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Kidnapped twice by the same man years apart – the staggering real-life story of Jan Broberg

The first time Jan Broberg was kidnapped as a child, her parents and investigators in their tight-knit, conservative Idaho community barely knew how to define a pedophile. In the 1970s, FBI agents were out of their depth when it came to child molestation, according to one of the men on the case.

When it happened again two years later, the pitfalls of naivete and excessive trust became apparent. Jan was kidnapped by the same expert groomer, the same man who had insidiously infiltrated the Brobergs’ lives, twice.

“They were perfect childhood years, until the day I woke up in the back of that motorhome. I had such a good childhood,” Ms Broberg told The Independent in an exclusive interview.

A Peacock true crime drama premiering next month, the limited series charts how furniture owner Bob Berchtold groomed the entire Broberg clan to get access to young Jan – including having affairs with both her mother and father. It stars Colin Hanks, Jake Lacy and Anna Paquin and is produced by Jan Broberg and her mother.

No one ever wants to think their friend or relative might have nefarious intentions. No one ever wants to think that anything bad can happen in their beloved neighbourhood or congregation. But Jan, almost five decades later and a mother herself, wants people to know that this is exactly how the worst abuses go unnoticed or unpunished.

Ms Broberg, who grew up to become an actress and advocate, believes that even now, nearly five decades later, those same trusting qualities continue to place young people squarely in the sights of the most manipulative predators.

“As long as we adults are unwilling to talk about the fact that it is in our family, in our congregation, in our community center, our business community, that it is someone we know … as difficult as it is to talk about and to tell those stories and then to do something about it, it will continue to happen because you cannot rely on a child,” she told The Independent.

Ms Broberg grew up in quintessential small-town America. The oldest of three girls, she was born to Bob Broberg, a florist, and Mary Ann, a chorister in their Mormon community in Pocatello, Idaho. Mr Broberg played the piano every day to wake up his daughters, who became close with another family in town who attended the same church: The Berchtolds.

Bob Berchtold and his wife, Gail, had five children. He was a furniture store owner and charismatic; Mary Ann was the first to introduce him to her family. The Berchtolds and the Brobergs had everything in common: They were members of the LDS faith, the fathers were both business owners, their children were similar ages.

They became fast friends; there was a “best friend” for everyone, one of the Broberg girls says in a 2017 Netflix documentary about the families, Abducted in Plain Sight, directed by Skye Borgman. The wives became close as did the husbands and the girls fantasized about marrying the Berchtold boys. Berchtold, who picked up the nickname “B” during the family’s interactions – began picking up the Broberg girls and driving them to school.

“He even knew how to make sure that we became best friends with his kids and his wife,” Jan tells The Independent. “We learned how to paint ceramics at her house. And she taught us how to make the best chocolate chip cookies … And then Gail had this recipe, and we still have recipe cards with her name on them in our recipe file. I found them for the series to use as real props.”

None of them had an inkling of what Berchtold was really doing.

His attentions always seemed particularly focused on Jan, but he was also working on her parents to get close to her. He finagled a sexual encounter with Mr Broberg, who teared up while admitting it in full detail publicly for the first time in the Netflix documentary.

Then he kidnapped Jan under the ruse of taking her horseback riding. Instead, he drugged the 12-year-old and brought her in his motorhome to Mexico. When Jan woke up, she was restrained and alone, but voices were coming through a speaker. They were named Zeta and Zethra; they were aliens, they told Jan, and so was she. They told her that her mother was her biological parent but her biological father was alien. She had been tasked with a mission to have children with a male they had chosen, they told her.

If she failed, her younger sister – who also allegedly was half alien – would be forced to replace her.

Jan, left, poses with her parents and sisters in 2015

When Jan’s restraints were eventually removed, she walked into the main part of the motorhome and found “B” there; her young brain believed that he was the man chosen by the aliens. The Brobergs waited days to report her disappearance, not wanting to upset the Berchtold family and also giving “B” the benefit of the doubt.

“I never had an inkling that he had sexual designs on Jan,” Mr Broberg says in the documentary. “We weren’t really sure, even then, what a child molester was … I don’t know how we could have been so gullible when there were so many red flags.”

The Brobergs were “naïve,” FBI agent Pete Welsh, who worked the case, said in the Netflix show. “They don’t know things like that happen.”

Eventually, with the help of Berchtold’s brother, authorities tracked the pair to Mazatlan in Mexico. “B” had married Jan because there the age of consent was 12. The Brobergs flew to Mexico to retrieve their daughter and she was not the same girl they’d remembered.

Bob and Mary Ann Broberg raised their three girls in Idaho and were both also manipulated by Berchtold

The Brobergs picnic in the mountains in 1971, three years before family friend Bob “B” Berchtold kidnapped their oldest daughter

Xural.com

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