“Abducted in Plain Sight,” is a true-crime documentary, where just when you think you know the full inexplicable story, another twist is added. At the documentary’s center, is the story of survivor Jan Broberg, who, in 1974, when she was twelve years old, was abducted by a convicted pedophile, Robert ‘B’ Berchtold, who was obsessed with her. That, in and of itself, is very disturbing, but Berchtold, went on to abduct her a second time, two years later.
The Brobergs, first met, the then 40 year old, Berchtold, his wife Gail, and their five children, in 1972. Their first impressions of Mr. Berchtold were very favorable. From the moment they met, the two families became very close; it is mentioned in the documentary, that each of the Brobergs, was best friends with one of the Berchtolds. Sadly, the entire time, Robert ‘B’ Berchtold, was merely gaining the confidence and trust of the Brobergs, until he could carry out his true, sick-minded intentions with Jan.
There were times, I was hard pressed to believe the naiveté of Jan’s parents, Bob and Mary Ann Broberg, as they recounted the unguarded access they allowed Berchtold to have with their daughter. After the first few head shakes on my part, I started to keep in my mind that, Pocatello, Idaho, in the 1970s, where part of the story takes place, was a vastly different place, in an entirely different era, than it is now. The Brobergs were very active in their church, and Pocatello was the sort of town, as stated in the documentary, where people didn’t think of locking their doors, and everyone knew one another. I don’t think, at least I hope that, no parents, who care about their children, would allow themselves to drop their guard, in 2019, to the same degree that Jan’s parents did in the 1970s. The knowledge of the type of criminal predators that are out there, was not as widely known or discussed in various forms of media, as it is today. Without revealing how, because I don’t want to provide spoilers, Bob and Mary Ann, allowed themselves to fall victim to Berchtold’s charms and schemes, allowing each of them to become complicit in his plans to abduct Jan. I do, however, give them credit for their complete candor when describing what took place during that tumultuous time in their lives; not only that, but also, their taking responsibility for their lack of sound judgment.
In a story full of incomprehensible moments, one of the most bizarre, was the manner in which Bertchold first gained access to Jan, when she would be at her most vulnerable. Bertchtold informed Jan’s parents, that when he was a young child, he was sexually abused by his aunt. He told them that he was under the care of a therapist, part of his treatment, Bertchtold claimed, was to spend time with young girls, and he asked the Brobergs if he could spend time with Jan, and their two other daughters. Bertchtold, specifically wanted permission from them to sleep next to Jan, at night, to which the Brobergs inconceivably agreed. For several months before he eventually abducted Jan – the first time – Bertchtold would lay down with her at night as she slept. While in bed with her, he would play cassette tapes, given to him by his therapist, a man who would later have his medical license revoked.
The first abduction took place under the ruse of Bertchtold taking Jan horseback riding. The incident took place on a school night, and although Mary Ann was a bit reluctant to let Jan go, she did anyway. On the way to the stables, Bertchtold gave Jan what he claimed was an allergy pill, which knocked her unconscious. The two never made it to the stables, instead, Bertchtold eventually wound up taking Jan to a storage garage, where the Bertchtold family kept their motor home. In the intervening weeks from the time she went missing, Jan was repeatedly drugged, as well as sexually abused. The way he convinced Jan to go along with his vile plans, as well as to keep her quiet, so as to keep himself out of trouble, is seemingly as farfetched as the rest of the story, but yet it is all true. The end of Bertchtold’s fantasy trip came in Mexico, when he contacted his brother, because he wanted to come back to America. Needless to say, he was quickly apprehended by the authorities and placed in jail. I don’t want to get into anymore details beyond this point, but suffice it to say, what happens after the initial abduction is just as unbelievable, as what preceded it.
“Abducted in Plain Sight” was directed by Skye Borgman (Losing Bob). The documentary was originally on the film festival circuit, before Netflix purchased it, and it had its premier at the Mammoth Lake Film Festival on May 26, 2017. The director uses interviews with: the Broberg family: Pete Welsh, the lead FBI agent involved in the abduction case: as well as Berchtold’s brother, Joe, who claims, that he always knew his brother was a sick pervert, ever since they were children, and Berchtold sexually abused their sister. Furthermore, during its 91 minute runtime, there are voice recordings, family photographs, and re-enactments, used throughout the documentary to aid in the telling of the story. Prior to the Netflix documentary, the book “Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story,” written by Mary Ann Broberg, was published on October 30, 2003, and first detailed the outlandish true story of what took place between Bertchtold and the Brobergs. Currently, in addition to being an actress with close to fifty credits to her name, Jan Broberg, works with victims of abuse through the organization Child Shield USA. For those of you interested in true crime, “Abducted in Plain Sight” will more than likely hold your interest from start to finish.