The Real Story Behind This Shocking True Crime

The new limited series A family friendis a dramatized version of the Jan Broberg Case that has baffled true crime fans for decades. The series stars McKenna Grace as Jan, along with Jake Lace as Robert “B” Berchtold and Anna Paquin and Colin Hanks as Mary Ann and Bob Broberg. The story was also told in a 2003 memoir by Jan and her mother entitled Stolen Innocence: The Story of Jan Brombergas well as the 2019 documentary, Kidnapped in front of everyone. According to the reviews, this series stays pretty true to the narrative, but what is the real story of Jan Broberg? And how on earth could that be real?

The Brobergs and the Berchtolds

When the Broberg family met the Berchtold family at church in Pocatello, Idaho, in 1972, the two families immediately became inseparable. Bob Broberg and his wife, Mary Ann, along with their three daughters, Jan, Susan, and Karen, became instant family to Bob Berchtold, whom they affectionately called “B,” his wife Gail, and their five children. B is very attached to Jan and is spending more and more time alone with her. B justified this to Bob and Mary Ann by admitting to them that he had been sexually abused as a child and that part of his Church-approved therapy included spending time with Bob and Mary Ann’s daughters.


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B revealed to Bob that he was in an unhappy and unsatisfactory marriage to Gail and that he needed help with sexual deliverance, and persuaded Bob to help him “relieve himself”. B also constantly flirted with Mary Ann, which eventually led to a long affair. When Bob discovered the affair, Bob served Mary Ann with divorce papers and took the children out of the house. Mary Ann eventually ended her affair with B and reconciled with Bob. The FBI agent investigating the crimes pointed out that this was a long scam by B to separate the family, which made it easier to manipulate Jan into believing he was the only one she was with can trust.

The first kidnapping

In 1974 B asked Mary Ann for permission to ride with Jan. They were gone for two days, and although they were concerned, the Brobergs didn’t call law enforcement because of Gail’s request. Finally, five days later, they called the FBI. The parents refused to believe B had kidnapped Jan and had to be convinced by agents that something was wrong. The FBI conducted a nationwide manhunt on B’s RV after they found B’s car with a broken window and blood inside.

Jan recalled waking up strapped to the bed in the back of the RV and hearing a tape of spooky voices. The voices told her they were aliens and she was part alien too. Her mission to save the planet was to procreate with the chosen male companion to have a baby. She was told that if she didn’t complete the mission, they would kill her and make her sister Susan do the mission. B informed her that he was the male companion and used the story to continuously rape and brainwash her for over five weeks.

B called his brother Joe and told him he married Jan in Mexico and he is to call Mary Ann and get a written permission letter to marry Jan in the US and then they will come home. Jan is only 12 at this time and they are legally married in Mexico but the age in the US is 16 without parental consent.

Luckily, Joe called the FBI, who traced the call to Mazatlán, Mexico, and arrested him over a month later. B dictates a story to Jan to tell her family and warns her never to tell them anything about the aliens, the alien mission, the pills, or the sex. He warns her to stay away from all men, and if she doesn’t, her sister Susan would be kidnapped, her sister Karen would be blinded, and her father would be murdered. Gail then blackmailed the Brobergs by telling them to drop the charges or she and B would reveal all their dirty laundry about Mary Ann’s affairs with him. They agree and B is released. Needless to say, the community and the FBI weren’t thrilled with her decision. Jan informed her parents that she wanted to marry B and have children. B continued to come to Jan’s room at night to make love to her, as he had done about six months before the kidnapping.

At B’s trial, he agreed to a federal kidnapping plea. He was sentenced to five years, but the judge reduced it to 45 days. When he finally reported for jail, he only served 10 of the 45 days for good behavior.

The second kidnapping

In August 1976, when Jan was 14, she disappeared again. She left a note for her parents that she had gone to B and that they should leave her alone so she could be herself. And once again, Bob and Mary Ann waited about two weeks before notifying the FBI. B constantly called for the Brobergs to be tortured by telling them horror stories about what Jan did to make money. The FBI eventually located Bob in Salt Lake City, but Jan wasn’t with him.

After an exhaustive search, the FBI found a Catholic school in Pasadena, California where Jan was enrolled under the alias Janice Tobler. B had laid the groundwork for the nuns at the school that he was a CIA agent, Jan was his daughter and they were both refugees from the Lebanon conflict in the late 1970’s.

B is arrested again and sent back to Idaho. Jan returned home and 40 days later Bob’s shop was burned down. It was later discovered that B had hired two of his cellmates to burn down Bob’s business. However, they never had enough evidence to pin the crime on him. Once again, B was acquitted at trial of kidnapping, arson and CIA impersonation and sentenced to six months in a psychiatric facility.

Jan, on the other hand, grew older and began to wonder about the validity of the extraterrestrial mission. Eventually she told the whole story to her best friend and sister, who begged her to tell her parents, who could get her professional help.

The consequences

28 years later, Jan and her mother, Mary Ann, co-wrote a book about the traumatic events that proved therapeutic for both of them. The two decided to speak out about sexual abuse and go on tour speaking to victim groups. B was less than thrilled to have his name dragged through the mud. He distributed literature that covered all the dirty laundry about the family and their lies while trying to clear his name. Jan filed an anti-stalking injunction, which he challenged, meaning they would have to face him in court. B decided to cross-examine Jan himself and tried his best to make her look like a gold digger. Luckily the judge saw through it this time and gave Jan a life injunction to force him to stay away from her. He still pushed boundaries and showed up at her speaking engagements. Jan hired a group called Bikers Against Child Abuse to ensure their safety. B was eventually arrested for injuring a member of her security team and eventually convicted. However, he took his own life before he could be sentenced.

As a result, Jan was contacted by six women who had also been sexually abused by B. He had been convicted of raping one of these girls and sentenced to one year in prison. Since then, Jan began an acting career and appeared in feature films such as We are your friends at the devil’s doorand Iron Man 3 as well as a recurring role on the TV show, Everwood. Jan talked about her trauma in her book, the documentary. date lineand appears as a producer along with her mother, Mary Ann A family friend.

You can watch the first four episodes of A family friend on Peacock on October 6th, with the remaining five episodes being released weekly. The Real Story Behind This Shocking True Crime

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