Drowned...or kidnapped? The disappearance of the Klein brothers



A few weeks ago, I covered the case of Scott and Amy Fandel, a brother and sister who went missing in the 1970’s. I mentioned in that video how awful it was to have two children go missing at the same time. Any missing person is cause for concern, of course, but today’s case involves the disappearance of not two but three siblings.


November 2021 will mark 70 years since this disappearance, and we still don’t know what happened. Let’s talk about the Klein brothers.



early life


(l-r) David, Ken and Danny Klein

Kenneth Thomas Klein Jr. was born on October 24, 1943 to Kenneth and Betty Klein. He was also welcomed by older brother Gordon, who went by Gordy. On March 7, 1945, Kenneth and Betty welcomed another son, David John Klein, followed by Daniel James Klein on August 17, 1947.


I didn’t find much about the Klein brothers’ early lives, but from the little I did find their childhoods were relatively normal. They hung out with each other, played outside and roughhoused, just like many kids did at the time and many still do today. But on November 10, 1951, everything changed.



disappearance/investigation


That afternoon, a Saturday, 8-year-old Ken, 6-year-old David and 4-year-old Danny wanted to go to the park. Their mom initially said no, but they kept begging until she finally said yes.



Around 1:30 pm, the brothers set out for Farview Park, less than half a mile from their home on Colfax Avenue in north Minneapolis. Their older brother, Gordy, who was nine at the time, was supposed to meet up with them later. But when he arrived at the park and went to the oak tree they usually met under, none of his brothers were there — and he couldn’t find them anywhere else in the park.


Betty Klein called the police pretty quickly. She was initially told they couldn’t do anything until the boys had been gone for 24 hours (which was apparently standard procedure at the time). However, they did end up sending a few officers into the neighborhood to look around and see if the boys showed up. They never did.


Friends, family and others quickly stepped in to help, searching alleys, taking to neighbors and distributing missing persons posters. Police thought they could have run away — but that quickly changed.


The day after their disappearance, a group of hunters saw three boys matching the brothers’ descriptions getting into a truck near Cambridge, Minnesota, about 43 miles north of Farview Park. The tip was investigated, but the boys turned out not to be the Klein brothers.


The next day, two days into the investigation, a neighbor reported she had seen the boys sitting on a curb around 5:30 pm the day they went missing. Bloodhounds traced the boys’ scents from there to the nearby Mississippi River, where the trail stopped. The river was drained multiple times, but no bodies were ever found.


The day after this — Tuesday, November 13 — two stocking caps were found by a railroad worker close to a dam in the river. The caps were positively identified by Kenneth Klein Sr. as belong to his sons.



Five days after their disappearance, the search for the Klein brothers was called off. Investigators believed they fell into the Mississippi River and drowned. They also believed the boys’ bodies may have been buried in silt, a loose material made of extremely small rock particles. According to then-police chief Tom Jones, the point of the river where the boys’ trail stopped was pretty swift and would have carried them away fast if they’d fallen in.


A few days later, the Kleins got a postcard. The unusually elaborate writing said the sender had the boys and would kill them on the 20th — a date that was fast approaching — if they didn’t get $15,000. The senders gave directions to meet them, pick up the kids and over the money.


Kenneth Sr., along with police and FBI agents, went to the scene that night. Police were prepared to make an arrest. Nobody ever showed up. I assume they considered it a hoax, because the case was never reopened.



aftermath


As the years went by, Betty Klein said she still believed her sons were alive. She and her husband wrote to senators and the FBI, hired a private investigator and even consulted a psychic horse — which sounds kind of strange, but I have heard of things like this happening.


KWhen Ken, David and Danny disappeared, Betty Klein was seven months pregnant with another boy, and she gave birth to their brother Mike not too long after. The Kleins later had another son, Donald, and at least one other child (though one source said they had four more sons in total). At least one of the brothers is now dead, along with Betty and Kenneth Sr., but Donald Klein as well as Gordon (who was just nine when his brothers disappeared) are st

And the Kleins put out ads about the case in newspapers for years. In 1997, Minneapolis based writer Jack El-Hai came across one of these ads and contacted the Kleins. He’s been following the case ever since. In 2019, he teamed up with PBS to produce the six episode podcast Long Lost. El-Hai also released a book about the case called The Lost Brothers that same year. You can get it here.** (link is affiliate; I earn a commission from each sale)


As of 2019, there were two sheriffs deputies looking into the case independently and trying to convince the Minneapolis Police Department to reopen it. A box of evidence that included the boys’ hats and some other clothing was given to the family after the case was closed, but has since been lost.



theory: drowned


Investigators believe the boys may have drowned in the river and their bodies were buried in silt.

