The Kellers and Their Millions
Keller was born in New York in 1934 to German immigrant parents, Ludwig and Elizabeth Bohlander. But the young family returned to Germany when Fred was 2. Ludwig served in Hitlers SS. He apparently defected after several years, and the family returned to America following the war. Fred spent his formative years on Long Island, N.Y.
His father earned a meager living as a cabinetmaker, and young Fred became fixated on the worldly goods that his family lacked. He was a proud youngster and had difficulties coming to grips with his fathers lack of financial success.
Later in life, Keller wrote a family history in which he acknowledged his obsession with possessions. The one strong desire I had always harbored was to break out of the working class environment," he wrote.
Kellers writing also hinted at a superiority complex that verged on pathology.
He wrote about a pretty girl he admired while growing up. But he dismissed her as a potential match because she was genetically inferior to my standards.
After high school, Fred Bohlander served in the Army in Korea, attended college for a year, then worked as a laborer. He married his first wife, Blanche, in 1956. He adopted the womans young son, and the couple had two more sons before the relationship soured.
The relationship ended in 1961 with a bizarre abduction.
The family was picnicking at a park in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Fred used a ruse to get the three boysPaul, 2, Eric, 3, and Brian, 7in the car with him, and he sped off, leaving Blanche behind.
He moved with the children to San Francisco and changed his name to Keller. He explained to the boys that their mother had died in an automobile crash. He also changed Brians name to Karl.
Keller eventually relocated to Washington, D.C., and he prevailed upon his own parents to move there and change their name to Keller as well, to help conceal the abductions.
Blanche Bohlander finally tracked down her children in 1970, after nine years. By then Keller had begun building his real estate empire and had money at his disposal.
He negotiated a $10,000 settlement with his ex-wife, and she agreed not to press criminal chargesin an era when family abductions were dismissed by most authorities as domestic disputes best handled privately.
Remarkably, Keller was given custody of the boys.
Blanche Bohlander would later say that she suffered beatings at Kellers hand, and his children have confirmed that Keller was an abusive taskmaster who used manipulation to turn the boys against their mother.