Jan Broberg Felt

Actress steps out of character - 'Nurse Louise' to tell her story

By: John O'Connell
Date: 19 October 2003
Source: Idaho State Journal
URL: http://www.journalnet.com/articles/2003/10/19/news/local/news01.txt

WEST VALLEY, Utah - "This is five apple take one. Action!"

Dr. Harold Abbott walks into his office to find roses scattered everywhere and his assistant, Nurse Louise, on the verge of tears.

"Dr. Brown sent them for your sister. Isn't it romantic?" says Nurse Louise in a jittery voice, jealous that the roses weren't intended for her.

It's one of two scenes featuring the timid, petite blond nurse, played by Pocatello native Jan Broberg Felt, in what will be the season's ninth episode of the Warner Brothers drama "Everwood."

"It certainly is not romantic. It's arrogant and puerile," Abbott says, turning to his sister, Dr. Linda Abbott, as she walks into his office. "Does the man think he can simply buy your affection with 100 ..."

"Three hundred," Nurse Louise interrupts.

"Three hundred roses? My God. This must have cost a fortune," Abbott says.

Abbott's sister responds, "You're right. The whole thing is insulting, but I have no intention of responding to it, so there's no need to get upset."

She tells a grinning Nurse Louise she can have the flowers.

The sound man shouts "cut!" and they film the scene several more times from multiple angles.

Broberg Felt has starred in several movies, including "The Book of Mormon Movie - The Journey" and "Little Secrets." She currently has a recurring role in "Everwood," a show set in a fictitious Colorado town centered around a feud between rival family practitioners Dr. Abbott, played by Tom Amandes, and Dr. Brown, played by Treat Williams.

She will also soon appear in the Showtime series "Paradise."

But Broberg Felt's own life story is more bizarre and unbelievable than any part she's ever played.

She will tell her story, "Stolen Innocence: A Story of Kidnapping and Brainwashing," at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Idaho State University Pond Student Union Building as a featured speaker for the 16th Annual Idaho Conference on Health Care.

For years, she kept her secret to herself - that she was kidnapped and sexually abused by a trusted family friend.

By going public with her story, she hopes to show other child abuse victims that they can achieve their dreams and that it's OK to be open about their pain.

Broberg Felt's mother, MaryAnn Broberg, will also release a book on her daughter's ordeal Monday, which she's been writing for the past 20 years. Broberg Felt and her mother will sign copies following the ISU speech.

The book, "Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story," sells for $14.95 and can be ordered at www.stoleninnocencebook.com.

The best actor Jan Broberg Felt said she ever met sold furniture and never appeared on the silver screen.

She called him Brother B. He was constantly lavishing her with attention and buying her gifts - the type her father, a local florist, couldn't afford to buy her.

She said he was a child predator interested only in seducing her, but his lies were convincing. He managed to gain her trust and became a close family friend in the process.

Among Pocatello's leaders, Brother B had a reputation as a pillar of the community.

The Brobergs lived on 16th Place, and Brother B lived at the corner of 18th and Center Streets. He had five children close in age to Broberg Felt and her two sisters.

One day, Brother B said he was going to take her horseback riding, as he often did. Broberg Felt said he slipped her a pill that he said was a vitamin, and she awoke in a mobile home in a desert somewhere.

Brother B kept Broberg Felt away from her family for 55 days. Broberg Felt said he used mind manipulation to convince her to stay with him.

"I knew how completely brainwashed I was. It wouldn't have mattered if my mother had been standing across the street," Broberg Felt said. "I don't know how to tell the public to get that."

Acting saved Broberg Felt's life. She said her ordeal with Brother B was so traumatic, she thought about killing herself by overdosing on pills when she was 16. She said she didn't go through with her plan because she was at a theater workshop, and the rest of the cast was depending on her to perform a part in a play.

Still, she never told anyone about her internal turmoil.

"I had a very patient family that kept me in drama and kept me acting," she says. "That's where I was expressing myself and releasing my feelings."

She is currently married to Larry Felt and has a 14-year-old son, Austen, from her first marriage.

Robin Patrick has done makeup for the stars for the past 12 years, and she does her homework to fit the proper fashion style for each television character's personality.

