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Robert Berchtold allegedly committed horrendous crimes — and supposedly no one stopped him, despite the plethora of evidence against him. The almost unbelievably surreal story of his kidnapping of Jan Broberg is told in the "Abducted In Plain Sight" documentary, directed by Skye Borgman (currently streaming on Netflix). Berchtold had continued to deceive the Broberg family even after kidnapping their daughter to the point where they were uninterested in pursuing legal action against him, allowing him to escape serious punishment for much of his life. But what, ultimately, was Berchtold's fate?
Warning: Spoilers below
Berchtold, a close friend of the Brobergs, had allegedly charmed his way into a favorable position with the family in the early 1970s. The children in the clan considered Berchtold a second father, so much so that when he fled to Mexico with the 12-year-old Jan at his side in August 1974, the family was unwilling to consider it a kidnapping. Berchtold proceeded to convince the girl that she was the scion of an ancient alien race, tasked with saving the species by procreating with him. She was told that should she ever stray from her task, she would face punishment.
“They identified themselves as aliens from a dying planet,” Jan recalled to the Idaho State Journal. “They said that they had been watching me since I was born and I had been chosen to be impregnated with a child who would save their planet. They called me the ‘female companion,’ not knowing what they meant by that, and I would be given further instructions when I met the ‘male companion.’”
Berchtold eventually was forced to return Jan but the family would not consider him a criminal. Berchtold had managed to manipulate the Brobergs so thoroughly that he was able to temporarily abscond with Jan once again in August 1976. When Jan was finally returned to her family, Berchtold managed to beat several kidnapping charges by claiming he had a mental defect, landing him in a mental institution — for only six months.
In total, Jan estimates that her and Berchtold engaged in sexual activities a total of "more than 200 times" throughout their relationship.
In adulthood, Jan and her mother, Mary Ann Broberg, would go on to write a book titled "Stolen Innocence" about the family's harrowing experiences. Jan and Mary Ann went on a nationwide speaking tour in the hopes of raising awareness about the prevalence of sexual abuse but were repeatedly interrupted by none other than Berchtold himself, who publicly denied several of the claims made against him.
Jan eventually filed for a restraining order against Berchtold, who continued to assert her story was filled with lies created to sell books. When questioned by Berchtold about her motives in a hearing for a restraining order against him in 2004 (which, according to Rolling Stone, was their first encounter in almost three decades) Jan responded by saying, "My goal, Mr. Berchtold, is to educate the public about predators like you."
Jan would go on to explain to "Good Morning America" what she believed were Berchtold's motives at the time.
"I think he's desperate because he knows our story has come out," she said, according to ABC News.
"They're trying to make a buck," Berchtold countered.
Six women have since contacted Jan to say they, too, were molested by Berchtold. Berchtold was ultimately found guilty of the rape of one of those children and spent one year in jail.
After a violent altercation with BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) demonstrators opposed to Berchtold appearing at Jan's events, Berchtold was found guilty of possession of a firearm and aggravated assault. Fearing prison and rejected by the object of his obsession, Berchtold died by suicide before sentencing.
"Bob had gone to court that day and been found guilty," explained Berchtold's brother, Joe, in the documentary. "He says, 'If it's one day in prison, it's going to kill me. I'm not going there.' He had taken all his heart medicine and drank Kahlua and milk. He drank that and died."
"Robert Ersol Berchtold, 69, of Logandale, died Nov. 11, 2005. He was a truck driver and served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He is survived by his wife, Deanna; sons, Jerry, James, Joseph, and Jeff; daughter, Jill Scott; and mother, Lucille," read his 2005 obituary in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Jan continues to hope her story serves as a warning to other families.
"The smartest people you know right now could have a child who is suffering at the hands of somebody who the parents know, love and trust," Jan said to the Idaho State Journal. "That's because those parents don’t see what’s in front of them. And these kids don’t tell."
[Photo: Screenshot via YouTube Movies]
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