ABC’s “20/20” released a special episode on Friday detailing the brutal murder of an elderly farmer and the “divine intervention” which helped solve the case.
On April 11, 2015, 90-year-old Earl Olander was murdered in his home. Police told “20/20” that two thieves had broken into his home, bound his hands and feet with tape, and rummaged through the place in search of valuables.
Chris Wagner, who had led the investigation into Olander’s death, told “20/20” that “the suspects had spent a significant amount of time in the house going through all the drawers and cupboards.”
Olander, a rural farmer who had lived in Carver County, Minnesota, all of his life, was described as living very modestly. But investigators say that Olander actually had millions of dollars to his name, due to inheritance and his lifetime of farming.
“Money has always been in a lot of crimes that you’re looking into,” Wagner explained.
For weeks after Olander’s death, police had no suspects and their sole lead was shoe prints left behind by the suspects.
Forensic scientists with Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension discovered three different shoe prints at the scene. Using photos of the prints, they compared them to thousands of others and were able to identify three shoe brands: Crocs, Adidas, and Avia, according to ABC News.
Investigators were hopeful that the killers left behind DNA or fingerprints…#ABC2020 “Divine Intervention” premieres TONIGHT at 9/8c on @ABC. Stream later on hulu. https://t.co/pjStAgZskM pic.twitter.com/t0pEq91gZ3
— 20/20 (@ABC2020) November 11, 2022
Due to the three different prints, police suspected that there may have been a third suspect. However, the Carver County Attorney’s office told “20/20” in a statement:
“After law enforcement exhaustively investigated the murder and followed up on every lead, there was no reliable or credible evidence that a third person was involved in the murder of Earl Olander.”
After a month of investigating dead-end leads, Carver police received a call from a man identified as Barry Kyles, who said he found a Bible containing a $1,000 savings bond with Olander’s name on it.
Kyles explained that he had been paid $23 and a bottle of vodka to clean an apartment in St. Paul. After finding the savings bond containing Olander’s name and address, he looked him up on Google and found that there was a reward for information related to his murder. He then notified police of his discovery.
Retired Carver sheriff Jim Olson told “20/20” that the Norwegian Bible belonged to Olander’s family and was over 100 years old.
— 20/20 (@ABC2020) November 10, 2022
Using the tip, investigators questioned Edson Benitez, who lived in the apartment cleaned by Kyles, on how he came into possession of the Bible.
Benitez originally told police that a friend who moved to Mexico gave it to him, but he later admitted that it had been stolen and he gave up the name of his friend, Reinol Vergara.
As reported by The Blaze, Vergara had been hired to paint Olander’s home when he discovered that the elderly farmer was actually wealthy. Benitez and Vergara later robbed Olander.
As Benitez waited in a vehicle outside Olander’s home, Vergara broke into the house with a duffel bag, which investigators believe contained duct tape and a gun.
After 20 minutes, Vergara called Benitez into the house and told him to start searching for money. Benitez described seeing Olander struggling on the ground with his hands and feet tied up and a blanket covering his face.
Benitez said Vergara then struck the elderly man with a gun and told him, “You’re going to die.”
Police confirmed that the two men were responsible for Olander’s death after tying their cell phone records and identifying their shoe prints as the ones found at the scene.
Benitez and Vergara were charged with four counts of murder and, after pleading guilty to one of those charges, were sentenced to 37 years in prison in 2016.
“To me, there are no coincidences. There are only ‘God-incidences,'” Bill Boecker, a longtime neighbor of Olander’s, told “20/20.” Boecker’s wife, Maria, had visited Vergara after his arrest.
After hearing a recording of her conversation with the man jailed for a farmer’s 2015 murder, this Minnesota woman said it “was painful” to confront him and opens up to @JohnQABC about the case’s impact.
— 20/20 (@ABC2020) November 11, 2022
“20/20” obtained a recording of a conversation Maria had with Vergara while he was in jail, in which she urged him to confess his sin of Olander’s killing to a priest “so that you can go to heaven.”
Marie told “20/20” that “[Jesus] wants everybody in heaven with him,” even a “killer” like Vergara.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.