Robert Berchtold kidnapped, sexually abused, and convinced his neighbor’s 12-year-old daughter, Jan Broberg, she was an alien hybrid on a perverse mission to save a faraway planet. This weirder-than-life story is told in the documentary Abducted in Plain Sight, which traces how Berchtold groomed, manipulated, and blackmailed the Broberg family in the 1970s. Find out more about his unassuming life and the events surrounding his horrendous crimes in this Robert Berchtold wiki.
Who Is Robert Berchtold?
There isn’t a lot of information out on there on the formative years of Robert Berchtold. This probably suits people who don’t want a psychological profile on what turned a so-called clean-cut “family man” into an unrepentant, manipulative pedophile just fine.
Berchtold was born on February 7, 1936 in Tremonton, Utah.
He served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. After the war, he returned to Utah, got married, had children, and settled in the small town of Pocatello, Idaho, where he ran a furniture store.
The dedicated member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) wasn’t quite the family man he appeared to be. In truth, he was a pedophile who stopped at nothing to get access to his victims.
And unfortunately, little was done to deter Berchtold from acting out his fantasies.
Berchtold had a history of trying to ingratiate himself with families with young daughters. It came back to haunt him. But only barely. In January 1974, he was given a slap on the wrist, a “reprimand” by the LDS Church for his behavior with a young girl.
No lesson was learned that day.
It wasn’t only the church that turned a seemingly blind eye. As incredible as it may sound, the parents of his victims did everything they could to be accommodating.
Berchtold Charmed His Way into the Broberg Family
In 1972, Robert Berchtold and his family met Mary Ann Broberg and her husband, Robert “Bob” Broberg, at the LDS church in their Idaho hometown. Berchtold and the Brobergs lived in the same neighborhood and would soon be spending copious amounts of time together.
The two men bonded over their backgrounds in business and being family men. Mary Ann Broberg and Gail Berchtold, Robert’s wife, bonded over their family and faith. A close family friendship ensued, with 10-year-old Jan Broberg and her sisters Susan and Karen Broberg describing Robert as a second father, affectionately calling him “dad” and “Brother B.”
“They had all the fun toys we didn’t have, like a boat, snowmobiles, a trampoline,” Jan recalled. “A close friendship ensued.”
Robert soon took a special interest in Jan. Upon learning that Jan and her sister Karen shared a basement bedroom, the handy Robert built a wall, giving the two girls their own bedrooms.
It would also give Robert private, intimate access to Jan…which he would get with her parents’ approval.
Robert told Mary Ann and Bob that he was seeing a therapist to help him deal with the issues he was reprimanded for by the LDS Church. Somehow, he managed to convince his neighbors that his therapist recommended he sleep in the same bed as their daughter Jan.
“Neither one of us was comfortable with him doing it,” Mary Ann said, “but it was his therapy.”
Berchtold Manipulated Jan’s Parents
A master manipulator, Robert Berchtold knew that to have access to Jan, he’d have to groom her parents. A seemingly impossible task when you consider they were a conservative LDS family.
But shockingly, in due course, both of Jan’s parents had sexual relationships with Berchtold.
Enthralled by Berchtold’s charms, Mary Ann developed a schoolgirl-like crush on him. Mary Ann and Bob had been married for 13 years and were, as is often the case, dealing with some issues.
Berchtold could sense this and exploited their struggles.
“Berchtold began saying things to me that were very exciting to hear. ‘Oh you have a beautiful body and those legs!’ And I felt this fluttering inside of me… He could give me a great feeling about myself,” said Mary Ann.
He also managed to convince straight-laced Bob Broberg to masturbate him. During one afternoon outing, when the two fathers were alone, Berchtold asked Bob to “relieve” him.
So he did.
Their reactions to that event couldn’t have been more different. Years later, a teary-eyed Bob said, “I did the worst thing I’ve ever done.”
Karen explained the impact that incident had on her father.
“Once he (Berchtold) had something to hang over their heads, he controlled them. They had a 10-minute locker room incident that affected my father for the rest of his life to his dying day.”
Berchtold later admitted to the FBI: “I entered into a homosexual relationship with her father in order to have access to Jan. I had a fixation for Jan.”
October 17, 1974 — The First Abduction
Robert Berchtold believed that he and Jan were meant to be together. And nothing would stand in their way.
On October 17, 1974, Berchtold offered to pick up Jan from her piano lessons and then take her horseback riding. Mary Ann was a little apprehensive at first; it was, after all, a school night. But she eventually agreed. What could possibly go wrong?
As soon as Berchtold got Jan in his car, he drugged her and staged a fake alien abduction.
