The Heartbreaking Story Of Dr. Phil's Sister-In-Law Cindi Broaddus

Dr. Phil's sister-in-law passed away back in 2018, but there's no denying Cindi Broaddus used her life to make a positive impact in the world. In fact, just like her famous brother-in-law, she was an inspiration to many. Heartbreakingly, however, her journey to becoming a beacon of hope began with a harrowing trauma. 

In 2001, Broaddus and her friend journeyed from Oklahoma to San Diego. After dozing off in the passenger seat, she was jolted awake when someone from a bridge overhead splashed two gallons of acid onto their vehicle. During an appearance on CNN's  "Larry King Live," she recounted, "The acid literally ate through the windshield and filled the car." The acid fell directly onto her, and as she told King, in that moment, she believed she was having a heart attack. In fact, she shared that she thought she'd already died. She hadn't, though — and her friend (who had also been burned, though less severely) managed to drive them to a gas station to ask for help.

Following the terrifying crime against her, Broaddus embarked on a long road to recovery, including more than 35 surgeries. However, even amidst all the devastation, she came out of the experience determined to use it to her advantage. And indeed, she did. 

Her attacker was never arrested

As if the attack on Cindi Broaddus wasn't already devastating enough, the perpetrator has never been found. Despite investigators' relentless efforts and Dr. Phil's personal contributions to the case, sufficient evidence has never been discovered to pinpoint the culprit. However, that's not to say she hasn't made some headway in protecting others from the same fate.

In 2003, Broaddus collaborated with the Oklahoma Senate to pass a law aimed at preventing individuals from tossing any objects, including acid, from bridges. Touchingly, it was named the Cindi Broaddus Act. Granted, it is worth noting that while Broaddus would have loved to see her attacker prosecuted, that wasn't because she needed to feel vindicated. Speaking to Larry King, she explained, "I would love to see him get help or turn his life around and make something good come of this." She also shared that she'd forgiven the person unreservedly. 

That's not to say Broaddus would have gone easy on her attacker if they were found, though. As she shared in a speech years later, given the chance, she would have wanted the person behind her attack to work in a burn center. "Hear the screams and see what you've done to people so maybe you won't do this to anybody else," she'd said, according to ABC7 News. Given everything she endured, that's certainly a modest request. 

Dr. Phil encouraged Cindi to share her story

The story of Cindi Broaddus didn't end with the passage of a law against bridge attacks. She furthered her impact by becoming a motivational speaker and author. And unsurprisingly, her brother-in-law, Dr. Phil McGraw, stood by her side every step of the way.

In 2005, Broaddus released her book, "A Random Act," which was geared toward assisting others who have survived devastating traumas. It was Dr. Phil who encouraged her to put her story to paper — and he even helped her publish the book and penned the foreword. As for her speaking career, Broaddus became known for her resilience and forgiveness. In one speech, she revealed that she'd come to see it as her superpower. "I've had countless people tell me that if they hadn't heard me speak, they wouldn't have never done this or done that," she explained. Though Dr. Phil wasn't present for that particular speech, we'll go ahead and say he wasn't surprised by its content. As he'd gushed to Larry King, he'd found every aspect of her journey, from her forgiveness to her concept of choosing to thrive, inspirational. 

Sadly, Broaddus passed away in 2018 after a stroke. She was 68 — no small feat, given that nearly two decades prior, she'd been told she may not survive. Talk about an incredible legacy.