Cops seeking 2 in death of Back of the Yards storeowner during Crete home invasion

Will County investigators have identified two people of interest in the June killing of a Back of the Yards storeowner during a home invasion near south suburban Crete.

Francisco Aranda, 63, was found dead June 1 in the trunk of his car with his wife, whom the Will County sheriff’s office said only survived because Aranda kicked down a folding seat.

“I can confirm that we have identified two persons of interest in this case as the perpetrators involved in the death of Francisco Aranda,” Will County Deputy Chief Dan Jungles said Saturday. “We do not have formal charges in this case at this time, but we are looking to have a conclusion in this case in the near future.”

Police have said the robbers “specifically targeted” Aranda and his 59-year-old wife.

Deputies were called to perform a wellbeing check at their home on South Klemme Road in unincorporated Crete Township after the couple hadn’t picked up their phones in a day.

They found Aranda dead and the woman alive in the car inside an attached garage. The Chevy Impala’s windows were opaque with condensation, police said.

The woman told deputies two masked males had entered the home the night before, bound their hands and placed them inside the trunk before burglarizing the home.

Aranda had kicked the back seat and was able to loosen one side, allowing his wife to partially crawl through the opening into the main cabin, police said.

“It is believed that Mr. Aranda’s actions most likely saved his wife’s life,” the sheriff’s office said at the time.

The woman told investigators that Aranda began breathing erratically before passing out, according to the sheriff’s office. She suffered bruising to her hands and was released from a hospital soon after.

Results of Aranda’s autopsy in June were not immediately available.

Aranda, also known as “Don Pancho,” was the owner of Supermercado La Raza on the South Side for 40 years, according to Back of The Yards community organizer Berto Aguayo.

“Every time you went into the store, Don Pancho was always there to greet you with a smile and a witty joke,” Aguayo said. “Don Pancho was more than just a business owner, he was a beloved community leader in Back of the Yards that unknowingly helped thousands of people.”