Fading in and out of consciousness, Jan discovered her arms and legs tied to a bed. On occasion, Jan would wake up with a small intercom device next to her pillow.
The high-pitched voices coming out of the white ivory box identified themselves as aliens who had come to earth from a dying planet.
“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.’”
After three days, Jan woke to find the motor home had stopped moving. The intercom told her to go to the front of the vehicle. She opened the door and found a bloodied Robert Berchtold lying on the couch of the motor home.
A dazed and confused Berchtold acted as though he had no idea what was going on.
As if on cue, the intercom relayed more details about Jan’s mission. As told to Berchtold by the aliens, he was the “male companion” she was seeking. Not only that, Berchtold needed to impregnate her before she turned 16 so she could help save the extraterrestrials’ dying planet.
If she didn’t follow the aliens’ order, they would kill her and her father, Karen would go blind, and her sister Susan would be kidnapped and take her place as the “female companion.”
Over the course of the next month, Berchtold repeatedly raped Jan Broberg.
During their time in Mexico, Berchtold and Jan married. The legal age to marry in Mexico at the time was just 12.
But what was going on back in Idaho during this time? The Brobergs soon realized that their daughter and Robert were missing.
They were going to contact the FBI, but Gail Berchtold somehow convinced the Brobergs not to call; instead, they waited three days before calling the FBI. Even then, they didn’t want to believe that Robert had done anything wrong.
November 1974 — Police Locate Robert and Jan
At some point, Robert Berchtold wanted to return to the U.S. with his child bride. But he needed Jan’s family to bless their unholy union in order to cross the border back into the U.S. For once, Bob and Mary Ann did not agree.
Instead, they flew to Mexico to retrieve their daughter. It would take a concerted effort. In the early hours of November 23, 1974, police stormed Berchtold’s motor home and arrested him.
Bob and Mary Ann took Jan back to Idaho, while Berchtold remained in prison until he was extradited to the U.S. to face kidnapping charges.
His punishment was not severe. It was, like his experience with the LDS Church, a slap on the wrist.
For starters, he wasn’t charged with any crimes of a sexual nature. Jan assured her parents that nothing improper had gone on between them.
Second, the still-brainwashed preteen was not going to reveal anything about the sexual abuse she had been subjected to, because the “aliens” had told her not to.
Robert Berchtold and Brobergs Still Friends?!
One might think that kidnapping a child and marrying her would mean you were on the outs with said child’s family. But not in this bizarre case.
Not only did the family remain friends with Robert Berchtold, but Mary Ann fell in love with Robert and the pair had a full-on affair. Amazingly, the affair lasted for nearly a year—during the same period that he was charged with kidnapping Jan.
Mary Ann claims she met up with “Brother B” a total of eight times, but, allegedly, only had sex with him three times.
Eventually, the kidnapping charges would be lessened. This happened because Gail was able to use the affair and other sexual misdeeds against Mary Ann and Bob.
Instead of pursuing any legal action, the Brobergs issued a letter stating they would not be taking that route—since the whole kidnapping thing had been a big “misunderstanding.”
In the end, Robert Berchtold spent less than two weeks in jail.
Meanwhile, as all of this was going on, Jan and Robert continued to sneak in visits with each other. In addition to writing letters, they spoke on the phone. Sometimes, the voice on the other end of the line wasn’t Robert’s; rather, it was the “aliens” reminding Jan to complete her mission.
Robert would sneak into Jan’s bedroom at night and leave the brainwashing tape on. On numerous other occasions, he would rape Jan.
August–November 1976 — The Second Kidnapping
Two years after kidnapping Jan the first time, Robert Berchtold stole her away again. This time, they were gone for four months.
Berchtold appeared in Jan’s bedroom window on one night in August 1976, telling her to pack her bags and leave a note saying she was running away. Jan, who was clearly misguided, wrote: “You won’t let me do what’s right so I’ll do what’s wrong. I do not plan on coming back, I just want to be me and have ‘B.’ Let me go.”
The pair snuck into Berchtold’s Lincoln Continental and headed south to California.
Naturally, Jan’s parents were distraught about her running away. The FBI, on the other hand, wasn’t convinced, what with Berchtold being away and all. It wasn’t until November, though, that it was discovered that Berchtold had kidnapped Jan and was now living in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Jan wasn’t, however. He’d enrolled her at an all-girls Catholic school in Pasadena, California.
True to form, Berchtold convinced the educators at the school that he was in the CIA and that he and Jan were on the run! If anyone came looking for her, it was “the bad guys.”
The FBI eventually contacted the school, but the staff was more than a little reluctant to provide them with any information on Jan. Since they—like almost everyone else, it seems—believed everything Berchtold told them.