So what happened to the Klein brothers? Did they really drown in the Mississippi River and their bodies were never recovered? The boys’ scent stopped at the river, and two of their caps were found there. Anecdotally, from everything I’ve read in researching both this case and others, bodies not being recovered from water for years is pretty common. Their bodies could have been buried under silt, like the original investigators believed, and they just never surfaced. It might sound crazy for bodies to go unnoticed for seven decades, but things like this do happen.


And the internet generally seems to agree. Speculation on places like Websleuths and Reddit includes several people who think one of the boys accidentally fell in and the other two jumped into try and save him but couldn’t get back out. Several people in these threads say they’d do the same thing if they were in that situation. I don’t have siblings, but I’d like to think I would too.



theory: kidnapped



So now let’s talk about the other major theory in this case — that the brothers were kidnapped. In the early 2000’s, the private investigator hired by the Kleins was told something by a dying woman who said she had to get it off her chest. According to her, she saw the Klein brothers playing basketball with two neighborhood men on the day their disappearance — two men who were rumored to be pedophiles. Upon hearing this, the private investigator wondered if the boys had been kidnapped.


According to Jack El-Hai, kidnapping wasn’t something a lot of people thought about at the time since it was so rare. This is similar to the case of Steven Damman, a 2 1/2 year old who disappeared outside a store in New York in 1955. I covered his case in a video and blog entry which you can read here (the video link is at the top of the page).


But kidnapping might have been on some people’s minds pretty early on. According to the Long Lost podcast, the Klein’s neighbors at the time were afraid after the boys’ disappearance. One man who was interviewed was the same age as Danny, the youngest brother. After their disappearance, he said he wasn’t allowed to go to Farview Park alone. The boys’ older brother, Gordy, also doesn’t believe they would have gone all the way to the river without him — a distance of between one and seven miles, depending on the route they took. While a few online speculators said it would be difficult to kidnap three children at once, others cited the case of the Beaumont children, three Australian siblings who would go missing (possibly kidnapped) about 15 years after the Klein brothers.


Like I mentioned earlier, two private detectives were working on the case as of 2019. On the Long Lost podcast, they said they had a list of people they considered suspects, but that most of them were probably dead.


Before we move on, I just want to clarify: This is all speculation. None of the men mentioned here or in the podcast have been arrested in connection with the Klein brothers’ disappearance and they’re innocent until proven guilty.



final details


Ken, David and Danny Klein were last seen in their neighborhood in Minneapolis, Minnesota on the afternoon of November 10, 1955. Most people who have covered this case believe they are no longer alive.



At the time of his disappearance, Kenneth Thomas Klein Jr. was 8 years old, 3 feet 7 inches tall and 55 pounds. He had a mole and round birthmark on the front of his body and a scar on his forehead. He was last seen wearing a red jacket, yellow plaid shirt, jeans, overshoes, black mittens and a red cap with black trim. If he were alive today, he would be 67 years old.



David John Klein was 6 years old, 3 feet 6 inches tall and 55 pounds. He had a scar on his thumb, another on the right side of his lip and warts on both hands. He was last seen wearing a brown sheepskin coat, jeans, black shoes and mittens and a red and gray cap. If he were alive today, he would be 76 years old.



Daniel James Klein was 4 years old, 2 feet 11 inches tall and between 35 and 40 pounds. He had a scar near his eyebrow and another on his forehead, possibly more than one; different sources said different things. He was last seen wearing a red snowsuit, blue overalls and a blue shirt, rubber boots, a brown plaid cap and brown or red mittens. If he were alive today, he would be 73 years old.


This case is currently closed, but as of 2019 two private detectives were attempting to gather evidence to get itreopened. If it ever is reopened, it will fall under the jurisdiction of the Minneapolis Police Department. (612-673-2853)



conclusion


Just about everyone I came across in my research, whether they believe the boys were kidnapped or not, don’t expect to find them alive or for anyone to be convicted in relation to their disappearance. But with both their parents and at least one sibling dead, their surviving family members just want to know what happened.

116 views0 comments