For years, a notorious criminal has shadowed the lives of the Redhead family in Minneapolis. Now they're wondering if that connection is the key to an increasingly frustrating mystery: Who dug up Edward Redhead?

"Why would a person go through this much effort? What was the goal?" Richard Callerstrom asked about the desecrated grave of his father, a World War II veteran buried more than 40 years ago at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

Sometime overnight on July 11-12, vandals at the sprawling cemetery dug several feet to Redhead's grave vault, unsealed the heavy lid and pried open the casket.

Officials told Callerstrom that his father's shirt appeared ruffled and his tie askew, as though he had been frisked, but that nothing else was amiss.

Investigators don't have any suspects. But Callerstrom has a theory: The vandals mistakenly thought Edward Redhead was the father of the late Randall Redhead, a suspected drug dealer from 30 years ago, and that they were looking for drug loot stashed in the casket.

Callerstrom said he knows his hypothesis seems "screwy." But then, he said, nothing about this makes sense. "Was it just a random thing? Maybe they just picked a guy with a funny last name? I think there's more to it than that."

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, whose department has put up half of a $10,000 reward, said investigators got a number of leads after a news conference last month but haven't yet identified a solid suspect. All that was left at the scene were mounds of dirt, stake marks, some shoe prints and a pocket knife that may or may not have been used.

Stanek declined to comment on Callerstrom's theory, but he acknowledged it was a highly unusual case.

"We checked all over the country, with the national cemeteries, funeral directors. Unless it's a crazy person digging up a body for some reason, we couldn't find anything the same or similar to this going back five, 10, 15 years," he said.

Not just a prank

Callerstrom was 15 when his father died of cancer in 1971, at age 48. Edward Redhead worked most of his life at Butler Manufacturing in Minneapolis, and his son only recently learned more about his time as a PT boat torpedo mate in the Mediterranean Sea.

"I really didn't get to know my father," he said. "He was a quiet guy. Everything I learned from my dad, I learned by example without his saying a word. His favorite things were family and Grain Belt."

Five years after his father died, his mother, Lorraine, died and was buried alongside her husband at Fort Snelling. Callerstrom worked for years as an outdoor power equipment salesman for different businesses, including Lyndale Garden Center. He took his mother's maiden name as a way of making a new start during a low period several years ago.

He said he was up North when he learned about the grave desecration. He came back to town and met with investigators, who made it clear that what happened wasn't just a stupid prank by kids.

"It was efficient, it was planned, they knew what they were doing. They knew how Fort Snelling buried people," he said.

The perpetrators used some kind of apparatus, perhaps connected to stake marks found in the ground nearby, to unseal the vault lid, Callerstrom said. Then they opened the casket.

Callerstrom agreed to have the body exhumed for a fuller investigation by the medical examiner's office. To his relief, they told him nothing had been done to the body and that it appeared nothing was missing, including his wedding ring.

And his mother's grave, he said, was untouched.

The more Callerstrom thought about it, the more he kept coming back to Randall Redhead -- even though the only thing they shared was their English surname.

'The principle of the thing'

Randall Redhead was on the wrong side of the law for much of his life. He was serving 10 years for attempted burglary at Stillwater in 1975 when he was involved in a cellblock brawl. One inmate was killed, and Redhead was hospitalized with stab wounds.

Two years later, he was arrested by narcotics agents and indicted as one of 28 people thought to be traffickers of heroin and other drugs. At the time, a pound of heroin sold for $30,000 in the Twin Cities.

In 1986, Redhead made headlines when his body was found in the Mississippi near Hastings with about $1,000 cash in his pockets and several execution-style gunshot wounds in his head.

He had been missing for two months. Investigators said they didn't know if his slaying was drug-related, but one said he frequented a biker bar on Lake Street known to supply drugs.

Chris Redhead, Callerstrom's cousin, said his family always heard about Randall Redhead when he was growing up. His mother's checking account was even canceled because the banks confused her with Randall's mother, who had the same name and was writing bad checks. He was well-known to cops, he said.

"Up until recently we were getting phone calls every year from an individual looking for Randy Redhead's killer," Chris Redhead said.

Callerstrom's theory, he said, "is the only connection that would have any possibility. Otherwise I see it as a strange, random act. But that's hard to accept."

A week after his grave was disturbed, Edward Redhead was reburied with a military gun salute in a brief ceremony attended by family. Four grandsons he never knew served as pallbearers, and one of them received the flag that wrapped his casket.

Callerstrom appreciates the investigative work that's been done, but he hopes the reward money can be increased.

"Who would've thought someone would do this?" he said. "These guys didn't get anything, but they pulled it off. Are you just going to call it a mistake and file it away? It's the principle of the thing."

Staff writer Anthony Lonetree contributed to this story.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455