Robert Berchtold

Robert Berchtold groomed the Broberg family between 1972 and 1976 in order to get closer to their 12-year-old daughter Jan, whom he eventually abducted and married.

On October 17, 1974, Robert Berchtold picked up his young neighbor Jan Broberg from her piano lessons in Pocatello, Idaho, claiming that he was going horseback riding with her. Berchtold, in reality, drugged the 12-year-old and staged the scene to make it appear as if the two of them had been kidnapped and taken against their will.

Berchtold then fled to Mexico with Jan, where he married her and asked her parents for permission to return to the United States and be legally married under US law.

Despite Bob and Mary Ann Broberg’s refusal, Berchtold returned home with Jan, and things returned to normal without any charges being filed. Berchtold then kept control of their lives by entangling both Brobergs in a sexual relationship, before kidnapping their daughter for the second time two years later.

How Berchtold Groomed The Brobergs

It seemed like a match made in heaven when the Berchtolds and Brobergs first met at a church service. The parents enjoyed each other’s company while the children played together.

Everyone had a best friend, as Jan Broberg later remarked in the film Abducted In Plain Sight.

With time, the Broberg kids began referring to Robert Berchtold as “B,” and Jan had begun to consider him to be a second father. B was particularly fond of Jan, 12, and frequently showered her with gifts and extended invitations to outings.

In retrospect, Jan Broberg has referred to Berchtold as “a master manipulator.” Robert Berchtold began grooming her family as soon as they met, but no one in her family could see it at the time.

By inviting Mary Ann to a Church retreat in Logan, Utah, he started to flirt with her. They “got a little too cosy,” as Mary Ann put it, and the seeds of what would eventually blossom into an affair were sown.

At about the same time, Berchtold complained about his wife’s sex life and said that his needs weren’t being met while driving with Bob Broberg. Bob noticed that Berchtold was starting to act sexually.

At that point, Robert asked Bob to “relieve” him. Bob agreed, further solidifying Berchtold’s control over the group.

Later, Berchtold confessed, “I entered into a homosexual relationship with her father in order to have access to Jan. I was obsessed with Jan. I’m not sure why I did, but I did.

Making A Minor’s Kidnapping Look Like An Alien Encounter

Berchtold received a reprimand from the High Council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in January 1974, just over a year after he first met the Brobergs, for his involvement with another young girl.

He met with a counsellor and a clinical psychologist after receiving criticism to, in his words, help him get over his obsession with Jan. He described to Bob his difficult upbringing, which included having sex with an aunt when he was just four years old.

Berchtold claimed he was listening to a series of tapes intended to help control his desire, but he also asserted that in order to help him overcome his obsession, he would need to spend more time with Jan. He informed the Brobergs that he must use Jan’s bed for the night.

Robert Berchtold
Robert Berchtold

It was a part of his therapy, but neither Mary Ann nor I were comfortable with him doing it.

Berchtold slept in Jan’s bed about four times a week for the next six months.

However, “they were duped in a terrible, terrible way,” as Welsh put it. The man Berchtold saw had his licence revoked, making him ineligible to practise psychology. The strange, sexual messages on the tapes prompted him to picture being touched and caressed.

All of this culminated in Jan Broberg’s first kidnapping by Berchtold in 1974.

Jan was drugged after she was picked up from piano lessons, then Berchtold dragged her into his motorhome, bound her wrists and ankles with straps to his bed, and set up a small device to play a recording.

The recording was a “message” from Zeta and Zethra, two aliens who informed Jan that she was half alien and had to complete “a mission” in order to conceive with Berchtold before turning 16 years old.

The “aliens” warned her that if she didn’t, Susan would be picked instead, and the rest of her family would suffer.

While travelling in his motorhome to Mexico, where the legal age of marriage was only 12, Berchtold repeatedly violated Jan.

35 days after the kidnapping, Berchtold called his brother Joe and asked him to get in touch with Bob and Mary Ann to get their approval to travel back to the United States with Jan and get married there. 35 days earlier, Berchtold had wed Jan Broberg in Mazatlan.

Following a tip from Joe to the FBI, Berchtold was located at a hotel in Mazatlan, where he was detained and flown back to the United States.

