Robert Berchtold’s Death by Suicide Had to Do With Charges Outside of Jan Broberg’s Kidnapping

Peacock‘s A Friend of the Family is the fictionalized retelling of Robert Berchtold’s multiple kidnappings of Jan Broberg. Because the series is about a true crime story, many are curious about where these people are today. Find out what happened to Berchtold in the aftermath of the kidnappings and how his death by suicide had almost nothing to do with Broberg. 

Robert Berchtold holds a young Jan Broberg in the Netflix documentary 'Abducted in Plain Sight'
Robert Berchtold with Jan Broberg | Netflix

‘A Friend of the Family’ details Robert Berchtold’s kidnapping of Jan Broberg

Robert Berchtold was the Broberg’s neighbor. He first kidnapped Jan when she was 12-years-old. “Berchtold took her away in a motor home on the afternoon of Oct. 17, 1974,” ABC News reported. With Jan strapped to the bed of an RV, Berchtold made her listen to a high-pitched monotone voice that told her she was abducted by a UFO. 

“…[I] was to do everything they told me, and if I didn’t, I would be instantly vaporized,” Jan recalled. She was Berchtold’s captive for five weeks until Mexican authorities found her and took her home.

Two years later, Berchtold took Jan again. This time, he took her to a Catholic girl’s school in Pasadena, California. He kept Jan hidden until the FBI located her. 

Peacock’s mini-series A Friend of the Family is based on those kidnappings and Berchtold’s ability to manipulate people close to him. Jake Lacy, who you might recognize from The Office or The White Lotus, plays Berchtold. Meanwhile, Anna Paquin (The IrishmanTrue Blood) portrays Jan’s mother and Colin Hanks (Impeachment: American Crime Story) plays Jan’s father, Bob. Hendrix Yancey (George & Tammy) and McKenna Grace (The Handmaid’s Tale) portray Jan in her various stages of life. The first three of nine episodes will be released on Oct. 6, 2022.

Robert Berchtold died by suicide in 2005

According to his obituary: “Robert Ersol Berchtold, 69, of Logandale, died Nov. 11, 2005. He was a truck driver and served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He is survived by his wife, Deanna; sons, Jerry, James, Joseph, and Jeff; daughter, Jill Scott; and mother, Lucille.” 

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Broberg was a guest on Tamron Hall when the Netflix documentary Abducted in Plain Sight came out. They spoke about Berchtold’s death. 

“He took his own life in 2005,” Hall explained. According to FindAGrave.com, Berchtold’s grave is located at the Brigham City Cemetery in Brigham City, Utah. 

Robert Berchtold’s death reportedly had to do with an unrelated arrest 

According to ABC News, Berchtold showed up at a women’s conference in St. George, Utah in 2004. There, Berchtold claimed he had a violent altercation with members of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA). 

Berchtold was arrested after the incident on charges of “simple assault, criminal trespassing, and disorderly conduct” and later found guilty of three felonies and two misdemeanors. As he was awaiting his sentencing, Berchtold overdosed on his medication and died by suicide (Abducted in Plain Sight). 

Robert Berchtold only spent 10 days in jail for kidnapping Jan Broberg

As discussed in Abducted in Plain Sight, Berchtold was originally sentenced to five years in jail. However, his sentence was later reduced to 45 days, of which Berchtold spent a total of 10 days in jail. 

Stream A Friend of the Family on Peacock beginning on Oct. 6.