan Broderick cheated on her and dumped her for a younger woman, I could hardly blame him for doing so.  Both the true accounts I’ve read about this case and the dramatized film version of Betty Broderick make her out to be completely nuts.

For another thing, no matter how rotten Dan and his second wife Linda were to Betty, she had no right to take their lives!  When she killed Dan and Linda, Betty took away her children’s father and their home.  She also effectively took away their mother, since she was sentenced to 32 years to life in prison.  I do not applaud her crazy actions, though I have to admit they were entertaining to watch on television as portrayed by Meredith Baxter.  And in her memoir, Baxter admits that playing Betty Broderick was great fun; she initially had sympathy for her, but then learned more about who Betty Broderick is and supposedly changed her mind.

And finally, I wonder how people would react if Dan Broderick had been a woman named Danielle with a husband who had sacrificed everything for her career, only to be dumped by a younger, more handsome model.  I wonder if people would be so eager to champion the cause of a man scorned…   I doubt people would be justifying murder if Danielle Broderick had been killed at the hands of a jealous, vengeful husband.  Indeed, I bet a lot of people would be screaming that the jilted man should be locked up for life.  And indeed, that’s the punishment I think Betty Broderick deserves.  Scorned or not, she had absolutely no right to kill.

For kids?   

This is a made-for-TV movie circa 1992, so swearing and smut are somewhat kept to a minimum.  I doubt most kids would be interested in this film and some of the younger ones might be confused by it.  However, I don’t think it’s a bad film for older kids to see.  If anything, it might serve as a warning against getting too involved with personality disordered people.  It might make a good way to introduce a discussion about relationships with others and choosing the right person to be with.

Overall

Yes, A Woman Scorned is typical Lifetime movie fare, but it’s still a pretty good film.  I give it four stars.

Here are both parts of Betty’s story presented in made for TV form…

Part 1
Part 2

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book reviews, true crime

Repost: A review of Until the Twelfth of Never- Should Betty Broderick Ever Be Free?

Yesterday, I started watching the Netflix show, Dirty John- The Betty Broderick Story. I was not familiar with the show until recently, when I noticed that my reposted review of a book about Betty’s daughter, Kim, was getting tons of hits. I investigated, and finally found out about the second season of the original Netflix drama. Season 2 is about Betty Broderick, who famously murdered her physician attorney ex husband and his new wife, Linda Kolkhena Broderick, in 1989.

Betty Broderick is a controversial figure. Lots of books, blog posts, and messageboard posts have been written about her. She’s been the subject of made for television movies starring Meredith Baxter and Stephen Collins. Lots of women held Betty up as a heroine, even though she’s in prison. Personally, I empathize with Betty’s story, but I think she is (or was) mentally ill, and she definitely had no right to kill her ex husband and his second wife. No matter what a scumbag Dan Broderick might have been, that does not give anyone the right to murder him. Also, as a second wife myself, I had empathy for Linda Kolkhena Broderick, even if I don’t condone dating a married man. The fact is, she didn’t make a vow to Betty; Dan did.

Anyway… I have read and reviewed a couple of books about Betty Broderick, so I am going to repost them today. The first review is a book by Bella Stumbo, which was used as a basis for the Dirty John series. I reviewed it on August 29, 2014, and my thoughts are presented as/is here.

I purchased the late Bella Stumbo’s book, the exhaustive Until the Twelfth of Never- Should Betty Broderick Ever Be Free? in April of this year (2014).  I have just now gotten around to reading it.  I normally breeze through books in a matter of days, but this one took me about three weeks to finish.  This book is the story of the tragic relationship between former San Diego malpractice attorney Dan Broderick and his first wife, Betty.  It’s one of several books written about this controversial case of an enraged woman scorned who resorts to murdering her ex husband and his second wife.

I must admit to being something fascinated by Betty Broderick.  She was born and raised in New York State, the daughter of respectable Catholic parents who had brought her up on the idea that being a wife and a mother was of utmost importance.  When Betty and Dan married in April 1969, it looked like Betty was going to be one of those women who married well.  Dan had graduated from medical school and then decided to become a lawyer.  Given his dual degrees in medicine and law, he was a powerful force in a courtroom.  He became very successful and was quite wealthy by the time he died at the hands of his ex wife and mother of his four children, Betty.

