Admittedly, True crime documentaries have always been interesting to me. There’s something about deep dives into forgotten, or otherwise overlooked, crimes that draw me in fairly easily.
I was with my girlfriend yesterday trying to find something new to watch, and in the “Popular on Netflix” category was a movie with the title of Abducted in Plain Sight. We didn’t even read the description, and just decided to jump in completely blind.
What followed was some of the most visceral, hate-filled, clenched fists reactions I’ve ever experienced while watching a documentary. I’m not an easy-to-anger person, and am usually pretty level-headed, even when watching similarly disgusting documentaries. But, this one was different. At multiple points throughout the doc, I was screaming obscenities at the TV like a lunatic due to the actions of the people involved.
It is EASILY the most triggered I have been in years.
I’ll give you the Cliffnotes version. In 1974, 12-year-old Jan Broberg was abducted from her Idaho home by a long time family friend, Robert “B.” Berchtold. She was taken to Mexico, raped countless times, and brainwashed. Two years later, she was abducted again by Berchtold and taken to California and raped even more. Berchtold goes to jail and later commits suicide after Broberg writes a book and exposes him as the creep that he is. The end.
Pretty straight forward, grotesque true crime documentary stuff at its core.
Well, it’s everything in between that will simultaneously make your skin crawl and blood boil. ****MAJOR SPOILERS*** are coming so, if you want to go watch it for yourself and then check back once you’re good and pissed off, be my guest. *The details of the abuse depicted in this documentary are extremely unsettling. You will want to take a shower after watching.*
So, back before Jan was first taken, Berchtold was quietly and effectively becoming close with the Broberg family. He had identified Jan as a target and decided he was going to take the long road to get to her. While still trying to get in the good graces of the Brobergs, Berchtold sleeps with Jan’s mother, Mary Ann (OH, WE’LL COME BACK TO HER), and convinces her father, Bob, to give him a handjob to “relieve him”. Already we’re into the head-scratching territory. It’s also revealed that Berchtold was allowed to sleep in Jan’s bed with her, a 12-year-old mind you, roughly 4 times a week over a six-month span after telling Bob and Mary Ann that part of his ‘therapy’ was ‘having some alone time with their daughters’. On the day of the abduction, Berchtold arrives at the Broberg’s house and asks if he can take Jan horseback riding, and Jan’s mother (there she is again) says “What the heck, sure”. After picking her up, Berchtold repeatedly drugs Jan, ditches his car, moves Jan’s unconscious body into a mobile home and heads for Mexico. This happened on a Thursday night, and the family waited until Monday to call the police after deeming that their daughter being missing with a creepy man wasn’t an ‘emergency’. Throughout her drive to Mexico, Jan is brainwashed by a recording into believing that she has to have sex and, eventually, have a kid with Berchtold or else aliens will destroy her family. Two months after the abduction, Berchtold called his brother and had him call the Broberg’s saying that the two had gotten officially married in Mexico and wouldn’t come back to the United States unless they were allowed to be married here, as well. Berchtold’s brother, NOT EVEN JAN’S PARENTS, finally said “this is weird” and had the FBI trace his phone calls and figure out where the duo was. After being tracked down in Mexico by the FBI, Jan is returned to her family. The family goes to press kidnapping charges against Berchtold, but eventually, drop the charges after being blackmailed with each of their sexual encounters. Once the charges were dropped, Berchtold continued to use his brainwashing to manipulate Jan into having sex with him for an undisclosed time. In Spring of 1975, Mary Ann is convinced by Berchtold to go and meet with him at his trailer to talk. And guess what? She fucks him. For Eight. Months.
What a fucking stupid bitch.
This is when I really started screaming at the TV. This guy, this creep, kidnaps your 12-year-old daughter for two months, goes to Mexico, MARRIES HER, and you have SEX WITH THIS GUY?!?!? FOR EIGHT MONTHS?!?!?!? What a piece of shit. I yelled loudly at the TV, “I hope this woman walked outside and got immediately run over by a steamroller!” I mean what is wrong with you? The internet, collectively, is roasting the everloving shit out of this woman, and rightfully so. This woman getting in on with a pedophile, one who raped her own daughter, for eight goddamn months and she has the audacity to call it “an exciting time for me”. Are you kidding me? And then you factor in that Berchtold is using these booty calls just to be able to see Jan, which her own mother allowed to happen on 9 separate occasions, it’s pretty hard not to want to punch this old bitch directly in the throat. Finally, in a refreshing moment of logical thinking, Bob decides to file for a divorce and force Mary Ann to leave their house because she was endangering her children by letting an actual pedophile into their home regularly. You’re the worst, Mary Ann Broberg, the absolute worst.
Sorry about that, back to the documentary.
After the whoring around by Mary Ann was finished, Berchtold moved to Wyoming and opens a ‘family fun center’, which Jan immediately wants to go work at as a summer job. Despite Bob saying no, Mary Ann decides to buy Jan a plane ticket and FLY HER OUT TO LIVE WITH BERCHTOLD after Berchtold told her Jan was going to hitchhike her way there. So, just to get this straight, Mary Ann Broberg thinks it’s safer to literally hand her 13-year-old daughter over to a guy who has admitted to her that he wants to marry her daughter than letting her thumb her way there. Think about it, maybe she would’ve gotten picked up by a decent fucking family and could’ve lived a happy life free of this absurdity.
