More than one person was involved in the death of a 90-year-old man whose body was found over the weekend in his ransacked Carver County home, authorities said Tuesday.
Earl Olander, who lived alone in the farmhouse on Homestead Road in San Francisco Township, was found dead with his hands bound Saturday night.
"This was a heinous and senseless crime," Sheriff Jim Olson said at an afternoon news conference, adding that authorities are asking the public for any information that might help them identify and find suspects.
Olander's death, which has been ruled a homicide, continued to draw expressions of sorrow and anger from his friends and neighbors on Tuesday.
One was Gerald Scott, 86, who found Olander's body Saturday. He said Tuesday that the two of them attended school together and were friends their entire lives, often trading vegetables from their gardens and traveling around the state to the lutefisk dinners they both loved.
"It was like having a brother die," Scott said. "It hurt that much."
Olander "was a good man," the sheriff said. "It appears that he did not have any enemies at all."
He had cuts and bruises on his face as the result of having been beaten, Olson said. A precise cause of death will be identified by the medical examiner and made public later this week, Olson said.
There were no signs of forced entry at Olander's home, where he had lived most of his life, but it is not known if the assailants walked into an unlocked home or if Olander let them in, Olson said. Investigators are still collecting evidence at the scene and have not reached conclusions about what might have been stolen or what the assailants might have been looking for, he said.
Olander, a lifelong bachelor, lived in a home that had been in his family for many decades on nearly 160 acres about halfway between Chaska and Belle Plaine. He was close friends with many of his neighbors, who have described him as independent and generous.
In 1997, he was profiled by NBC-TV reporter Andrea Mitchell in a piece titled, "Ever Younger: Longevity Secrets of Carver, Minnesota." He was shown at age 73, carrying hay and overlooking his herd of cattle.
Maria Boecker, Olander's neighbor of 22 years, visited Olander's house Tuesday afternoon and placed a sign on a tree in his front yard that read "Fly High, Earl."
Boecker said he was like a grandfather to her four children. Each Christmas, it was a race among the neighbors to see who could ask Earl to their house for celebrations first, she said.
"Every time there was a holiday, he was at our house," Boecker said. "And if he wasn't at our house, it was guaranteed he was at somebody else's."
Olson said the sheriff's department has stepped up patrols in the area.
"This is out of the ordinary for this area, period," the sheriff said. "With living in a safe community, complacency can be one of our biggest issues."
Authorities are urging residents to practice "the usual safety measures: Lock your doors and windows, report suspicious activity."
Anyone with information about Olander's death is urged to call the Sheriff's Office at 952-361-1212 or after hours at 952-361-1231. Crime Stoppers of Minnesota (1-800-222-8477) has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and charges in the case.
Taylor Nachtigal is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.