Abducted in Plain Sight: An Overview

Over the past few weeks, true crime has been in the spotlight on Netflix. The famous Ted Bundy tapes have now been replaced by a new chilling story about a young girl named Jan Broberg who was abducted by a close family friend, Robert Berchtold. Abducted in Plain Sight is a new documentary which follows the story of Jan, her abductor, and how he managed to manipulate her entire family. As the saying goes, some of the most poisonous people come disguised as friends and family.

The story takes place in a close knitted neighborhood in Idaho during the late 70’s. The Broberg’s were considered a trustful family who never doubted leaving their doors unlocked at night. To their surprise, they became good friends with another family that lived next to them, the Berchtold’s. The father, Bob Berchtold, began to create a close relationship within the entire Broberg’s family, but took a fascination towards one of the daughters, Jan. To their dismay, the family believed Bob or “B”, was unsuspicious since they all took an admiration towards him. B managed to have both parents under his wing since the mom, Mary Ann Broberg, was falling in love with him. Throughout the documentary, it was revealed that Mary Ann would continuously sleep with him even to the point of causing a separation between her and her husband. The husband is also no victim to his acts since B convinced him to provide him sexual “relief”. This gave leverage to B who would soon use it against them when the kidnappings of Jan occurred.

On October 17, 1974, 12-year-old Jan was kidnapped by B and did not return until the police became involved with the case. The parents failed to act quickly and showcased their poor parenting skills by allowing B to take Jan on a trip. A month later, they were located by the FBI near the Mexican border and at this point, B was taken into custody in the U.S and admitted to have married Jan. During the month with B, Jan does not confess to her parents what happened. In the documentary, Jan explains how she was tied up and put into this box into his motor home. She then hears a faint voice telling her that she must procreate with the next man she sees or the aliens would get involved and harm her family. She had to complete the mission before she turned 16 and when she realized that the man was B, she felt a sense of comfort. B had managed to manipulate and convince her to perform sexual intercourse with him as well.

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After the first abduction, Jan had grown to love B and refused to believe he was anything but bad. B was waived off the charges of being convicted of kidnapping her, and although the FBI had warned the Broberg family to stay away from him, they failed to do so. B remained seeing Jan and even slept in the same bed as her as a “sense of therapy for his wrongdoings.” The mom begins to become worrisome of the relationship between B and her daughter, but B sways her by reassuring that he wants her, rather than the daughter. Since this was the first time she was receiving attention for a while, the mom begins a sexual relationship with B and it isn’t until the dad files a divorce that she realizes B is manipulative.

While this continues on, Jan becomes concerned with failing to complete the mission since she has not been pregnant and B relocated somewhere else where he bought an amusement park. She begs her parents to let her work for him at the amusement park and they send her away in a plane. Not only does B have her ways with her, but when she comes back home, she is rebellious and does not want to leave B alone. She develops a strong attachment to B and ends up leaving her family for the last time. Throughout this time away from her family, the Brobergs continuously receive calls from B asking if Jan is safe. Little did they know B had taken her away, remained performing sexual acts, and sent her to a private Catholic school. Once B is incarcerated and Jan is found, Jan begins to question if the entire mission was a hoax. The family does not suspect anything is wrong until she turns 16 and goes to camp. There, she realizes that everything had been a lie with B, the mission, and she finally tells her parents what really happened.

Several speculate that the story is false, while others are in disbelief that the events that occurred are true. While I believe that there is more to the story that is not told, I do know that B was a manipulative, pedophilic, person who deserved to get mental help and stay incarcerated. Although he cheated jail and death, I cannot seem to grasp that the parents failed to do their job as protectors and role models. The fact that the entire family was involved with B and could not push him away makes me realize how weak willed people are. I blame both the perpetrator and the family for the events that happened with everyone. However, the release of the documentary shined the light that this can happen to anyone at any time. They were victims of their own innocence and admitted to how naïve they were. The family since then has received a lot of backlash, but I appraise them for stepping forward and telling their story. It is difficult to confess your mistakes, but it is even harder to admit you let them occur.