After two weeks of living alone with Berchtold, his brother, once again, is the only one who sees something wrong with this whole situation and flies her back home. Robert Berchtold’s brother is the only reasonable person in this entire documentary. On August 10th, 1976, Jan went missing again, only leaving behind a mysterious letter. Her parents wait a full TWO WEEKS before letting the police know she was missing, as they had been telling everyone she was ‘away at her grandmothers’ because they didn’t want it to be publicized. What. the. Fuck. While she was missing, Mary Ann is constantly talking to Berchtold about Jan, who was with him the whole time and speaking to him as a close friend. Never once leveling any accusations at him, or telling him to leave her alone, nothing. The FBI eventually finds that Berchtold is living in Salt Lake City Utah, go into his trailer, and find posters of Jan, which Berchtold had taken personally, plastered all over his trailer. Through some solid detective work by the investigators, they discover that Berchtold had sent Jan to a Catholic boarding school in Pasadena, California, and go and recover her 102 days after she had disappeared. Berchtold is arrested once again and sent back to Idaho. While out on bail, Berchtold pays two men to burn down Bob Broberg’s business because this guy is already a human shitstain, let’s add arson to the list of horrible things he’s done. Somehow, Berchtold was able to beat all charges against him.
Jan and Berchtold began talking less and less and she got older, because this guy is a fucking creep and she outgrew his taste or some disgusting shit like that, realizes that what Berchtold had told her while being brainwashed was bullshit, and tells her family about the extent of the abuse. Jan goes on to estimate there was upwards of 200 sexual encounters.
The movie cuts to almost 30 years later; Jan is touring and speaking about her experiences and simultaneously selling her book “Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story”, which had a cover that I had actually seen before and felt stupid for not recognizing the story until there were only 20 minutes left in the movie. As she’s touring, Berchtold comes out publicly and denies Jan’s claims and reveals the affair he and Mary Ann had 28 years prior. Jan is given a restraining order against him, Berchtold runs over a member of her security team outside of one of her speeches, Berchtold is convicted of 3 felonies and 2 misdemeanors for the incident, and then commits suicide the next night because he’s a piece of dirt. The end.
Wow. If you’re still reading, I commend you and appreciate it very much.
After my girlfriend and I finished the doc, I turned to her and said: “I’m going to write about this and I’m going to tear those parents a new asshole”, and that’s what I’ll do.
How fucking stupid can you be? How naive are you? How selfish are you? How could you let someone so fucking weird anywhere near your family? Bob and Mary Ann, at multiple points throughout this whole ordeal, put their own image ahead of the safety of their own daughter, as well as any other little girl, at risk. The lead FBI investigator states very bluntly at one point that if the parents had just testified after the first abduction, he would’ve been put away for 20 years to life and it would’ve ended right there. But, because both of the parents are the worst human beings ever and had to protect their images, Berchtold only ended up serving 6 months in jail. Either way you look at it, they’re the worst parents in the history of ever; They were either indifferent to the whole thing, which makes them absolute monsters, or they didn’t believe anything was happening, which makes them too fucking stupid to be in charge of raising children. In the closing minutes of the documentary, Mary Ann breaks down and says “I’ve always said if it hadn’t been for me, that wouldn’t have happened. I felt responsible.” Guess what? YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE. I hope she goes to the grave thinking that. Mary Ann, you directly played a role in ruining your daughter’s life, you joke of a parent. Fuck you, and Bob, you gigantic ignorant assholes.
You may have noticed that I haven’t really talked about Robert Berchtold so far, and that’s because he’s not worth the time. He’s obviously human refuse, the absolute lowest of the low, and I’m genuinely irate that he checked out before he had the chance to be beaten to death in prison for the appalling things he did. I know I used a lot of hyperbole to describe Jan’s parents, but that’s just because I’m angry at their actions. I don’t have the words to accurately describe how much of a sickening and manipulative troll Robert Berchtold was. He’s the stuff of nightmares, and the world is better because he is dead. I know I should be eviscerating him more, but there’s nothing else to say; He was the scum of the earth, and the fact that the world will now forever remember him as such is poetic justice. Robert Berchtold was less than human, a repugnant and sickening piece of garbage who did nauseating things to innocent children. Burn forever in Satan’s asshole you fucking creep.
Now, for my final thoughts on Abducted in Plain Sight; I would give it an 8.8 out of 10. Objectively speaking, it’s an excellent documentary. It recounts the details of the ordeal very well and without bias, which is important to me (I hate when documentarians have an agenda to push from the start), all the parties involved do a great job of retelling the events, and it tells a captivating story that many people hadn’t heard before. Is it an easy watch? Hell no. Judging by some reviews that I read, it seems like everyone, myself included, was mortified after watching this. It’s obviously a disturbing premise to begin with, but when you include how far the abuse went and the indifference of Jan’s parents, it becomes nearly unwatchable.
I would definitely recommend this movie because it’s a story that needs to be told—but proceed with caution.
Also, fuck pedophiles.
Photo by Top Knot Films and the Broberg Family