Berchtold’s extortion, lies, and manipulations continue

When Mary Ann got Jan back, she took her to see a doctor, who said there were no “signs of sexual trauma.” This meant that Berchtold had not raped their daughter, according to the Brobergs.

Jan, on the other hand, explained that Berchtold had simply been cautious. She doesn’t remember “violent rape,” but she did say, “I would just look at the leaves… It’ll be fine if you just look at the leaves.”

Jan was distant at home. With her parents keeping her apart from Berchtold, she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to complete the “alien’s” mission.

Before she and Berchtold were separated, he informed her that the aliens had contacted him and instructed Jan not to discuss the mission with any other men. If she did, her father would be killed, her sister Karen would be blinded, and Susan would be taken in her place.

“It was a frightening thought,” Jan admitted. “It was the only thing that kept me quiet.”

Gail Berchtold then went to the Brobergs’ house on Christmas Eve and asked them to drop any charges against her husband, handing them affidavits to sign. If they didn’t, everyone would know about Bob and Robert’s sexual encounter, she warned.

Without the Brobergs as witnesses, the court had no way of proving Berchtold was guilty of anything. He escaped jail time and moved to Utah to work for his brother.

Robert Berchtold

Despite the distance, Berchtold maintained contact with Jan, sending her love letters and secret instructions to meet with him. Jan, as a child, thought she was in love with him and that they still had to finish their mission.

Simultaneously, Berchtold concocted a story about taking Jan on vacation but becoming stuck in Mexico, unable to return unless they married. He called Mary Ann frequently, confessing his love for her and inviting her to meet him in Utah to talk about everything.

He begged her to leave her husband and live with him when she travelled to meet him. The encounter quickly devolved into a sexual encounter. Berchtold called Bob as she was driving home and told him about their affair.

“I knew what he was up to,” Bob admitted. “It had nothing to do with Mary Ann.” Jan was the name.”

Berchtold eventually relocated to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he purchased a family entertainment centre. Jan begged her parents to let her spend the summer working for Berchtold.

Mary Ann bought Jan a plane ticket and sent her to Berchtold after she threatened to find her own way there. “Dear, you’ll regret that decision someday,” Bob recalled telling her.

The Second Abduction

Although Berchtold pretended to be unaware of Jan’s whereabouts, Welsh and investigators knew he was to blame for her disappearance.

They received confirmation on November 11, 1976, 102 days after Jan had left her home.

Berchtold, it turned out, had assisted Jan in escaping from her bedroom window that night. He gave her “allergy medication” that knocked her out and drove her to Pasadena, California, where he enrolled her in a Catholic school under the alias Janis Tobler, telling the nuns that he was a CIA agent in need of someone to care for his daughter.

But Jan became even more reclusive, all the while worrying about what would happen to her family if she failed to complete “the mission.”

Berchtold’s contact with Jan became less frequent as his 16th birthday approached. Jan now realizes it was probably because she wasn’t a little kid anymore. She had gradually begun to doubt the existence of the aliens, but a small part of her still believed in them.

She had planned to buy a gun and tell her sister Susan what was going to happen at one point. She was going to shoot Susan and then herself if Jan wasn’t pregnant and Susan refused to take Jan’s place.

Her sixteenth birthday passed, and when she awoke the next morning to find that everything was fine, she realised the aliens weren’t real.

What Ever Became of Jan Broberg and Robert Berchtold?

Jan had to learn to live with the consequences of Robert Berchtold’s abuse for many years. Meanwhile, her parents blamed themselves for what had happened.

Berchtold vanished from their lives, but he escaped from prison.

They didn’t hear from him again until 30 years later, after Mary Ann had published her book Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story.

Jan Broberg
Jan Broberg

Berchtold vehemently opposed the book, claiming that the authors were lying about him and the truth for profit. Six other women came forward with their own stories about Berchtold, and after he was arrested at one of her speaking engagements, Jan Broberg filed a stalking injunction against him.

“My goal, Mr. Berchtold, is to educate the public about predators like you,” she told him when they met again in court. That is my ambition.”

Robert Berchtold was eventually sentenced to prison, but rather than face life behind bars, he downed a bottle of heart medication mixed with Kahla and milk and committed suicide.

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