In 2017 a true-crime documentary was released called "Abducted in plain sight". The documentary follows the abduction of Jan Broberg Felt, by her neighbor and family friend Robert Berchtold or also referred to as "B.". This story is incredibly confusing considering all the details and the fact the kidnapping scenario occurred twice while no legal actions against the perpetrator were taken.
The documentary received reviews from some major networks describing it as a wild ride.
In this blog post, I will cover the timeline of the horrendous events. However, I recommend watching the documentary as I will not be covering all of the aspects in such depths.
Who was Robert Berchtold?
Berchtold was born on February 7, 1936, in Tremonton, Utah to Leonard N. and Lucile Berchtold. When he was 3 years old his father passed away. His mother Lucile would go on to marry Joseph Ersel Berchtold in 1939. There is not much information available about his childhood and upbringing. It is known that he served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
After the war, he returned to Utah and settled in Pocatello, Idaho, where he ran a furniture store. In 1961 he got married to a woman named Gail Toyn and had 5 children.
Robert and his family attended the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in Idaho, where in January of 1974 he was scolded by the church for his behavior with a young girl. The same church that the
Broberg's family attended.
Overall it seemed like Robert was living a normal life. And to this day many people wonder how a normal family man can turn out to be such a manipulative child perpetrator.
The Brobergs' family had 3 daughters, Jan, Karen, and Susan Broberg. The father, Bob Broberg owned a florist shop for nearly 40 years, while the mother Marry Ann Broberg was a devoted housewife. Jan describes her childhood in the documentary:
My earliest childhood memories would be with my two sisters, Karen and Susan. They're younger than I am by two years each. Karen's the middle child. Susan's the baby. And I was, you know, definitely the big sister, the bossy one. My sisters and I were really good friends. I mean, we played together. We had just what I consider a normal childhood.
In June of 1972, Robert Berchtold and his family met Mary Ann and "Bob" Broberg, at the LDS church in their Idaho hometown. The Brobergs and Berchtold families became close friends and spent a lot of time together. The men bonded over business and the wives over family and faith. As Bob Berborg said in the documentary:
We became very good friends. And he was in business and we talked about business matters, and it just sort of clicked. We had things in common. I was in business, I had a family. He had a family.
Mary Ann's first impression of the Berchtolds' was that they are a weird couple, as she would describe Gail as a very shy and quiet person. But they became close quickly.
"Everybody had a best friend. You know, between the Brobergs and the Berchtold family, there was a best friend for everyone."
At some point, 10-year-old Jan Broberg and her sisters Susan and Karen Broberg described Robert as a second father and started calling him "dad" or "B." Unbeknownst to them B. only wanted to get close to Jan because he believed that they are destined to be together. In the documentary, Marry Ann described the situation as disturbing.
"He did give special attention to Jan that annoyed both Bob and me. His fascination with Jan was a little disturbing."
Jan would describe her relationship with Robert as a strong bond, like the one between a father and child.
"B was like a second father to me. I completely loved him, completely trusted him, and felt extremely safe. I felt like I was one of his children.''
The red flags start popping up
Not long after the family friendship started Robert took a special interest in 10-year-old Jan. When B found out that Jan and her sister Karen share the basement as a bedroom he built a wall so the girls can have more privacy. While in reality, he wanted to be able to spend alone time with Jan.
Robert told Mary Ann and Bob that he was seeing a therapist help him deal with the issues he was reprimanded for by the LDS Church. Somehow, he was able to persuade his neighbors that his therapist recommended that him sleeping in the same bed as their daughter Jan would help him overcome his issues. And he would go on to spend at least 4 nights a week in Jan's bed.
"Now, Bob, this will probably floor you. I had sex with an aunt when I was four years old."
It just blew my mind. He said to me:
"Bob, part of my therapy is to just spend some time alone with your daughters. Would you mind?"
The Art of Manipulation
Robert was a master manipulator so he knew that to get close to Jan he needed to groom her guardians. Shockingly, in due course, he had sexual relationships with both of Jan's parents.
Occasionally he would compliment Mary Ann on her body and appearance, then she started developing a school-girl crush on him leading to them having an affair after the first kidnapping.
"He could give me a great feeling about myself. I was attracted to him. That was when it began, and I tried to ignore it, but I remember the way it made me feel."
During an afternoon outing, when the two fathers were alone, Berchtold asked Bob to "relieve" him through masturbation. Surprisingly Bob agreed and he would later confess that this was the worst thing he had ever done.
"So, I was dumb enough to reach over and relieve him in an act of masturbation.I did the worst thing I've ever done, as far as...breaking the trust and the fidelity that I had with my wife."
The First Abduction
On October 17, 1974, Berchtold offered to pick up Jan from her piano lessons and then take her horseback riding. Mary Ann was hesitant at first but she eventually agreed. As soon as Robert was able to take Jan into his vehicle he drugged her and staged an alien abduction.
In the meantime, her parents were starting to get worried and wanted to call the police, but Robert's wife Gail somehow convinced them not to call. They eventually called the FBI after three days.
For a few days, Jan was held in a motor home tied up to a bed with a small intercom near her pillow. As she would later describe in an interview the intercom's purpose was to deliver a crucial message.
"The aliens said that they had been watching me since I was born. I had been chosen to be impregnated with a child who would save their planet. They called me the 'female companion,' not knowing what they meant by that, and I would be given further instructions when I met the 'male companion.'"
