true crime

Jan Broburg escaped her paedophile abductor age 12. Two years later, he kidnapped her again.

Jan Broberg’s parents weren’t concerned when a close family friend had gone missing with their 12-year-old daughter in 1974.

They had become so brainwashed by Robert Berchtold that they only reluctantly reported her missing days later. It was five weeks before police received a tip-off and Berchtold was found to have been living with Jan, in Mexico.

In that time the man, aged in his 40s, had raped and abused the young Idaho girl, and even attempted to marry her.

Yet after Jan was returned Bob and Mary Ann Broberg, they dropped charges against their close friend, who they had allowed to sleep in their daughter’s bed for weeks before the kidnapping.

So how does a man manage to convince a couple to give him such blatantly boundary-crossing access to their pre-teen daughter?

That baffling case is the subject of 2017 documentary film Abducted in Plain Sight, which has been disturbing viewers since it dropped on Netflix last week.

Featuring interviews with Jan, Mary Ann and others close to the case, it tells the story of a paedophile and master manipulator who targeted a 12-year-old girl and her family.

It explains how Berchtold entered the family’s lives through church. After befriending the married couple, he managed to seduce Mary Anne into an affair and Bob into a separate sexual encounter, later using it against them.

Berchtold, married with kids himself, later convinced them to allow him to sleep in their daughter’s bed, telling them he had been abused as a child and this would help his therapy. For weeks he would sleep in Jan’s bed and molest the girl, who had been drugged on sleeping pills, as she slept.

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“He was like a second father to me and I felt like I was one of his children. I completely loved him and completely trusted him,” Jan, now 56, says in the documentary.

Yet even though this abuse was happening right under their noses, Mary Ann and Bob claim not to have known about it, that they were naive to the workings of paedophiles.

They even signed an affidavit to not pursue prosecutions against him for kidnapping their daughter, who he had convinced that aliens wanted them to have sex.

That case did go to trial, but Berchtold, who had been sentenced to five years jail, had it reduced to just 45 days behind bars.

And it didn’t end there.

Jan, brainwashed by Berchtold, continued a sexual relationship with him. Two years later, he kidnapped Jan a second time – making it appear as if she’d ran away.

She was found and returned to her family a few months later – but it was still months down the track that Jan realised there were no aliens and started to heal from the trauma of this horrific time in her life.

Now, Jan is now an actress who has more than a dozen credits to her name. She has also spoken about her childhood trauma in the hopes it could teach other parents the signs of an abuser to look out for.

Berchtold, meanwhile, after being served a restraining order from Jan and spending time in and out of prison took his own life in 2005.

Abducted in Plain Sight is available to stream on Netflix.

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