The man killed in a Friday home invasion in Logan Heights may have suffocated after a robber bound him with tape, according to the victim's daughter.
Franklin Bonner, 68, was found dead in his Enterprise Lane home about 5:30 p.m. Friday, said Lt. Tim Carroll, head of major crimes for the Chattanooga Police Department. The autopsy results still are pending, he said, and though suffocation is a possibility, detectives haven't ruled out other causes.
"There was no visible trauma like a gunshot or a stab wound," Lt. Carroll said. "It appears they just bound him while searching the house."
Mr. Bonner's death is the city's first homicide of 2009, police said. Robbery was the apparent motive for the break-in, Lt. Carroll said.
Mr. Bonner's daughter, Stephanie Bonner-Penson, said the family is struggling with her father's death. She said it's even harder to take because Mr. Bonner was such a friendly person.
Anyone with information about the crime - if they saw a suspicious vehicle or person in the area - should call police, Lt. Tim Carroll said. The number is 643-5000. Anonymous tips may be called in to Crime Stoppers at 698-3333.
"If someone is going to steal something, that's one thing, just take it," Ms. Bonner-Penson said. "But why would you take my father, too? Those people are very sick, very cruel people."
Mr. Bonner's wife, Linda, found him unconscious Friday, according to police.
He had three daughters and one son, Ms. Bonner-Penson said.
Her father's house was ransacked during the home invasion, she said, so family is receiving guests at Ms. Bonner-Penson's home because her father residence is in too much disarray.
"My stepmother can't go back there," she said. "It's just ransacked. We'll have to clean it after the funeral."
Neighbors agree that Mr. Bonner, a retired Chattanooga Public Works employee, was a good neighbor.
Whoever killed him "just shouldn't be left to roam the streets," said Blonelle Leftwich, who has lived next door to the Bonners for more than 30 years. "He was a fabulous neighbor, an absolute joy to live next to."
Neighbors say the street is tightly knit with many retirees.
"We are all home all day mostly, and we just feel helpless knowing that something like that happened to Mr. Bonner while we were all in our homes," said Cynthia Langford, who runs a small in-home day care on Enterprise Lane.
Officers are canvassing the neighborhood for tips. Lt. Carroll said investigators believe the home invasion occurred between 2 p.m. and 5:25 p.m. That's the time between the last time Mr. Bonner was seen by neighbors and his wife coming home to find him unconscious.
The state Highway 58 area has been plagued recently by a rash of break-ins, said Russell Gilbert, the District 5 city councilman who represents the Logan Heights neighborhood.
"The police did catch some of them," Mr. Gilbert said, "but with the economy on hard times, it's a problem."
He encouraged neighbors to report crime when they see it.
Lt. Carroll said the homicide could be solved with the public's help.
"We've developed a few leads, but nothing really exciting just yet," he said. "We certainly welcome the public to call police with anything they might have seen that was out of the ordinary."
The family is planning Mr. Bonner's funeral for Friday at noon at Holy Temple Church of God in Christ at 4909 Swan Road in Chattanooga.