In 1951, three brothers left their family home one afternoon to go to Farview Park in North Minneapolis and disappeared: Kenneth was eight, David was six, and Danny was four. Their older brother, Gordon had stayed behind that afternoon to fix a broken knife sheath and intended to meet up with them later. When he went to the park, the boys were gone. Their parents, Betty and Kenneth Klein, never gave up hope that someday they would find out what had happened to their children.
In 1998, author Jack El-Hai called a phone number in a classified ad pleading for information on the missing children, an ad the Kleins placed every year. Betty and Kenneth invited Jack to meet with them at their home in rural Monticello, Minnesota, where they had moved in the years since their sons’ disappearance. Betty was seventy-three and Kenneth was eighty-one and undergoing cancer treatment at the time, but they agreed to share their story with Jack El-Hai for a piece he was writing for Minnesota Monthly. The Kleins had a large family – five remaining sons, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, and though they were devoted to their family, they could not stop thinking about the part of their family that remained missing.
In 1999, bones were discovered in a Wright County gravel pit not far from where the Kleins had relocated. They were later identified as century-old remains of Native American origin, but years later, a Wright County Detective uncovered the files while organizing old department records and turned them over to the Criminal Investigation Division of the sheriff’s office. Deputy Lance Salls remembered the case of the three boys who had gone missing in Minneapolis and was curious about the case. He assigned another deputy to collect a DNA sample from Betty Klein to add to the registry maintained by the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Her husband had since died, but Betty told the deputy that she thought the case had been improperly investigated by the Minneapolis Police and pleaded with her to look through the clippings, photographs, and records that she had collected over the years. Deputy Jessica Miller found Betty’s story compelling and she and Deputy Salls agreed to examine the Klein case on their own time to see what they could do.
The Lost Brothers tells the story of the missing Klein brothers, the Minneapolis police investigation, and the Wright County Sherriff’s office re-investigation – including new leads and possible suspects discovered in the process. Jack El-Hai drew upon a wide range of sources for the book: interviews with the family and Wright County deputies, newspaper and magazine articles from the 1940s through the 2000s, as well as case files of the Minneapolis Police Department and the FBI.
It is a heart-breaking and compelling read, part family story, true crime, and investigative journalism. Jack El-Hai’s effort to reconstruct the case of the missing Klein brothers, the initial investigation, the family interviews, and the new evidence and leads discovered by Wright County detectives is admirable. He has followed the case for over twenty years and he hopes that someday, the remaining Klein family will have the answers their parents so desperately sought.
The Lost Brothers is available for pre-order from your local bookstore or online bookseller and will be published in October 2019. Twin Cities Public Television will produce a podcast for release this fall – Long Lost – a special investigative history series that will explore what history can reveal about what went wrong in the case, where we go from here, and what the public can do to help.
Special thanks to the University of Minnesota Press for providing me with an advance review copy.
This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Read all my reviews and listen to my author interview with Jack El Hai on WTIP 90.7 Grand Marais, Minnesota on August 22 at 7:00 pm and after airing on line at www.wtip.org/superior-reads and www.superiorreads.blog.