Abducted in Plain Sight


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Jan Broberg and Robert Berchtold in Abducted in Plain Sight (2017)

Deja Kincaid, Staff Reporter

The 2017 documentary produced by Skye Borgman, Emily Kincaid and Stephanie Tobey is based on a true story. The documentary reveals the abduction of Jan Broberg during the years of 1974 through 1978. 

Mary Broberg, the mother of Jan, Karen, and Susan met the Berchtolds in church in June of 1972. They connected quite fast and had lots in common; they even had kids that were the same age. Early on to the family’s meeting, it was known that “B” Bob Berchtold, had a fascination with the Broberg family’s eldest daughter Jan, aged 9. The parents found it “disturbing” but never said anything about his actions. After Jan Broberg released her book Stolen Innocence in 2003 with the help of her mother, six other women came out and said that B sexually assaulted them as young girls. 

The first of two kidnappings took place in October 1974, when B offered to take Jan horseback riding in their hometown Pocatello, Idaho on a school night. Mary requested they try a different day, but B insisted they go that night. Mary allowed them to go and that’s when Jan went missing for 35 days until B and Jan were found. On day 35, B called his brother Joe Berchtold and the location of the phone was tracked down by the police. Jan and B were found in Mazatlan, Mexico, and then both went to a Mexican prison. B told Jan that she could not talk about 4 things: Zethra and Zeida, the aliens he brainwashed her into thinking were real, the relaxing pills he gave her, the missions relating to the aliens, and the sexual relations they had during those 35 days. 

Mary and the rest of her family wanted Jan back; but it required striking a deal with B. B had married Jan in Mexico when Jan was only 12 years old. The only way Jan could come home was if Mary gave the okay for them to get married in the United States. Mary and Bob Broberg visited Jan, and took her home. 

In June of 1976, B moved away to Jacksonville, Wyoming and bought a family fun center. Jan begged Mary to let her stay with B. Her answer was no, until Jan had said that she would hike into the woods to find B. Jan was sent out on a plane and worked at the family fun center while also living with B. August 10,1976: was day one of her second disappearance. November, 1976, approximately 90 days into Jan’s second disappearance, FBI put a surveillance camera on B’s motor home -recording 24/7. Two weeks went by, they tracked yet another phone call and the location was in California. 

When she was brought back to Idaho, she was sent to jail, and then taken home. According to Bob Broberg, her father, she was “gone” and “no longer vivacious, or happy” Everyone in her home said she had changed, and not in a good way. “She was hollow, without feelings. She was emotionally gone,” said her father. 

The documentary describes the relationship between Bob Berchtold and the Brobergs, mainly Jan. The story brings awareness to sexual assault survivors, especially when there’s complicity involved. It brings attention to the fact that atrocious, horrendous things can happen to anyone by anyone, even if it’s by someone who should be trusted.