Betty Broderick had been a beautiful, educated, gracious woman.  By her account, she had helped Dan Broderick become the success that he was.  Dan repaid her by fooling around with his 21 year old secretary, Linda, then deciding that he wanted to dump Betty for Linda.  Dan’s actions enraged Betty, who began to refer to Dan and Linda in the most vile, vulgar terms possible.  She also vandalized Dan’s home and possessions, ruining his clothes, smearing Boston Creme pie on his bed, and driving her vehicle into his house.  Dan retaliated by fining Betty, refusing to give her access to their children, and using his extensive legal training to keep her from getting what she felt she was owed.

Things got to a fever pitch on November 5, 1989.  Betty went to Dan’s and Linda’s home with a gun.  She shot them as they slept, then ripped the phone from the wall.  She was tried twice; the first trial ended with a hung jury.  She was convicted during the second trial and sentenced to 32 years in prison, where she remains today.

Bella Stumbo wrote Until the Twelfth of Never years ago, but it has been updated with the edition I own.  There is an analysis of Betty’s handwriting included as well as some statements by friends of Dan Broderick’s.  I’m not sure the extra material made this book better.  Frankly, I thought it was way too long and, at times, rather redundant.  Stumbo includes a lot of detail in this book, but some of it was probably better left omitted.  For example, I don’t need to be reminded umpteen times how profane Betty was when she called Dan on the phone.  But Stumbo included a number of transcripts that explicitly spell out the filthy language Betty uses to the point at which it becomes tiresome.

I did think that Stumbo did a good job in presenting a somewhat even look at Dan and Betty Broderick, although if I had to guess, I would guess Stumbo was slightly more sympathetic to Betty over Dan.  To be sure, Dan Broderick comes across as a real jerk in the seemingly callous way he dealt with his ex wife.  However, Betty Broderick had absolutely no right to kill her ex husband and his wife, Linda.  Had the gender roles in this case been reversed, I seriously doubt people would sympathize with Dan and claim he was driven to kill, no matter how awful Betty was to him.  I’m not one of those people who thinks women should get a break when they turn murderous.  Betty Broderick was not being threatened when she killed.  Dan and Linda were sleeping when she shot them.  There is no other reason why Betty should be in prison now, other than because of her own selfish actions.  At the same time, I did have some empathy for her on one level.  It does sound like her ex husband was a jerk.

I thought the information Stumbo included about Betty’s behavior in jail was interesting.  Apparently, Betty Broderick’s antics in 1991 were so outrageous that they upstaged news about the fall of the Soviet Union.

Bella Stumbo’s Until the Twelfth of Never is basically well-written, but I think it could use an editor.  It’s maybe 100-150 pages too long, does not include any photos, and there are some typos that could be corrected.  I’m kind of relieved to be finished with this book because I’m ready to move on to the next subject, but I would recommend it to those who are interested in the war of the Brodericks.  Just be prepared to read for a long time.

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book reviews, true crime

Repost: Review of Betty Broderick, My Mom: The Kim Broderick Story

Here’s another book review repost. This one was posted on my original blog on April 24, 2014. I do NOT recommend this book, and good luck finding it. However, it was a very popular post on my Blogspot site, so I’m sharing it again for the interested. As usual, this review is posted as/is.

I just finished Betty Broderick, My Mom: The Kim Broderick Story, a book by Nanette Elkins.  This is a book about Betty and Daniel Broderick written from the perspective of the couple’s eldest daughter, Kim.  Elkins was a friend of Kim Broderick’s and, in the introduction, claims that they had a major book deal years ago.  The deal eventually fell through, though, and Elkins lost touch with Kim.  I got the sense that Elkins was one of those people you have to work to get rid of; she published a couple of texts from Broderick that seemed as if she wanted her to leave her alone. 

