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Fact vs Fiction: What Happened to Jan Broberg in A Family Friend?

Also, did Robert Berchtold have any other encounters with female victims before she did?
The unfortunate events that occurred during Jan Broberg’s childhood left viewers of the documentary “Abducted in Plain Sight,” which was released by Netflix in 2017, completely perplexed.

The film focuses on Broberg’s search for answers about what happened to him. It is not something that happens regularly to hear a story about a little girl being abducted twice by the same individual.

Therefore, when Peacock announced that the limited series A Friend of the Family, starring Jake Lacy and Colin Hanks, would be based on the events surrounding Jan’s kidnappings, many people who are interested in true crime were prepared to watch the drama series in the hopes of obtaining an answer to the most important question.

What May Have Caused This to Occur?

Since new episodes of A Friend of the Family are made available every week, we’ve decided to take the opportunity to do a little bit of research into the true events surrounding Jan Broberg and her abuser, Robert Berchtold, to find out what went down in their relationship.


Peacock has placed a disclaimer on each episode that states “certain parts have been fictionalised solely for dramatic purposes and are not intended to reflect on any actual person or entity.”

As episodes become available, we will continue to provide the facts behind some of the viewers’ most pressing questions. This is because Peacock has placed a disclaimer on each episode.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s take a look at the events that transpired in the tale that served as the basis for A Friend of the Family.

What Ultimately Became Jan Broberg?

Robert Berchtold moved to Pocatello, Idaho, near the Brogbergs in 1972. Jan Broberg revealed her tragic story in the documentary Abducted in Plain Sight and with ABC News (opens in new tab).

Once Berchtold became close to the family, he gave Jan gifts and took her to the movies. His outings with her to the cinema proved extremely significant as he took her to view movies about UFOs and space travel, notions that would later be utilised to brainwash Broberg during her kidnapping.

On October 17, 1974, Jan’s parents let her go horseback riding with Robert. She later found herself strapped to a bed in a mobile home in Mexico (though she wasn’t sure).

While she lay there, he played an audio tape that said she had been kidnapped by a UFO.
She was drugged and sexually assaulted for five weeks, according to People.

Additionally, she was forced to marry Robert. Throughout this trauma, she was tricked into being submissive since the recording threatened to kill her and her father, blind her sister Karen, and kidnap her sister Susan.

When the authorities ultimately apprehended Robert and Jan was delivered to her parents, Robert astonishingly only received a 45-day prison sentence. Even more astonishing, he only served 10 of those days in jail.

Robert abused and manipulated Jan for two years before abducting her again at age 14. Her disappearance lasted four months.


After kidnapping Jan a second time, he fled the prison and spent five months in a psychiatric institute.

Robert Berchtold Had a Family, Right?

What A Friend of the Family does a better job of highlighting than the documentary Abducted in Plain Sight is the fact that Robert Berchtold had a family of his own during the time of the kidnappings.

This is an important piece of information. He was married to a woman named Gail and was the father of five kids.

During the first time that Jan is kidnapped, there is a point in the limited series where Jan’s parents want to call the police, but at Gail’s request, they decide not to do so instead of calling them.

This draws particular focus on Gail. According to a piece in The Atlantic, this occurred in real life (opens in new tab).

Due in part to Gail’s pleading, the Brobergs waited seven days after Jan was taken to Mexico before contacting the FBI to report their daughter missing. This was done in response to Gail’s request.

Have There Been Romantic Encounters Between Robert Berchtold and Robert Broberg?

According to Skye Borgman, the director and producer of Abducted in Plain Sight, Jan’s father Robert Broberg admitted to having sexual “indiscretions” with Jan’s abuser, Robert Berchtold.

This information was shared with Vanity Fair (opens in a new tab) by Skye Borgman.

Additionally, as was discussed in Newsweek (link opens in new tab), Robert Berchtold used these encounters to persuade Jan’s father after the initial abduction so that the father would not seek kidnapping charges against him.

It appears that her father did not want the word of what the two of them had done at that time to go out because he wanted the man to pay as much as possible for his crimes.

For What Crime Was Robert Berchtold Found Guilty?

Despite all of the allegations that Berchtold was responsible for grooming, kidnapping, and sex crimes after Jan’s first abduction, he was only convicted of kidnapping in June of 1976.


The other allegations against him were dropped. According to a report that was published in The Atlantic (opens in a new tab), Jan’s parents, who were reportedly feeling “duress,” withdrew the majority of the serious allegations, and Berchtold was willing to accept a plea agreement for kidnapping.

As was indicated before, although he was initially sentenced to five years in prison, the judge presiding over the case shortened the sentence to 45 days, with Berchtold only serving 10 of those days.

Berchtold was charged with kidnapping once more after the second time he abducted Jan, who was 14 at the time of the incident. However, he was never found legally guilty for this second charge, and rather, he was acquitted because he had a “reason of mental impairment.”

In a separate incident in 1986, Berchtold was found guilty of one count of “rape of a kid,” as reported by the Deseret News of Utah (link opens in new tab), which was unrelated to the Broberg family.

Surprisingly, the length of time he spent in prison for the crime was only one year.

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It didn’t take Berchtold very long into his second attempt to kidnap Jan in 1976 before he decided to send her to a Catholic all-girls boarding school in Pasadena, California, under the guise of Janis Tobler.

Jan was only 14 years old at the time. As Jan explains it herself in the documentary available on Netflix:

“He told the nuns that I was his daughter and that he was a CIA agent, and that we had escaped from Lebanon during, this was during, the Lebanon crisis, and that my mother had been killed,” I said. “He told the nuns that I was his daughter and that he was a CIA agent.”

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