SPOKANE VALLEY — Kenneth Cross, 80, was found dead in his bedroom closet Saturday evening, the apparent victim of a daytime burglary.

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SPOKANE VALLEY — For more than 50 years, Kenneth Cross proudly drove “The White Knight” — his 1955 Chevy pickup — around his Spokane Valley neighborhood, waving at neighbors as he cruised by.

“He was always out on his lawnmower; he kept his yard looking really beautiful,” a neighbor said Monday. “But that cute old antique truck, of course, was all perfect.”

Cross, 80, was found dead in his bedroom closet Saturday evening, the apparent victim of a daytime burglary.

Cross and his 92-year-old Greenacres girlfriend called each other every morning and again at lunchtime. So when he failed to show up for his usual visit after calling about noon, she called neighbors to look for him in his home at the corner of Boone Avenue and Wilbur Road.

When they didn’t find him, she went to the home and discovered his body half-hidden under a pile of clothing. Police arrived on the scene about 7:50 p.m. “He had a lot of medical problems so when I heard the firetrucks I thought his heart was just acting up again and he had called 911,” said a 50-year neighbor, who declined to give his name.

Police said evidence shows the house had been ransacked. Cross’ injuries were consistent with a fight, so police suspect he struggled with a burglar.

The investigation continues into a brutal crime that has rattled the quiet Opportunity neighborhood, where residents are friends and crime is rare.

“I just can’t believe something would happen in this neighborhood but I guess it can,” said another neighbor who, like others, declined to give her name out of safety concerns. “It’s just terrible. We shouldn’t have had a problem like this at all.”

Many neighbors are scared not just for themselves but for single, elderly residents like Cross who populate the area.

One neighbor, who has windows facing Cross’ home, said she keeps thinking, “It could’ve been me.”

Her brother-in-law on Saturday noticed two young men riding bikes suspiciously around Cross’ home, which sits on a large lot and is clearly visible from the street.

“I’m just sick I didn’t notice something… see something that could help (authorities),” the neighbor said.

Don Swanson, who lives across the street, returned home about 3:30 Saturday afternoon and noticed nothing amiss.

“It’s a real shock, and it’s so senseless,” he said. “What would he have in a house like that? Why would you go to a house in daylight and take stuff you could only get $20 for?”

Swanson took Cross some tomatoes on Friday and the two chatted.

“I kinda kept track of him,” he said. “The first thing I do in the morning is look out my window and see the lights on in his house.”

Swanson remembered Cross, a retired mechanic, as a hard worker. He was always puttering around his large property, tending to his yard or fiddling with his truck. Swanson said Cross was chopping wood when he last saw him.

“He was an easy guy to like,” he said.

Cross’ love for his Chevy paled in comparison with the respect and adoration he held for his late wife, Gladys, nicknamed “Happy Bottom” or “Hap” for her practical jokes. Before her death in 2001, Hap cared for more than 15 children at their home to help friends in rough patches or provide stressed parents a chance to relax or travel, according to a 2001 Spokesman-Review tribute to her.

In the article, Cross recalled one Christmas when Hap sponsored a poor family instead of buying gifts for her own.

“They conned me into trucking three loads of wood out there,” Cross said in 2001. “But it was one of the nicest things I ever saw anyone do. And I felt good. She gave me that… “

Now, friends and neighbors are remembering Cross for the same qualities.

“He was a mighty good man,” a close friend said.