The undeniably horrific saga of Jan Broberg’s kidnapping at the hands of her neighbor Robert Berchtold not once but twice while she was 12 and 14, respectively, is honestly unlike any other. After all, as profiled in both Netflix’s ‘Abducted in Plain Sight’ as well as Peacock’s ‘A Friend of the Family,’ he seduced her parents, brainwashed her, and manipulated every aspect of her life. So now, if you wish to learn more about him — with a specific focus on his offenses, his penalties, his opinions on the same, and its entire aftermath — we’ve got the essential details for you.
Who Was Robert Berchtold?
It was back around the early 1970s that Robert moved to Pocatello, Idaho, alongside his wife Gail Toyn Berchtold and their kids, only to have the equally religious Brobergs as their neighbors. They thus quickly developed a close bond and proceeded to attend church together, have family dinners, and even go on trips until they were essentially ingrained in one another’s daily routine. In fact, he ultimately managed to make successful advances at both Mary Ann Broberg and Robert “Bob” Broberg, while their three girls (with Jan being the eldest) also began calling him “dad.”
Little did anyone realize, though, that Robert was besotted with Jan, which is why he not just convinced her parents to let him sleep beside her in bed but even kidnapped her in October 1974. He actually drugged the 12-year-old upon telling her family he was taking her horseback riding, only to tie her up in his motor home and make his way to Mexico in the hopes of marrying her. There, he brainwashed her into believing she was a half-alien who needed to save the species by having his baby before she turned 16 to ensure he could continuously sexually assault her.
Jan was rescued five weeks later, yet Robert avoided any serious charges by manipulating the Brobergs into signing an affidavit declaring they had permitted him to travel with their daughter. He was hence given a 5-year sentence on lesser counts, which was later dropped to 45 days, and in the end, he only spent ten days behind bars before having his complete freedom again. However, the two families remained in touch, essentially enabling him to kidnap Jan again in August 1976 — this time, he managed to hide her in a Catholic girl’s school in California for four months.
How Did Robert Berchtold Die?
The FBI was the one to locate Robert and Jan in November 1976, but the former again evaded the charge of first-degree abduction by successfully asserting mental illness during his trial. Therefore, despite the fact he had already relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah, by this point, he was ordered into a mental health facility for treatment, just to be released less than six months later. The Berchtolds consequently went their separate ways from the Brobergs, yet it’s imperative to note Robert did spend a year in prison around a decade later for raping a minor (an unrelated matter).
It was around 2004 that Robert and Jan came face to face again — once she filed a restraining order following his appearances at the events she was engaging in to promote her memoir ‘Stolen Innocence.’ While he was vehemently proclaiming her narrative was filled with inaccuracies as well as lies to sell her book, she claimed “he [was] desperate because our story has come out.”
Jan was granted the restraining order and also had the support of Bikers Against Child Abuse, so when Robert showed up again at an event in 2005, an altercation ensued. Robert was subsequently charged with three felonies plus two misdemeanor counts for showing up at Jan’s event and harming BACA members, of which he was soon found guilty. However, since the 69-year-old did not want to spend any more time behind bars, he took his own life by overdosing on his heart medicine and Kahlúa before he could be sentenced, per ‘Abducted in Plain Sight.’ He died on November 11, 2005.
Read More: Where Are Jan Broberg’s Parents Now?