The Chilling True Story Behind 'A Friend of the Family' – Cosmopolitan

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You’ve heard of Jan Broberg’s story before, trust us….
Peacock’s new

true-crime drama A Friend of the Family hit the streamer this week with its first four episodes. The miniseries has nine episodes total and stars Jake Lacy, Anna Paquin, Colin Hanks, and Lio Tipton, and in an extremely chilling turn, the show is based on a true story.
First, a flashback: One of Netflix’s most talked about documentaries Abducted in Plain Sight was released in 2017 and focuses on the same case as A Friend of the Family does. The Netflix documentary is based on the book Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story, making this new Peacock series the third iteration of one of the most discussed kidnapping cases in recent history. In case you missed the documentary in your most recent scroll fugue state, here’s the true story behind A Friend of the Family.
The key subjects here are Jan Broberg and pedophile Robert “B” Berchtold. In the 1970s, Berchtold abducted Broberg two separate times—once when she was 12 and again when she was 14, all in front of her parents’ eyes. The Brobergs and Berchtolds were a pair of close families in Idaho, spending so much time together that the Broberg daughters often referred to Berchtold as “B” or even “Dad” occasionally. Berchtold became a figure in the Broberg family, developing intimate and occasionally sexual relationships with *both* of Broberg’s parents, Bob and Mary Ann. He leveraged this parental trust to abuse and abduct Broberg.
In October 1974, Berchtold kidnapped Broberg for the first time. He told the Brobergs he was taking her horseback riding but instead drove her to Mexico. While in Mexico, Berchtold and 12-year-old Broberg were married. Reflecting back on this time of her life, Broberg remembers being brainwashed by Berchtold, who told her that the two of them were on a mission to save the Broberg family from aliens. He told Broberg that the only way to save her family was for a Broberg daughter to have a child with him by the age of 16, and if it were not her, it would be one of her sisters. He then raped her, and shortly after, her parents flew to Mexico to find her. Upon returning to the U.S., Berchtold was arrested and charged with kidnapping.
In the aftermath of the kidnapping, Broberg said she had been brainwashed by Berchtold. He continued to send her letters, and Broberg still believed she was on a mission to save her family. Whenever the two were together, Berchtold would rape her. In time, he began an affair with Broberg’s mother. Evidence of their affair was used to lessen the kidnapping charges against him, ultimately shortening his sentence to just 10 days served in jail. During these 10 days, Berchtold convinced a few fellow criminals to burn down the Brobergs’ store for money—and they did.
In August 1976, Berchtold kidnapped Broberg for the second time. He took her to California, where he enrolled her in an all-girls Catholic school and told the administrators he was in the CIA and needed to keep his and Broberg’s information completely private. Ultimately, the FBI tracked him down, pulled Broberg out of school, and returned her to her family. Following the second kidnapping, Berchtold stood trial for the charge of first degree kidnapping but was only sentenced to six months in a mental facility.
Following the second kidnapping, the Brobergs kept their distance from Berchtold, and as Jan Broberg got older, she came to realize that the “mission” was a ruse and she had been raped. Together, Jan and Mary Ann Broberg wrote the memoir Stolen Innocence and hit the road on a speaking tour. Throughout this tour, Berchtold would occasionally show up and spin his story to the media, denying that he sexually abused Broberg. She ultimately filed a restraining order against him, ordering him to stay away from her for the remainder of his life. In the end, Berchtold—facing charges related to a fight with a biker gangdied by suicide in 2005.
Broberg herself is directly involved with the Peacock adaptation, on which she serves as executive producer. “We know if people start talking about things that actually matter like this, it will make a difference,” she told Variety. “So whether they are talking smack about my parents, they’re talking. Whether they’re talking about, ‘That dumb Jan Broberg, how stupid could she be to think she was kidnapped by aliens?’ I don’t care anymore. I want them to talk because to me, that moves the needle closer to prevention, closer to awareness, and closer to what I hope to stand for, which is hope that you can heal from trauma.”
Clearly, this story is rife with twists enough for a book, a documentary, and a drama miniseries, and it’s brave of Broberg to continue sharing her story with the public.

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