'We are eternally grateful': Family thanks community, mourn Back of the Yards store owner found dead in car after home invasion

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The family of a beloved Back of the Yards grocery store owner thanked the community for the outpouring of support after their father was found dead in the trunk of his car following an apparent home invasion.

They spoke exclusively to ABC7 Eyewitness News Wednesday night.

"One thing I can say is the community is helping us, so thank you," said Francisco Aranda's daughter, who asked that we not use her name.

WATCH: Daughter thanks community for support after father's death
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EXCLUSIVE: Francisco Aranda's daughters thank the community for the support after their father was found dead in the trunk of his car following a home invasion Monday.

"I want to thank the community," she continued. "We have felt it as a family, the best wishes to us. And how much you loved him. I, I should say we are eternally grateful.

On Monday, the 63-year-old, also known as Pancho, was found dead inside of the trunk of his car in unincorporated Crete after a home invasion that also left his 59-year-old wife seriously injured.

Police said two masked men entered the couple's home in the 26000-block of South Klemme Road, beat them and then robbed them. Before the attackers left, investigators said they tied the couple up and threw them in the trunk of their own car.

Aranda kicked out the back seats to allow his wife to escape, but he was not able to escape the trunk himself and died. When the couple was found Monday morning, likely about 12 hours after their ordeal began, the Impala's windows were completely fogged over.

Aranda's work ethic was fierce; he was a man of courage and a risk taker, his daughters said. He would tell his children about the personal connection he had with so many of the people he met.

"'You know what, mi hija, I've known her since she was like three years old,'" she recalled her father telling her. "'I knew her mother and then sometimes a little one comes, right?' He knew generations."

Aranda was humble, too. He would insist his 11 grandchildren called him "Pancho," not grandpa.

"He was the most hard-working person I've ever met. I mean, there are days when I work and I want to give up, I just close my eyes, I think of my father, and I say, 'You know what, he's there working. I'm here working too,'" she said.

Aranda's wife suffered serious bruising injuries but is expected to recover.

"Seeing the outpouring of the community is helping her," their daughter said. "We are still processing too, right?"

Aranda's extended family is now trying to help his surviving wife. It's unclear how much of their money was stolen, but they were planning to retire soon. The family has started a GoFundMe page to help her.

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Memorials have been placed around the Back of the Yards store owned by Francisco Aranda, who was killed in a home invasion Monday night.

In the tight-knit community, the demise of the iconic shopkeeper has left many still in disbelief. Flowers and small memorials have been placed around the store, where Aranda began as an employee and worked his way up to owner.

"He was a very good person, we are going to miss him," said Alfonso Chavarria, Back of the Yards resident.

Chavarria has operated his bakery just a few yards down from the Supermercado La Raza that Aranda owned for decades.

"I cried when I found out yesterday," said Terri Abdelkader, resident. "He had everyone in here. Everybody would play machines in this place, was always with the life, you know."

RELATED: Man found dead in car trunk after apparent Will County home invasion identified as Francisco Aranda
Ernesto Medina has been friends with the Arandas for nearly 35 years and says he just talked to Pancho on Sunday, right before he left the store.

"I think someone was targeting him. Followed him home and waited," said Medina.

Investigators confirmed to ABC7 Eyewitnss News that Supermercado La Raza was the target of two break-ins in October 2018 and March 2019.

Medina told police the thieves took off with "lots of cash".

"They had broke into this place [the store] not too long ago and stole the ATM machine and the gambling stuff he had in there," said Medina.

The sheriff's office said Aranda's wife suffered significant bruising but is in stable condition.

"Every time he came into the store, it was always happy smiles with him. He was never rude to anyone, joking around with all his customers," said Jasmine Rodriguez, a customer and friend of the victim.
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Memorials have been placed around Back of the Yards store owned by Francisco Aranda who was killed in a home invasion Monday night.

"I've been working here for over 30 years and he's been over there across the street," said Elizabeth Valencia, friend.

Aranda was known for his generosity.

"If we didn't have any money to pay everything we bought he would say 'Oh, you can pay us later,'" Rodriguez said.

Although the crime scene is in Crete, investigators believe there could be evidence that could help them solve this case at the store.

The sheriff's office said Aranda's autopsy results were inconclusive pending toxicology reports. Police said he was not shot or stabbed.

The investigation is ongoing. The Will County Sheriff's Office said they are pursuing a number of leads.
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