I guess Elkins decided to publish the book anyway.  Oddly enough, I can’t find it on Amazon now, even though I bought it less than two weeks ago.  I’m guessing the reason might be because it’s not a very good book. Indeed, here is a comment supposedly left on Amazon by Kim Broderick…

This is NOT my story, April 13, 2014

By Kim Broderick

This review is from: Betty Broderick, My Mom: The Kim Broderick Story (Kindle Edition)

I absolutely did not write this book. I have not authorized it or approved of its publication. In fact, I had no idea it was coming out. I have had no contact with the author in over four and a half years. I have no interest in getting my story out there or exposing my family to any more public scrutiny or pain. Yes, years ago Nanette penned the manuscript for a book, with the idea of putting out something that could encourage others dealing with tumultuous family situations and hardship. At the end of the day, I ultimately decided against completing and publishing it. It is inaccurate, it depicts individuals and events in a distorted light, and it does not represent my feelings, beliefs, or truth. The author has invaded my privacy, defamed my character, and caused much hurt and sadness. Further, she has used the name and likeness of my children without my consent. I would strongly request that she take this book down as soon as possible and encourage you not to buy it.

Who are/were Betty and Daniel Broderick?  

In case you haven’t heard of this notorious couple, Betty and Daniel Broderick were once a golden couple in San Diego, California.  Daniel Broderick was a very well known malpractice lawyer, mainly owing to his degrees in medicine and law.  Betty was his wife, who supposedly suffered long and hard to put her husband through school, give him four children, and help him achieve his brilliant career.

There was a movie made about Betty Broderick, who became the ex wife from hell when she and her husband divorced.  Dan Broderick married his former secretary, Linda Kolkena, which enraged Betty.  She engaged in outrageous tactics to harass him, from breaking into his home and vandalizing his property, to driving her car into Dan’s house, to finally murdering him and his second wife, Linda, as they slept. 

In 1991, Betty Broderick was convicted of second degree murder of her ex husband, Daniel Broderick, and his wife, Linda Kolkena Broderick.  She was sentenced to 32 years to life, which she is now serving in California. 

My thoughts on Elkins’ book

In all honesty, I wasn’t very impressed with Betty Broderick, My Mom: The Kim Broderick Story.  Although Elkins managed to write it in a way that suggested it was coming from Kim Broderick, she didn’t write in a way that suggested that Elkins is a very good writer.  It seems like Elkins didn’t bother to have an editor look at the manuscript before she offered it for sale.  There were several incidents of redundancy within the book and I noticed that there were certain words Elkins seemed to enjoy using above all others.  The first one that comes to mind is “obnoxious”.  I can’t tell you exactly how many times Elkins used that word to describe Betty Broderick, but it was very often and quite noticeable.

While there were some interesting insights within the book that perhaps Elkins gleaned from earlier talks with Kim Broderick, it seemed like she fabricated some of this book through other sources.  I get the sense that she had a partial book in the works after interviews with Kim Broderick and then maybe Kim stopped cooperating, forcing Elkins to look to other books and movies made about the case.  She writes about the made for television film about Betty Broderick which starred Meredith Baxter, but it doesn’t seem like she really was involved in that production or knew much more about it than the common viewer.  Moreover, in other parts of the book, including a section in which she describes Broderick having a special visit with her family, it seems like Elkins was filling in the blanks rather than reporting actual facts related to the Broderick story. 

Elkins does at least seem to give Broderick an evenhanded look at her parents.  She doesn’t paint either party as completely innocent or completely guilty.  But she also reveals some rather unflattering details about Kim Broderick, which, if I were Kim, would really upset me.  She even includes a tidbit about how the bar bill at Kim’s wedding was apparently so high that she had to cancel honeymoon plans to go to Big Sur.  I can’t imagine what that had to do with the subject matter, except to make Kim Broderick look bad.

In a news article about Elkins’ book, there appears another statement from Kim Broderick… 

Editor’s Note: Kim Broderick provided this response following our initial story:

“I did not write or authorize the book you featured on your program. I have no interest in getting my story out there or exposing my family to any more public scrutiny or pain. Over 5 years ago Nanette penned the manuscript for a book with the idea of putting out something that could encourage others dealing with tumultuous family situations and hardship. Ultimately, I decided against completing and publishing it. The author has invaded my privacy, defamed my character, and broken our agreement that I was to have the final say on where any personal information I shared with her would end up.”

So obviously, this is an unauthorized book and the facts may be stretched a bit.  But even if it had been a book published with Broderick’s permission, it’s just poorly written, with a number of typos and awkward sentences, and it needs a good editing to remove some of the more rambling passages and redundancies.  I have a hard time believing any major publisher really ever considered printing this book, but if Elkins was truthful about that claim, I can see why the book deal ultimately fell through.

It looks like this book is no longer available, but if it were still out there, I would not recommend it.  

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