The Shocking True Crime Series That Will Break Your Heart

By Charlene Badasie | Published

The 2022 true crime drama Friend of the Family is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The nine-part miniseries delves into real-life events surrounding Robert Berchtold’s sexual abuse and kidnapping of Jan Broberg in the 1970s. The cast includes Jake Lacy as Berchtold, with Hendrix Yancey and McKenna Grace playing Jan at different ages. Colin Hanks, Lio Tipton, and Anna Paquin appear in supporting roles.

A Parent’s Worst Nightmare

Friend of the Family tells the disturbing and true story of the Broberg family. Jan Broberg was kidnapped not just once but twice by a family friend named Robert Berchtold. The events took place in the 1970s in Pocatello, Idaho. Berchtold was a charismatic and manipulative person who managed to befriend and gain the trust of the Broberg family to carry out his crimes.

Be Careful Who You Trust

As seen in Friend of the Family, the first kidnapping occurred in 1974 when Jan was only 12 years old. Berchtold offered to take Jan for horse riding lessons, to which her parents, Bob and Mary Ann, agreed. Instead, he took Jan and manipulated her into believing they were abducted by aliens and tasked with saving a fictitious alien planet.

Friend Of The Family Pulls No Punches

During this time, he also engaged in sexually abusive behavior with the 12-year-old and convinced Jan that her participation was crucial for the mission’s success. When Bob and Mary Ann forced Berchtold to return their child, he still managed to isolate Jan from her family, creating a psychological distance that made her more susceptible to his influence.

A Frustrating Ending

Berchtold also manipulated Jan’s parents and convinced them to sign affidavits stating that they believed he was not guilty of kidnapping Jan. This played a crucial role in undermining legal action against him. In 1976, he kidnapped Jan again. But this time, he convinced Jan that it was her idea and took her to his business in Wyoming, which is explored in Friend of the Family.

The FBI eventually located Jan, and she was reunited with her parents. Toward the end of Friend of the Family, Jan eventually realizes the reality of what happened and tells her parents she was raped. The legal consequences for Berchtold were limited. Although he faced criminal charges, he was found mentally unfit to stand trial and was instead treated in a mental institution.

Inspired By The Broberg Family’s Book

Nick Antosca developed Friend of the Family after being inspired by Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story, a book released by Jan’s mother in 2003, and the 2017 documentary Abducted in Plain Sight. Feeling that Broberg’s story needed more exploration, Antosca aimed to provide a more comprehensive and contextualized retelling of the events.

Jan Broberg Worked On The Series

Jan and her mother, Mary Ann, served as producers, with Jan offering input to the writers. Filming occurred between February and August 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia, and Los Angeles, California. The series premiered on Peacock in October 2022. Friend of the Family received positive reviews from critics, who commended the direction and Jake Lacy’s performance.

As an adult, Jan Broberg has spoken publicly about her experiences, sharing her story in the hope of raising awareness about child abduction and exploitation. Real-life clips of Jan facing her abuser in court appear during the end credits of Friend of The Family.