What Happened to the Real Robert Berchtold? Details on His Death

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Nov. 9 2023, Updated 10:16 p.m. ET

Robert Berchtol with the Broberg children
Source: YouTube/ABC 4 Utah (video still)

Robert Berchtol with the Broberg children

The Gist:

  • Robert Berchtold abducted 12-year-old Jan Broberg twice in the early 1970s.
  • He befriended the Broberg family and manipulated them into allowing him to have a friendship with their daughter.
  • Berchtold used grooming tactics to abuse Jan.
  • Jan became an actor and was later harassed by Berchtold, who died by suicide.
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We have been introduced to Robert Berchtold via a Netflix documentary, and a fictionalized series that streamed on Peacock. This goes beyond the typical true crime story because Berchtold isn't your typical criminal. By all accounts, he is a master manipulator who has the patience of a predator waiting to pounce on his prey.

The prey in question was a 12-year-old girl by the name of Jan Broberg, but Berchtold would end up ensnaring her entire family in a trap that involved grooming, extramarital affairs, and threats of alien abduction. It's a story that's stranger than any fiction, and it all began in the early 1970s when many claimed times were simpler. They certainly weren't for the Broberg family, and especially not for Jan. What happened to Robert Berchtold? Here's what we know.

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What happened to Robert Berchtold before he was arrested?

The twisted tale began in the early 1970s in the small town of Pocatello, Idaho. After Robert befriended Bob Broberg and his wife, Mary Ann Broberg, he quickly infiltrated their family unit and cozied up to their young daughter, Jan Broberg. Berchtold, along with the Brobergs, was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which is something he used to ingratiate himself into the Broberg family.

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Although Berchtold had five children of his own, he spent a great deal of time with the Brobergs and with Jan in particular. "He was like a second father to me," Jan says in the Netflix documentary Abducted in Plain Sight. Through grooming tactics, Berchtold convinced Jan that she needed to get pregnant by him in order to save an alien planet from extinction. She was their chosen one.

This led up to her kidnapping in August 1974 when Jan was drugged by Berchtold while en route to a horseback riding lesson and taken to Mexico. While held captive Berchtold threatened Jan, telling her the aliens would kill her entire family if she didn't do what she was told. Her family was convinced by Berchtold's wife not to call the FBI. They agreed and waited for several days. They were all under his spell.

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Robert Berchtold hugging Jan Broberg
Source: Top Knot Films

Berchtold kept Jan in Mexico for five weeks, where she was repeatedly raped by him. When the FBI eventually tracked them down, she was too frightened to share details of the abuse or the possible alien abduction which Berchtold used to control Jan for the next four years. "My dad did not ever let Berchtold back in our house, back into his life," Jan told the BBC. "He knew something was totally wrong with him. But [my dad] didn't know that he'd molested me or raped me because I wasn't telling."

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Throughout the years, Jan worked up the courage to tell her parents what happened. "I wasn't able to talk definitively or explicitly about the sexual abuse. It was really hard for me to do," she shared with the BBC. Berchtold disappeared and for the next 10 years, Jan sought counseling and was slowly able to put her life back together.

Where is Robert Berchtold now?

Thirty years after the Broberg family met Robert Berchtold, Jan was a working actor with a recurring role on the WB's hit show Everwood. In October 2003, Jan's mother Mary wrote a book titled Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story, which detailed her daughter's harrowing abuse at the hands of Berchtold.

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Jan Broberg and Robert Berchtold at a lake
Source: Top Knot Films

ABC News reported that in March 2004, Berchtold showed up at a women's conference Jan was hosting with her mother, in St. George, Utah. The book brought him out of hiding. "I think he's desperate because he knows our story has come out," Jan told Good Morning America. Berchtold spoke with ABC News and told him that wasn't why he was there.

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He claimed members of the Bikers Against Child Abuse organization were "hanging around his home in Nevada since Felt began promoting her book." Some of them were at the conference and one alleged that Berchtold ran him over in his minivan after being asked by the biker if he could see the fliers Berchtold was passing out. Berchtold denied hitting this man.

Ultimately, Berchtold was arrested on "charges of simple assault, criminal trespassing, and disorderly conduct." In November 2005, Berchtold died by suicide prior to being sentenced, per Oxygen. Berchtold's brother Joe said in the documentary, "Bob had gone to court that day and been found guilty. He says, 'If it's one day in prison, it's going to kill me. I'm not going there.' He had taken all his heart medicine and drank Kahlua and milk. He drank that and died."

Report online or in-person sexual abuse of a child or teen by calling the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 or visiting childhelp.org. Learn more about the warning signs of child abuse at RAINN.org.

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