Who was the infamous Jan Broberg kidnapper?

A fictionalized retelling of the story, 'A Friend of the Family,' is being released on Peacock

a friend of the family screen grab of jan broberg kidnapper robert berchtold (jake lacy) and jan broberg (hendrix yancey) eating ice cream
(Image credit: Erika Doss/Peacock)

What if the person you thought you knew turned out to be a monster? 

Jan Broberg knows that feeling all too well. While growing up in Idaho, a close family friend, Robert Berchtold, managed to completely turn her world upside down. Now, the infamous story is being revisited for a fictionalized true crime show. 

On the heels of the Jeffrey Dahmer series on Netflix comes A Friend of the Family, premiering October 6 on Peacock. It's proof that things aren't always what they appear, no matter how perfect they might seem on the surface.

"It's a psychological look at how a predator is constantly figuring out how they're going to manipulate this person, and then this one and this one, until they get to their victim," Broberg told People

But who is Robert Berchtold, exactly, and how did he manage to commit such unthinkable acts right in front of his alleged friends? Here's what you need to know before watching the nine-part series.

Jan Broberg kidnapper: all about Robert Berchtold

While growing up in Idaho, actor Jan Broberg and her family were close to Robert Berchtold and his wife and children, so much so that it seemed as though the two families were intertwined. 

Everything appeared normal: Berchtold was a father, husband and avid church-goer. But he groomed and abducted his friends' eldest daughter in the 70s. 

In 1974 when he took then 12-year-old Broberg and fled with her to Mexico, not taking her horseback riding like he had said. When Broberg woke up after her abduction in an RV, she was tied down and brainwashed to believe that aliens were in control and she was aboard a UFO. She was also led to believe that to save her family, she'd need to have a child with Berchtold. 

The FBI found them weeks later, and while the preteen was sent home, Berchtold was arrested and expected to serve five years behind bars. That dwindled into 45 days, but in reality, he only served 10 days for taking the 12-year-old.

What's more is that the Broberg's beloved family friend managed to kidnap their daughter again two years later. This all transpired after he had seduced her parents and then blackmailed them into letting him take her.

But can someone who seemed like an extension of your own flesh and blood be responsible for not only kidnapping, but molestation and rape? It took years before Broberg confessed to what had actually transpired.

"I don't think they had any inkling at all," Broberg said of her parents while in conversation with the BBC. "I mean literally, that was just not at all possible, because of the amount of love he had showered on the family," 

This isn't the first time we've heard the story: in addition to books, director Skye Borgman—Netflix's true crime darling who worked on the highly-popular Girl in the Picture and Sins of Our Mother—tackled the events for her 2017 doc, Abducted in Plain Sight

This new Peacock series, however, intends be a closer examination of the inner workings of those involved, and it will be a much more complex revelation. Ultimately, Broberg admitted to People that with this project, which she produced alongside her mother, intends to show other victims they're not alone. 

"To be a beacon of hope, that's exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life," she told the outlet.

Where is Robert Berchtold now?

Broberg wasn't Berchtold's only victim. Though he was never charged for the crimes he committed against Broberg, he served one year in jail for rape of another child, according to Newsweek

The outlet also details how Berchtold began confronting Broberg in public once she began speaking up about his abuse, particularly when her mother's book was published. He alleged the book was not true and filed a lawsuit against the family. Broberg filed a restraining order against him.

In 2005, Berchtold was charged with aggravated assault and possession of a firearm and found guilty. He took his own life before he could be sentenced.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.