Unbelievable true story behind A Friend Of The Family: What happened to Jan Broberg

Darcy Rafter October 14, 2022
Unbelievable true story behind A Friend Of The Family: What happened to Jan Broberg
Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images


The new Peacock original series A Friend Of The Family is based on the harrowing true story of the Broberg family and the multiple kidnappings of their young daughter, Jan. 

True crime fans have likely already binge-watched Netflix’s Abducted In Plain Sight which came out in 2017.

Now, a new show also focused on Jan Broberg’s story is being told from the perspective of Jan and her mother Mary Ann, who are producers in the series.

The nine-episode true crime series premiered on October 6 and delves into how Bob Berchtold gained the trust of the Broberg family to such a level that he was then able to kidnap their daughter twice.

Berchtold was in fact a predator who hid in plain sight. He sexually assaulted Jan from the age of 12 to 16 years old and severely brainwashed her.

Before you dive into the long-awaited new series which stars Anna Paquin, Jake Lacy, and Colin Hanks – let’s take a look at the tragic true story behind A Friend Of The Family.

Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images

Unbelievable true story behind A Friend Of The Family

The series examines Jan’s story of being groomed and abducted by a man who was a known friend to her family. Jan lived with her religious family in Idaho, and Berchtold was also part of their Mormon church located in the small town of Pocatello.

The two families met at church in the early 1970s, as all of the children were around the same age, the families went on trips together, had church parties, and held family dinners.

Berchtold integrated himself into their lives so much so that Jan’s parents even let him sleep in her bed as a young child, according to People. However, one evening their trust in Berchtold was completely broken when he took Jan, who was 12 at the time, horse riding. Instead, Berchtold drugged Jan and kidnapped her, before traveling to a motorhome in a Mexican desert.

Abductor brainwashes child to believe she was abducted by aliens

When Jan woke up, she was tied to a bed and played a tape-recorded message telling her that she had been abducted by an alien. Speaking to BBC 5 Live Jan said: “I literally did anything [the aliens] told me to do because they told me my little sister would be taken if I didn’t fulfill the mission of having the child for their dying planet.”

Berchtold brainwashed Jan into thinking they’d both been kidnapped and they had to follow the orders to keep their families safe. He told Jan that the only way to save her family was for one of the Broberg daughters to have a child with him by the age of 16. He then raped her.

Jan’s parents eventually flew to Mexico to find her and upon returning to the US, Berchtold was arrested and charged with kidnapping.

Berchtold had also had sexual encounters with both Jan’s parents and his affair with Mary Ann was used as evidence to lessen the kidnapping charges against him. Thus his sentence was shortened to just 10 days in jail. Whilst in there, Berchtold persuaded his inmates to burn down the Broberg’s shop for money, which they succeeded in doing, writes Cosmopolitan.

A Friend of The Family | Official Trailer | Peacock Original

A Friend of The Family | Official Trailer | Peacock Original

Jan Broberg’s traumatic second abduction

Two years later in August 1976, Berchtold kidnapped Jan a second time when he took her to California, to enroll her in an all-girls Catholic school.

He told the school administrators that he was in the CIA so needed to keep their information completely private, as per Refinery. Eventually, the FBI tracked him down and returned Jan to her family.

After the second abduction, Berchtold stood trial for the charge of first-degree kidnapping but was only sentenced to six months in a mental hospital.

Jan’s journey to justice

Jan documented the harrowing events and wrote a memoir alongside her mom titled Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story. In 2003 they went on a speaking tour and Berchtold would occasionally show up at the events. Until Jan filed for a lifelong restraining order against him.

Jan may have finally seen justice when Berchtold was set to serve a custodial sentence. However, he committed suicide in 2005 before he was jailed.

Broberg has now used her story to help others as she started The Jan Broberg Foundation in 2022 to help victims of abuse heal. She also has a podcast series and is an accomplished actor and acts as an executive producer on the Peacock series. However, reliving her trauma is difficult as filmmaker Skye Borgman told Vanity Fair that during the editing process, she was so frustrated with the family and their actions that she took a six-week break from the process.

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Darcy is an experienced journalist working on GRV Media’s audience team across The Focus, Reality Titbit, and HITC. Darcy studied Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University and whilst there she completed a work internship with GRV Media. After gaining a first-class BA (Hons) degree, Darcy joined the team full-time. Since then she has become a social media specialist and her expertise lies in tracking trends. With five years of experience in media, she is particularly passionate about celebrity culture and entertainment. When she’s not writing about The Kardashians, she’s binge-watching it!