In a small trailer in the parking lot at the "Everwood" set, Patrick lightly dabs eye shadow on Broberg Felt's face.

Broberg Felt's character, Nurse Louise, is unsure of herself, and she walks on eggshells around her cynical boss, Dr. Abbott.

"We're just doing real simple makeup for this character. On Jan, nothing glamorous, just soft and pretty," Patrick says.

About 20 minutes later, Patrick finishes, and Broberg Felt waits in her closet-sized trailer dressing room for her hair appointment. She finds a sweater hanging in her room, which she says the directors have chosen for her to wear on stage over her nurse's uniform to show viewers it's cold outside in Everwood, Colo.

Nurse Louise usually wears her hair up. In one episode, in which her character was sporting a Chinese look, she wore it down. Dr. Abbott ordered her to switch her hair back before the episode's conclusion.

"My character is too shy to go on a date. She's the never-been-kissed type," Broberg Felt says, adding she hopes her writers will script a romance between Nurse Louise and Dr. Brown so her character will appear in more episodes.

Filming is behind schedule, and the show's director assistant tells Broberg Felt to go to lunch early.

A minivan is parked by the casts' trailers in case an actor or actress requests a ride across the parking lot, but Broberg Felt decides to walk to lunch.

She's pleased to see the Pig Boys Catering truck - she says they offer the best food for television and movie sets in the Salt Lake City area.

She orders a plate of grilled halibut with roasted red pepper vinaigrette and a small serving of cheese tortelinni - she tells the server she wants just a tiny bit because she doesn't need the carbohydrates.

She enters a warehouse where there's a buffet line with more food, gets a salad and sits at a table to eat. She eats slowly.

Sound man Paul Maritsas sits by her.

"You're becoming a regular just like we anticipated," he says.

Maritsas worked with Broberg Felt when she played a pregnant mother in "Little Secrets."

"She's able to develop into a character so she's really believable, and her mannerisms are quirky and cute," Maritsas says. "On the set, when she's up, we really laugh a lot."

While she eats, a woman hands her a booklet with her lines for the day, called sides.

"Personally, I love a good beard," Broberg Felt says, practicing a new line.

Tom Amandes, who plays Dr. Abbott, sits at Broberg Felt's table wearing a red tie and a green argyle sweater vest.

Broberg Felt is in the midst of telling her childhood story to others at the table, and she gets Amandes' attention.

"I was kidnapped as a kid," she tells him.

"Were you really?" he asks, gazing at her in disbelief.

She tells him about Brother B and her mother's book.

Amandes empathizes with her story. He tells her his ex-wife, too, was abused as a child.

"For me, it's important not to keep those secrets," Amandes tells her.

They switch to a lighter conversation topic - a poem Nurse Louise wrote about her mean and nasty boss that was removed from the script.

"I still think they should have left her poem in," Amandes says to Broberg Felt.

The conversation shifts again to movies, and Amandes remembers he forgot to return some videos he rented featuring his co-star Treat Williams.

Pete Welsh knew little about pedophiles and child sex abuse when he was assigned the Robert Berchtold case early in his career as a Pocatello FBI agent.

But the bizarre case shaped his career path. Based on his outrage with the outcome of the Berchtold case, he became an expert in profiling pedophiles.

Berchtold was a classic seducer - he gained children's trust by giving them gifts and affection, he behaved like a child when he played games with them and he was skilled in listening to them and identifying with them.

"There are seven distinct categories of pedophiles, and he (Berchtold) matches one of them perfectly," Welsh says.

Now retired after a 23-year FBI career, Welsh teaches a class in child sexual abuse at ISU and says he remembers the Berchtold case, and how the predator's actions affected the Broberg family, like it was yesterday.

He keeps his FBI files on the Berchtold case in a box in his closet and still shows his ISU class slides from the case.

"I do (the slide show) and tell them that's how I got started in this business," Welsh says.

Welsh remembers being called to the Broberg home after Broberg Felt, who was 10 years old at the time, was reported missing in 1974.

Officials found Berchtold's car near the American Falls Reservoir with a window smashed.

Welsh believes Berchtold broke the window to make it appear that the girl was abducted from his car, but he made the mistake of smashing the window from the inside.