The FBI is the FBI after all, so they were eventually able to get Jan out of the school.
After three months in hiding, Jan was, once again, returned to Idaho. Berchtold was, once again, charged with kidnapping.
Jan would later recall that Berchtold raped her more than 200 times. But again, sexual abuse charges were never brought against him.
Aftermath of the Second Kidnapping
The first time Berchtold was in jail, he’d allegedly paid two men $1,000 to burn down the Brobergs’ store. Which they, of course, did. So now that he was in jail again, the Brobergs feared for their lives. Their fears should have also extended to the judicial system.
Berchtold was not sent to jail. Instead, he went to a mental facility…and was released six months later.
Berchtold Used Alien Story on Other Victims
Eventually, it was discovered that Robert Berchtold had used the alien abduction story on other victims. In one instance, he told a young girl that she was a princess from another planet, and was also on a mission.
As was Berchtold’s modus operandi, he befriended the girl’s mother, who was a psychiatric nurse at a prominent hospital. She was in his apartment for 119 days.
“My mother couldn’t see through him,” the victim later said.
For this, Berchtold was actually charged and convicted of rape of a child and sentenced to jail. He served one year.
Why Berchtold used the alien narrative has never been completely answered. Was he fascinated by science fiction? Or did he know that his victims, who were mostly religious, grew up believing that an angel had appeared to Mary, telling her she would give birth to Jesus Christ and save the world?
Six women have since come forward to say they were also raped by Berchtold.
Berchtold Remarried a Teacher with Two Young Daughters
Proving there’s someone for everyone, Robert, who had long ago divorced Gail, moved to Brigham City, Utah and remarried. This time, to a second-grade teacher who had two daughters. The two daughters, though, ran away to their biological father’s house in Idaho. Why? Robert had begun to sexually abuse them as well.
It was 2004, a full 28 years after he’d kidnapped Jan Broberg for a second time, and years after serving jail time for raping a child, he was still sexually abusing young girls. Nothing had, it seemed, changed.
A Confrontation, Hit-and-Run, and Arrest
Jan Broberg changed her name to Jan Broberg Felt when she married for the second time.
Broberg Felt seems to have channeled her difficult youth into an acting career. She has many theater, TV, and film credits under her belt, but she’s most known for roles in the television shows Everwood and Criminal Minds.
She’s also a writer. Broberg Felt and her mother Mary Ann Broberg collaborated on a book, Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story. It was eventually published in October 2003.
Subsequently, the pair embarked on a speaking tour. Robert Berchtold, feeling he was being misrepresented in the book, took to showing up at the readings.
Berchtold took it upon himself to inform the local media, and anyone present, that the two women were telling “lies.”
In March 2004, Berchtold, who was now 68 years old, showed up at a women’s conference at Dixie State College (now Dixie State University) in St. George, Utah where Jan was speaking. He asked a volunteer for Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) if he could distribute some pamphlets at the conference.
Jan had asked BACA, which included 12 bikers, to attend the conference for added safety. In the lead-up to the conference, Jan, members of her family, and the women’s conference board had received threatening letters from Berchtold.
Les Watson, the volunteer, asked to see the material. Berchtold refused and became threatening. When Watson walked away, Berchtold got into his white minivan and drove into him, striking his right knee. Watson, knocked into the front of the van, was dragged for 110 yards.
Berchtold then left the scene. Police were able to track him down a little while later at a local McDonald’s, thanks to a witness remembering his license plate.
Berchtold was booked into, fittingly, Purgatory Correctional Facility on charges of assault, criminal trespassing, and disorderly conduct. He was found guilty and was scheduled to be sentenced.
But once again, he avoided jail.
While Broberg Felt never saw Berchtold at the event in St. George, she was sufficiently worried for her life and decided to get a restraining order, which he contested. While in court, Berchtold told the presiding judge that
Broberg Felt was just looking for her 15 minutes of fame, a reference to American pop artist Andy Warhol’s oft-quoted refrain, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”
The woman he’d victimized as a child stood up and yelled, “No, I’m doing this because I want to protect families from monsters like you.”
The judge awarded Broberg Felt a restraining order against Berchtold. It was to last for the rest of his life.
Berchtold Commits Suicide
Robert Berchtold, aged 69, had no intention of going to jail. Ever. On November 11, 2005, he overdosed on his own medication.
His obituary makes no mention of his horrific crimes. Instead, he is fondly remembered as a truck driver who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He was survived by his wife, Deanna; sons, Jerry, James, Joseph, and Jeff; daughter, Jill Scott; and mother, Lucille.
Abducted in Plain Sight, directed by Skye Borgman, is currently on Netflix. Check out the film’s trailer below.