On the third day of the abduction, the intercom instructed Jan to go to the front of the vehicle where she found Robert with blood all over him. The "aliens" then relayed that he is the 'male companion'.
The aliens' commands were quite clear, she had to be pregnant by the time she turns 16, or they would kill her and her father, her sister Karen would go blind, and her other sister Susan would be kidnapped and take her place as the "female companion."
"I mean when you combine being isolated and completely afraid, you can pretty much get someone to do or believe anything." Jan says in the documentary.
Over the course of a month, B. would repeatedly rape the 12-year-old girl. He took Jan to Mexico where they got married because at the time the legal age to be married in Mexico was 12 years. However, for Robert and his child bride to be able to get legally married in the USA, they needed Jan's parents' approval. The parents denied and flew to Mexico to take back their daughter. Robert remained in prison in Mexico until he was extradited to the States to face kidnapping charges. Those charges eventually turned out with a sentence of only 10 days in prison.
"I couldn't talk about the relaxing pills that I'd been given. I couldn't talk about the mission, and so, therefore, I couldn't talk about any of the sexual experiences that we had had." Jan recalls.
The aftermath of the "alien" abduction
Now as a stable thinking person you would think that kidnapping a child and marrying her would cause the child's family to be angry with the pedophile. As bizarre it may sound this was not the case. The Brobergs stayed friends with Robert, and not only the child bride's mother fell in love with him but they had an affair that lasted around a year. Mary Ann would, later on, reveal in interviews that they met at least eight times, but had sex only three times.
The Brobergs did not pursue any legal action against the perpetrator because apparently, Gail blackmailed them with the affair the mother and Robert were having.
At this point, you are probably wondering can this story get any worse, well it does. As you would imagine such an experience leaves a scar on a 12-year old child. After the kidnapping, Jan still believed that she has a mission to carry on.
She continued to have a relationship with her kidnapper for some time as they would write letters and call each other. Robert would sneak into her room at night leaving brainwashing tapes of the 'aliens'. On other occasions, he would just sneak in and rape the girl.
The Second abduction.
Two years after the first kidnapping, in August of 1976, Berchtold abducted Jan again. This time they were gone for four months. Robert instructed her to leave a note saying that she is running away and does not want to be searched for. Jan was brainwashed by him into believing she had no other choice.
"Dear Bob and Mary Ann, you won't let me do what's right, so I'll do what's wrong. I'm leaving without B, and do not plan on coming back until you accept me as me. I cannot accept your religion or your screwed-up morals. I just want to be me and have B. Please, before all of us are destroyed, let me go. Jan."
They ran away to Pasadena, California where Robert enrolled Jan in an all-girls catholic school. He manipulated the staff into believing that he works for the CIA and they are on the run. He instructed the staff that if someone is looking for them it's 'the bad guys' hence covering his tracks. The FBI was able to locate Jan and bring her back to Idaho.
But again no sexual abuse charges were brought against him. He was only charged with kidnapping. Due to a convincing insanity plea, he served only six months in a mental institution, despite having kidnapped a child twice, taken her out of the country, and committed more than 200 counts of rape by Jan's recollection.
What happened with Jan Broberg and Robert Berchtold after the kidnappings?
If you are hoping he spent the rest of his life behind bars you will be disappointed. Gail Berchtold divorced Robert and took away their children. Robert would go on to marry Dianna Wiley in July of 1990. They lived in Las Vegas up until 1997 when they moved to Nevada.
Jan and her mother Mary Ann wrote a book called "Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story" and eventually embarked on speaking tours. Jan wanted to raise awareness of such situations and potentially save other girls from what she had experienced.
Berchtold filed a lawsuit against them and publicly spoke, saying the book was full of lies. In 2004 Berchtold would appear at one of these events and cause a commotion by calling Jan a liar. Finally, Jan was able to obtain a restraining order against her kidnapper for the rest of his life. Following the public conversations, six women stepped forward and confessed that Berchtold had sexually abused them as children. Berchtold served one year in prison for the rape of one of the children.
Jan Broberg found release through acting and became a professional actress, she appeared on the WB series Everwood and several Latter-day Saint (Mormon) films. Most recently, she starred in the TruTV series I'm Sorry. Her father, passed away in November, for which Jan feels grateful, due to the backlash towards her parents upon the documentary's release.
Mary Ann eventually became a social worker and now advocates for abused and exploited children. “My mother went on to do a whole bunch of wonderful things for children and I think part of that was just to overcome her own maybe guilty or shame at not having seen clearly — but it’s not uncommon,” Jan says.
On one of the speaking events, Berchtold got into a fight with a group of BACA members (Bikers Against Child Abuse) and faced charges for 3 felonies and 2 misdemeanors.
He was scheduled to be sentenced but he did not want to go to jail. He committed suicide by overdosing on his medication. Berchtold killed himself in 2005 after he was found guilty of aggravated assault and illegal possession of a firearm. Berchtold's brother recalls him saying "'If it's one day in prison, it's going to kill me. I'm not going there.'" He overdosed on heart medicine, which he chased with Kahlua and milk, and passed away at 69.
And this is the twisted story of Jan Broberg. After watching the documentary and researching this case I simply cannot comprehend how all of these events occurred. How did this man escape justice so many times? Was he really that smart and manipulative? A lot of people claim that Jan's parents are just as guilty as the kidnapper. So what do you think?