Jan Broberg Story

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Roy
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Jan Broberg Story

Post by Roy »

Jan Broberg was abducted by a family friend, neighbor, and ward member in the 1970s - TWICE!

This story is recounted as a 2017 true crime documentary on Netflix called "Abducted In Plain Sight."

It is also the subject of a 2022 miniseries on Peacock called "A Friend of the Family."

As the perpetrator tried to get ever closer to 12 year old Jan Broberg, he engaged in sexual activity with both the father and the mother of young Jan. He later blackmailed them with this information into not pressing charges.

It seems that the church is treated very respectfully. At this point in the story the church only seems to factor in by 1) making the Brobergs more trusting and gullible than they perhaps would have been otherwise and 2) making the Brobergs' social life revolve around the church seemed to help give the perpetrator's blackmail some teeth (IOW The family reputation in their small community of Pocatello ID might never recover if it were known that the father and the mother had sexual contact with the perpetrator).

I was not alive during the 1970s but from the depictions it was a much more trusting time in general. In one scene, an FBI agent asks Mr. Broberg if he knew what the word "pedophile" meant and Mr. Broberg had never heard of the term. So as much as it seems bizarre that the Brobergs would continuously fail to enforce boundaries - the perpetrator was very persuasive and knew how to push all the right buttons to get what he wanted.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13
Roy
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Re: Jan Broberg Story

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Roy wrote: 10 Oct 2022, 14:53 As the perpetrator tried to get ever closer to 12 year old Jan Broberg, he engaged in sexual activity with both the father and the mother of young Jan. He later blackmailed them with this information into not pressing charges.
Part of the reason that this blackmail worked as well as it did was because of how taboo sexual matters were in this small, close-knit, and conservative Mormon Community of 1970's Pocatello.

The lawyer for the defense calls Jan's dad a homosexual and asks how embarrassing and shameful it would be for the Brobergs if his homosexuality were to become known. The lawyer suggests that it would be better for everyone if they can just find a way to make the trail go away.

I even wondered why the Dad didn't just lie and say that this sexual encounter never happened. It would have been the word of an upstanding citizen and church member against the word of an accused kidnapper and child molester. But it seems that Jan's dad was just too honest to consider that.
Instead, Jan's dad does end up going to the bishop. Because he is remorseful and it was a one time offense, he is disfellowshipped and not allowed to partake in the sacrament for a period of time.

Jan's mother is later excommunicated for her sexual relationship with the perpetrator. She is told that she should continue to attend church for the excommunication to be reversed at some future point. She is also told that if she were to die while in the state of being excommunicated that she would not be able to be with her husband and kids in the eternities.

I feel that this only highlights the true damage that the perpetrator held over the parents' heads with these secrets. He could ruin their standing in the community. He used this leverage to get the parents to do things against their better judgement.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13
Roy
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Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Jan Broberg Story

Post by Roy »

The following quote is from a blog recapping episode 7.
The efforts of the FBI officer working on Brobergs’ case continue, despite the bureau trying to resist them. He goes to meet the bishop, who earlier mentioned seeing Jan in B’s car. The bishop notes B showcasing bad behavior toward his daughter in the past. While the officer pushes him to share more details about Robert, he nonchalantly mentions them. B, who was on the high council of their clergy, confessed to drugging the young girl at times. When she was asleep, he took advantage of her to fulfill his sexual desires. The bishop then notes that all of these incidents happened before the first act of kidnapping.

The officer gets shaken by the thought of their religious organization not taking any action. The reason for them for not notifying law enforcement was their faith in repentance for every individual despite their mistakes. Yet, their single action could have possibly stopped years of indoctrination of a young girl and the destruction of a happy family of Brobergs. The protection provided by such an organization to the perverted psychopath shakes him to the core, and the series unfolds another layer of the story, which it merely hinted at until now.
Episode 7 has an FBI agent meeting with the Mormon Bishop to better understand the events leading up to the first abduction of Jan Broberg by Bob Berchtold. The Bishop reluctantly reveals to the FBI agent that Bob Berchtold had been disfellowshipped for admitting to drugging and sexually molesting young Jan BEFORE the first kidnapping event. The FBI agent is flabbergasted that neither law enforcement nor even Jan's parents were informed about what Bob Berchtold had confessed.

