Robert Berchtold Wanted to Adopt a Mexican Girl Before Kidnapping Jan Broberg

In the first episode of A Friend of the Family, Gail Berchtold (Lio Tipton) mentions Robert Berchtold’s (Jake Lacy) desire to adopt a Mexican girl. Since the Peacock series is based on real events, many people are curious about this aspect of Berchtold’s life. Did he and his wife really try to adopt another child? Here’s what we know about the Berchtold’s attempt at adoption, plus how that story changes slightly in “Horseback Riding in American Falls.”

[SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers ahead regarding A Friend of the Family Episode 1 “Horseback Riding in American Falls.”]

The fictional Robert Berchtold (Jake Lacy), who wanted to adopt a child from Mexico, in the Peacock series 'A Friend of the Family'
Jake Lacy as Robert ‘B’ Berchtold | Peacock

All 5 Berchtold children have stayed out of the public eye  

Robert and Gail Berchtold had five children together: Jerry, James, Joseph, Jeff, and Jill. Their fictitious counterparts appear in A Friend of the Family. However, the Berchtold children were not involved in the Peacock production or the Netflix documentary Abducted in Plain Sight

As Jan explained to ET when the documentary came out, she has not had contact with the Berchtolds. “No word and many, many years have gone by,” Jan told the outlet. “Can you imagine how awful it would be to discover that this was your dad? I mean, it’s pretty tough, I feel bad for all of them.” 

Robert and Gail Berchtold wanted to adopt 

Skye Borgman, the filmmaker behind Abducted in Plain Sight, reveals details about the Berchtold’s attempt to adopt in the documentary. At the time, Robert was in contact with a couple who were looking to have their daughter adopted. 

In a recording Berchtold made, he details his travels to Mexico where he met with several little girls. After examining them, Berchtold picked out two girls with fair features and blue eyes that he dubbed “the kind of little girl I could love.”

Allegedly armed with letters of recommendation from community members, Berchtold began to broker the adoption of a girl named Rosa Maria. However, a border patrol officer denied Berchtold entry back into the United States with the child and Rosa Maria was returned to her family. 

‘A Friend of the Family’ changes the Berchtold’s adoption story slightly 

Episode 1 of A Friend in the Family wastes no time in addressing the first time Jan was kidnapped by Robert Berchtold. Before the episode ends, Bob has Jan (Hendrix Yancey) in a motorhome somewhere in Mexico. 

Gail Berchtold (Lio Tipton) in Peacock's 'A Friend of the Family'
Lio Tipton as Gail Berchtold | Peacock
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Back in Idaho, Gail tells the Brobergs (Anna Paquin, Colin Hanks) about her husband’s “struggle” after they were unable to adopt. “There was this little Mexican girl,” Gail says. “You know how much he loves children. We want another. Then we heard about this little girl down there, this Maria who needed a better life.” 

This is where Gail’s story changes slightly from what was recounted in Abducted in Plain Sight. “So I flew down and met him with all the adoption papers,” the fictional Gail says. “And she was cute as a button. But at the last minute, her mother just cried and cried and wouldn’t let her go. You should have seen how disappointed he was that he had to leave her in Mexico.” 

Watch A Friend of the Family on Peacock