The Lost Brothers: A family's decades-long search

On a cold November afternoon in 1951, three young boys went out to play in Farview Park in north Minneapolis. The Klein brothers—Kenneth Jr., 8; David, 6; and Danny, 4—never came home. When two caps turned up on the ice of the Mississippi River, the Minneapolis Police Department concluded that the boys had drowned and closed the case. The boys’ parents were unconvinced, hoping against hope that their sons would still be found. Sixty long years would pass before two sheriff’s deputies, with new information in hand and the FBI on board, could convince the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to agree that the case should be reopened.

This is the story of that decades-long ordeal, one of the oldest known active missing-child investigations, told by a writer whose own research for an article in 1998 sparked new interest in the boys’ disappearance. Beginning in 2012, when deputies Jessica Miller and Lance Salls took up the Kleins’ cause, author Jack El-Hai returns to the mountain of clues amassed through the years, then follows the trail traced over time by the boys’ indefatigable parents, right back to those critical moments in 1951. The Lost Brothers captures the Kleins’ initial terror and confusion but also the unstinting effort, with its underlying faith, that carried them from psychics to reporters to private investigators and TV producers—and ultimately produced results that cast doubt on the drowning verdict and even suggested possible suspects in the boys’ abduction. An intimate portrait of a parent’s worst nightmare and its terrible toll on a family, the book is also a genuine mystery, spinning out suspense at every missed turn or potential lead, along with its hope for resolution in the end.

Praise for The Lost Brothers

“For parents, there may be no scenario more terrifying than a child vanishing off the face of the earth. Imagine, then, the utter heartbreak of the Klein family, who lost not one, but three little boys in a North Minneapolis neighborhood in 1951. In The Lost Brothers, historian and author Jack El-Hai delivers this tragic tale in an enthrallingly readable book. Coming in at about a hundred pages, the book packs a concise and powerful gut punch, detailing the disappearance, the investigation, and, most poignantly, the deep and enduring despair of the family they left behind. El-Hai also lays out possible suspects and new evidence that could potentially solve the Minnesota mystery for once and for all. This book comes highly recommended—you will not be able to put it down.”

- Erik Rivenes, author of Dirty Doc Ames and the Scandal That Shook Minneapolis, and host of the Most Notorious podcast 

“As a longtime TV crime reporter, I found unsolved missing children cases to be exceptionally heartbreaking and impossible to forget. To this day, one of the most haunting of those stories is the mysterious disappearance of the Klein brothers. How could three young boys just vanish after walking to a nearby park and remain missing so many years later? Jack El-Hai offers a gripping, intimate look at this nearly seventy-year-old case. Superbly written and researched, the book evinces the agony of the boys’ parents, who steadfastly refused to believe the police conclusion of drowning. El-Hai also conveys the passionate determination of more recent investigators to solve the case. This enthralling book is sure to captivate readers and, I hope, keep investigative interest alive.”

- Caroline Lowe, investigative journalist