The Bishop tries to explain that, in our religion repentance is a private matter and once completed the sin is forgiven and forgotten.

I have tried to get confirmation of this. After doing some digging, it would appear that Berchtold was disfellowshipped. I am not super clear on the timeline of when he was disfellowshipped but some reports indicate that he became a temple ordinance worker and a member of the bishopric in the 90's and long after his abductions of Jan Broberg.

Even if the timeline of the disfellowshipment had been changed for dramatic purposes it would certainly seem to be true the Bob Berchtold received little more than a slap on the wrist from both the legal system and the church.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13
Roy
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Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Jan Broberg Story

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There appears to be some adjustments to the facts happening here.

I rewatched the relevant portion of the episode last night and the bishop character said that Bob Berchtold had been excommunicated for confessing to drugging and molesting young Jan Broberg before the first kidnapping attempt. It was further revealed that Bob Berchtold was referred to LDS social services at this time and that nothing was revealed to the Broberg family about the confession.

This doesn't seem to make much sense and I cannot corroborate this from outside sources.

I do remember from the documentary "Abducted in Plain Sight" that Bob Berchtold convinced the Broberg parents to let him lay next to Jan while she slept. He would listen to self help tapes while he did this and he told the parents that this was prescribed by a doctor. This detail has not really been introduced in the portrayal in "friend of the family." The whole scene between the FBI agent and the Bishop may be an attempt to reference the sleeping next to Jan incident but blame the church rather than the Brobergs.

(After Abducted in Plain Sight came out the Brobergs received a significant amount of criticism and the part about letting this man lay next to the sleeping Jan was a head scratcher to be sure. Jan is now executive producer on Friend of the Family and may wish to soften the blow this time around.)

It does seem that Berchtold did receive some sort of discipline but when and what for seems murky.

Soooo ... from my best information ... the church did both better and worse than is portrayed in this scene.
1) They never did excommunicate Bob Berchtold - even after the second abduction.
2) They also didn't seem to have knowledge of Bob Berchtold molesting Jan that they withheld from Jan's parents.

Such departures from historical details are common in "based on a true story" depictions.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13
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DarkJedi
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Re: Jan Broberg Story

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I have started watching this (binged most of it actually :roll: ) and agree the church seems to be treated and depicted mostly fairly and accurately. I was alive in the 70s, and the cultural norms of the time also seems to fit my recollections (I was not yet a member of the church then).

My wife and I have both wondered aloud what parts of the story are true and what's overly dramatized ( or made up altogether). From what we can find online it seems to be pretty accurate. Crazy! I agree that Berchtold seemed to get little "punishment" from either the judicial system or the church, and that to some extent allowed him to continue abusing. It's also not clear that Jan Broberg was the only young girl he abused.

It's worth pointing out that the abuse was not only sexual (and the sexual abuse is more inferred than it is actually depicted) but the psychological and emotional abuse are both tremendous, especially for a young pre-pubescent girl (Jan was apparently a late bloomer which also is partly why the abuse continued for so long). It seems Jan was totally convinced of the presence of the aliens and was truly fearful for her family's well-being if she failed "the mission." And Berchtold didn't only psychologically and emotionally abuse Jan, he abused both of Jan's parents, his wife, at least one of his children (Jasper - not a real name of a Berchtold child - is depicted as a victim), and his brother.

True crime stuff is all the TV rage these days, and this is certainly one of the better ones. I have not yet watched the Netflix documentary but intend to after completing this series.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Roy
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Re: Jan Broberg Story

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Sorry for the back and forth. Understanding what parts of a "based on a true story" movie are historical and what is dramatized is an interest of mine.
https://www.whattowatch.com/features/fa ... an-broberg
In both a Forbes (opens in new tab)article and in the Abducted in Plain Sight documentary, it’s stated the church knew Berchtold had a fascination for underage girls. While the publication claims "Berchtold had tried to victimize at least a half-dozen other young girls," the film states:

"According to the FBI, in January of 1974, Berchtold was reprimanded by the High Counsel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of his involvement with another young girl."

