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Why You Need To Watch “Abducted In Plain Sight”

Abduction stories are the worst. They create fear and make us question our every move and surrounding. You would think Abducted in Plain Sight would be like any other kidnapping story, but honestly, this will probably be the strangest documentary you have ever seen. Thanks to Netflix, we have another reason to second guess everything. After being released last month, Abducted in Plain Sight has become one of Netflix’s most popular true crime documentaries next to The Ted Bundy Tapes. The story follows the kidnapping of Jan Broberg, a 12-year-old girl from Pocatello, Idaho who was kidnapped by Robert Berchtold twice in the 70s.

Jan’s mother, Mary Ann Broberg, wrote a book recounting the events called Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story, which was made into a documentary in 2017. The film goes into more detail and even includes real recordings of Berchtold and the tapes he gave to Jan when manipulating her. Now, to understand how and why this happened, here’s the chronological order of how Berchtold controlled and manipulated the Brobergs for years.

The Brobergs and The Berchtolds

For the Brobergs, a suburban family living in Pocatello, Idaho, life was quiet and normal. Bob Broberg was a business owner while his wife Mary Ann was a stay at home mother who tended to their three daughters; Karen, Susan, and Jan. After meeting at church one Sunday, the Brobergs and Berchtolds were inseparable. The kids from both families bonded and played together while the parents spent time together whenever they could. It was during their growing friendship that Robert Berchtold’s obsession with 12-year-old Jan began. And in order to get Jan, he had intimate relationships with both Bob and Mary Ann.

1st Abduction

After having gained the Brobergs’ trust, Berchtold was able to convince Jan’s mother to let him take her to the “horse stables” for the afternoon. Although Mary Ann wasn’t sure it was the right decision, she said yes because she trusted Berchtold. Right as ‘B’ and Jan got into the car, he drugged her, making her think she was taking allergy medicine. After having woken up later that night, B set up a fake kidnapping in order to make Jan think they were both being abducted. What Jan didn’t know was that he drove them to Mexico where they were legally married.

While abducted, she was brainwashed into thinking that aliens had taken both B and her, and was given the mission of having a child with Berchtold by the age of 16. If she wasn’t pregnant by then, her sister would have to get pregnant and the rest of her family would go blind and even die. With the help of a tape recorder, Berchtold was able to convince and lure Jan, who would later be sexually assaulted during the abduction. She didn’t find her assault to be wrong back then because she thought she was “doing the right thing”.

After tracking their location down with a phone call, the FBI were able to arrest Berchtold and charge him with kidnapping. The Brobergs later dropped their charges due to Berchtold and his wife using the affair he and Mary Ann had as a tool to lower the charges. Because of this, Berchtold only served 10 days in jail for good behavior.  

2nd Abduction

Because of the mission replaying in her head, Jan decided to run away from home. The FBI once again began looking for Jan, and even questioned Berchtold on her disappearance. He said he knew nothing and was worried for her safety. What was quickly uncovered, however, was how B put Jan into an all-girls Catholic school in California, which he would visit on the weekends. As a result, Berchtold was arrested and charged again.

Like before, Robert Berchtold’s case was not taken seriously. Rather than being found guilty of kidnapping, he was instead put into a mental facility for six months.

The Confrontation

Decades later and after having written the book Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story, both Jan and Mary Ann embarked on a book tour where they came face to face with Berchtold. He claimed that the book was all lies and his appearances got to the point where Jan was granted a restraining order against him. That didn’t stop him, though. He would later show up to one of her speaking events in 2005 and assault members of BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse). He was later charged with 3 felonies and 2 misdemeanors.

In fear that he may end up going to prison, Berchtold commited suicide by overdosing on medicine.

Life Now for The Brobergs

Still living with regret, Mary Ann and Bob Broberg never forgave themselves for allowing Berchtold into their lives. Bob passed away in November of last year, but Mary Ann saw some good out of it and was glad that he wasn’t alive to see the backlash. The rest of the family still openly speaks about the events that occured. Jan is still on the road to recovery, saying that she thinks about Berchtold at least once a day, even when she wishes she couldn’t.

This true crime documentary was different to say the least. The Brobergs suffered and experienced the most unimaginable events that no one can really imagine themselves being in. I recommend watching this documentary before anything else. Honestly, you will not regret it.

 

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President of Her Campus Utah and Senior at the University of Utah.
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