CHICAGO (CBS) — The Crete Township victim found dead in the trunk of a car Monday morning likely saved his wife’s life by helping her escape the trunk where their attackers left them, according to the Will County Sheriff’s Office.

Francisco “Pancho” Aranda

Deputies were called to Francisco Aranda’s home Monday morning when he and his wife didn’t report for work.

They found his 59-year-old wife in the back seat of their car in the attached garage with her hands tightly bound. She said her husband was in the trunk.

She said two masked men entered the home Sunday night and robbed them. She said she and her husband both had their hands bound behind their backs and were both forced into the trunk of the Impala.

In an attempt to escape Aranda kicked the back seat and was able to loosen one side, allowing his wife to crawl through the opening.

His wife said she heard her husband breathing erratically before she passed out. Authorities believe Aranda’s actions “most likely saved his wife’s life.”

An autopsy performed Tuesday did not determine the cause of death. There were no external indications of trauma to his body, according to the sheriff’s office. A toxicology report is pending.

Aranda was a beloved business owner and community leader in Chicago, neighbors say.

Will County Sheriff’s Department deputies were stationed outside Aranda’s store, Supermercado La Raza, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood for hours Tuesday.

Friends and coworkers said they called Aranda “Pancho.”

Aranda’s family has owned Serpermercado La Raza for decades.

He helped Berto Aguaro get his first job and helped others when they were down on their luck.

“If you needed a job, he’d give you a job. If you needed somebody who can cut you slack on a dollar, if you needed bread or milk, he would cut you some slack, and he trusted that you would be able to pay him back,” Aguaro said.

Aranda’s employees got the news yesterday. They told CBS 2 that the store has been robbed several times in the past — sometimes by masked men.

“He was such a nice person, and I don’t know why anybody would want to cause harm to someone like him,” said Julie Navarez, one of Aranda’s friends.

More than a dozen people gathered outside the store Tuesday evening to grieve the loss of Aranda.

Chicago police confirmed at least two reports for forcible entry at the store in March and October.

Investigators said this case is still under investigation.

“There’s so many people that I can think of that would want to have an ounce of his charisma, an ounce of his spirit and his life,” Aguaro said.

“He was a great man,” said friend Elizabeth Valencia. “He’s going to be always in my heart, forever.”

Aranda’s wife was transported to St. Margaret’s Hospital where she was treated for severe bruising to her hands from being bound. She is expected to be released Tuesday.

Investigators said this appears to be a “targeted attack.”

Megan Hickey