Jan was first kidnapped in October of 1974.

Furthermore, the real Pete Welsh shared on camera:

"The LDS Church decided that they would counsel him, and he went to a counselor in Idaho Falls. That man told our investigators that he [Berchtold] had also gone to California to go to a clinical psychologist who would help him overcome this obsession with Jan."
Berchtold had been reprimanded by the church for "involvement" with another girl before Jan's first abduction. No word on what is meant by the word "involvement" or "reprimanded" but Berchtold was almost certainly not excommunicated.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13
Roy
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Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Jan Broberg Story

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DarkJedi wrote: 13 Nov 2022, 11:36 I agree that Berchtold seemed to get little "punishment" from either the judicial system or the church, and that to some extent allowed him to continue abusing. It's also not clear that Jan Broberg was the only young girl he abused.
Right. Berchtold was "involved" with a young girl before Jan's first abduction and was "reprimanded" by the church. Then, years after Jan's abuse in 1986, Berchtold was charged with two counts of "rape of a child" in an unrelated matter in SLC. He served one year in prison for that last incident. I can only believe that there were more young girls that did not report.
DarkJedi wrote: 13 Nov 2022, 11:36 It's worth pointing out that the abuse was not only sexual (and the sexual abuse is more inferred than it is actually depicted) but the psychological and emotional abuse are both tremendous, especially for a young pre-pubescent girl
Yes, I think "Friend of the Family" did a really nice job of depicting how desperate Jan was to fulfill "the mission" because she really believed the alternative was that she would be vaporized, her father "removed," her one sister blinded, and her other sister forced to take Jan's place as the female companion to Berchtold.
There is a scene in the show where Jan is surprised to have not been vaporized on her 16th birthday. She realizes that it was all a lie and tells her parents the truth about what she endured. She said, "I have been trying to have a baby with him since I was 12. I'm so sorry daddy. Can you still love me." This made me choke up. I have a 16 year old daughter myself. The thought of her going through such a horrible experience and then feeling the need to apologize and wonder if she was still worthy of love was heartbreaking for me.

Even after being honest with her parents for the first time about what she experienced there was still a long road of healing ahead. I honor and respect Jan Broberg for walking that painful journey and now having the courage to tell her story and work in advocacy for victims of similar abuse.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13
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DarkJedi
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Re: Jan Broberg Story

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Peacock has also released a documentary subtitled True Evil. It was worth the hour and a half. It featured Jan Broberg, her sisters, her mother, and her son. There was also a featured segment of Berchtold's victim immediately following Jan (Heidi Brewer), speaking for the first time. Heidi told Jan that Berchtold spoke of her and even showed her some (nude) pictures of Jan (Jan did not recall the pictures being taken). Heidi and Jan also confirmed there were many more victims.

There were some other small details mentioned in the documentary which were not shown in the series, but the documentary did not discuss the Wyoming fun center nor some of the ancillary stuff like the flower shop fire. Mostly the documentary confirmed most of the events of the series.

I think of note also was that the documentary very clearly pointed out how frequent the sexual abuse of Jan was - way more than inferred in the series. And while the series sort of left it in question whether Jan was abused during the first kidnapping, the documentary leaves no doubt that she was.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction
Roy
Posts: 6841
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Jan Broberg Story

Post by Roy »

My wife did watch True Evil and felt that it did fill in some extra gaps.

I feel that both the dramatization in "Friend of the Family" and the documentary "True Evil" really helps to show how groomed and manipulated the Broberg family was. This was missing from the Netflix documentary "Abducted in Plain sight" and it just ended up making the Broberg parents seem almost like incompetent/stooge caricatures because their actions just seemed so illogical.

It looks like Jan Broberg had much more creative control on the latter two projects and it shows.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13
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