The day Berchtold kidnapped Broberg, Welsh says he sold his Pocatello furniture store, Freight Outlet, and bought an expensive motorhome. He never told his family about either his purchase or selling the business.

The FBI placed court-ordered wire taps on telephones of anyone Berchtold was known to call. When Berchtold called his brother and instructed him to tell the Broberg family they would never see their daughter again if they didn't give him her birth certificate, possibly so he could marry her, the FBI had the conversation on tape.

They also managed to trace a call he placed to his brother at Mazatlan, Mexico.

With help from Mexican officials, the FBI apprehended Berchtold in Mexico.

"She was with him willingly, but he had brainwashed her," Berchtold says.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed kidnapping charges against Berchtold. Although he kept Broberg Felt away from her parents for 55 days, he was sentenced to 30 days in prison and probation.

"It was very frustrating that he wasn't in jail for a long time," Welsh says.

Just before he was supposed to go to prison, Welsh says Berchtold called Broberg Felt and convinced her to sneak out of her basement room through a window and meet him. He dropped her off at the Greater Pocatello Airport and sent her on a plane to California. It was 1976, two years after the initial kidnapping.

He had deceived Catholic nuns at a Pasadena convent into thinking he was a CIA agent in Lebanon whose wife had been killed, and he asked them to hold his daughter at their school near the Rose Bowl for her safety.

Broberg Felt arrived in Pasadena with $5,000 in her pocket, Welsh says.

"I had a headache the whole time she was gone," he says.

Berchtold served his time and moved to Utah, where he lived in his motorhome.

FBI officials quickly set up a surveillance of his motorhome hoping to discover the missing girl's whereabouts. With night-vision goggles, an agent saw a phone number Berchtold dialed on a pay phone, and it led the FBI to the California school.

This time, Berchtold's case went to state court, where he was sentenced to three months in prison. Welsh flew to California to get federal charges filed against Berchtold for impersonating a CIA agent, but shortly after he returned to Idaho, he learned the U.S. Attorney's Office dropped the charges.

While Berchtold was in prison, Welsh says he hired two thugs to burn down Broberg Felts' fathers business, Atkins Florist. The fire destroyed the building and much of the block. The two suspects were convicted. Welsh says Berchtold walked.

Some family members told MaryAnn Broberg her book would just bring back painful memories, but she says she's releasing it to help her family heal.

MaryAnn Broberg says she started taking notes on her daughter's case while it was still ongoing at the urging of a police officer.

On Monday, she will release 5,000 copies of the book, printed by Banta Publishing.

"I realized there was a lot of healing that hadn't been done between family members," she says, adding her family spoke little about the ordeal until years later.

She also hopes the community will learn a lesson from her book.

"It's a true crime story about how an individual can dupe an entire community, which he did, and not serve time for his criminal acts," MaryAnn Broberg says.

The preface, written by Connecticut Superior Court Judge Charles D. Gill, outlines mistakes the Broberg family made during their dealings with Berchtold. MaryAnn Broberg hopes the preface will prevent other families from making the same mistakes.

Gill calls her book "a handbook of how loving and protective parents can do wrong when fate places them in particular circumstances."

MaryAnn Broberg says, "When a trusted individual becomes so enchanted or engrossed in a particular child, you'd better start worrying or thinking there's something going on there."

She remembers how Berchtold won over her family. He provided her children with boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles - all of the fun toys she and her husband couldn't afford to give them.

"We were always invited to come," she says. "We did lots of activities with (the Berchtold family)."

When her daughter first disappeared, MaryAnn Broberg says she and her husband thought Berchtold had just experienced a nervous breakdown, and they were confident he wouldn't harm her.

They panicked the second time she was kidnapped.

"I just went out of my mind," she says. "I thought it was the end of the world."

The Brobergs took their daughter to a child psychiatrist in Salt Lake City after she turned 14, but she said nothing to him. It took two more years before she finally told her story, MaryAnn Broberg says.

"It's not just the shame involved. There is an actual problem with a person that's been brainwashed is they don't know they've been brainwashed," Broberg Felt says. "It's kind of the ultimate victimization that a person can experience. Your reality is altered."

Jan Broberg Felt goes through the 300 balloons off the set of "Everwood" Wednesday in Salt Lake City, where she plays Nurse Louise.

Web page created 20 October 2003.