Content Warning: This piece contains slight details of sexual abuse. If Netflix is hoping that we never have a peaceful night of sleep ever again, they’re getting pretty darn close to good results. As of late, the streaming site has gone hard with true crime documentaries, that we gobble up — and then deal with paranoia for a few days (or weeks...or months). Fresh off the heels of The Ted Bundy Tapes, Netflix has dropped Abducted in Plain Sight. While it’s not a Netflix Original — the film was released back in 2017 and has only just been added to Netflix’s catalogue now — it’s gaining a slew of fresh new eyes on the story. And the scariest thing you need to know about Abducted in Plain Sight's timeline of true events sits right in the title. The documentary tells the story of young Jan Broberg and Robert “B” Berchtold, and how Berchtold abducted her in front of her own parents in Idaho in the 1970s.
And he did it not once, but twice. Yes, twice — at age 12 and later again at 14. It’s horrific enough to hear about a young girl being taken once, but twice? And twice by the same perpetrator? It’s a strange and twisted story that only gets weirder with each new detail. The documentary uses interviews, old recordings and videos, and also recreations to tell the extremely strange, upsetting story.
Because the doc can be a bit of a cluster, here's a rundown of all the major events:
Berchtold First Meets the Broberg Family
The Brobergs and Berchtold families were close friends, and spent countless hours and days together. The Broberg children (all girls) eventually came to call Berchtold “dad” and also “B.” Unbeknownst to them, Berchtold was simply getting close to them in order to take Jan as his own — he believed they were destined to be together and essentially wouldn’t take no for an answer.
During their first few years together, Berchtold gained the trust of every member of the Broberg family. He made advances at Mary Ann Broberg, the wife; he had Bob Borberg, the dad, jerk him off when he needed it; and he convinced both parents that he needed to sleep in Jan’s bed, with Jan, for his own therapeutic reasons. He was so kind and caring, the family didn’t suspect that he had ulterior motives.
First Abduction — October 17, 1974
One day after school, Berchtold asked if he could take Jan out horseback riding. At first, her mother was apprehensive, since it was a school night after all, but eventually agreed. As soon as she was in the car, Berchtold drugged Jan and staged a sorta-fake kidnapping to look like the two of them had been taken. In reality, Berchtold had taken Jan to Mexico where the two got married (at the time, the legal age to marry in Mexico was 12).
Jan didn’t grasp much of this right away, as she was dealing with bigger issues. While she was with Berchtold, she was brainwashed via a tape recorder and given a “mission.” Jan was told that she was supposed to save an alien race by having a child with Berchtold, and she needed to do this by age 16, or one of her sisters would have to do it — or her family members would go blind or die. Fearing for her life, and her sister’s life (and also the livelihood of the fake alien race), Jan and Berchtold had sex.
Eventually, Berchtold wanted to return back to the United States, but needed the Broberg family to agree to the marriage in order to cross the border. The Broberg family did not agree, and instead flew to Mexico to retrieve their daughter. After returning to the U.S. himself, Berchtold was charged with kidnapping.
The Aftermath Following the First Kidnapping
Jan, confused and clearly not thinking clearly, believed that she was truly in love with Berchtold. The though the two were not supposed to be together, they would write letters and talk on the phone.
While she was at home, and supposedly safe and sound, the brainwashing tape recorder returned to Jan during the night. She believed that she still had a mission to do. She and Berchtold had sex, committing statutory rape, multiple times.
The Brobergs' homelife declined, and eventually Mary Ann had an affair with Berchtold. It lasted for almost a year, until they broke it off. Meanwhile, Berchtold was up on kidnapping charges, and Berchtold’s wife, Gail, used the affair information to blackmail the Brobergs into lessening the chargers. Berchtold was sentenced to serve five years in jail, but that was later dropped to 45 days; in the end, he spent roughly 10 days in jail.
Jan Is Kidnapped Again — August - November 1976
Later, in the summer of 1976, Jan ran away from home, leaving both her family and Berchtold distraught. However, the FBI was convinced that Berchtold knew where she was, so they put surveillance on him. Eventually, in November, it came to light that Berchtold had kidnapped Jan back in August of that same year.
Berchtold, who was now living in Salt Lake City, Utah, had enrolled Jan at an all-girls Catholic school in Pasadena, California. He told the school that he was CIA, and that they were on the run. In an effort to keep Jan hidden away, he explained that if anyone came looking for Jan, “they were the bad guys.” The FBI contacted the school, but they were reluctant to disclose Jan’s information, assuming what Berchtold had told them was true.
The FBI was able to get Jan out of the school, and brought her back home to Idaho. Berchtold was changed with kidnapping again.
Aftermath of Second Kidnapping
While in Jail the first time, Berchtold convinced two guys he would pay the $1,000 to burn down the Brobergs' store, which the two guys did. The Brobergs now feared for their lives.
Berchtold was then brought to trial again for first degree kidnapping, but was not convicted. Instead, he was sentenced to a mental facility in 1997. He was released six months later.
Jan Still Believed She Was On A “Mission”
It’s only when Jan finally turned 16 that she realized that the mission she was on this whole time was maybe fake. Jan asked her parents to go a theater camp for the summer. While away from home, Jan started to question if these aliens were real or not. She concocted a plan to carry out the rest of the mission herself, in which she’ll kill herself and her sister Karen. Eventually, Jan gets the sense that her life is fine and that these aliens are not real. She tells this to her parents and the family begins to heal the wounds caused by Berchtold.
Jan’s New Life And The End of Berchtold
Jan and her mother start writing a book, Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story, and eventually embark on a speaking tour. Berchtold starts showing up at these events and talking to the media in order to shut this down, saying that what the two are spreading are “lies.” Jan then filed a stalking charge, and Berchtold contested it. In the end, Jan was granted a restraining order against Berchtold for the rest of his life.
Outside one speaking event in 2005, Berchtold got into a fight with a group of BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) members and was charged with 3 felonies and 2 misdemeanors. He was found guilty, and was scheduled to be sentenced, but didn’t want to go to jail. His brother explains in the documentary that he overdosed on his own medicine, suffering death by suicide.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).