A staff sergeant with the United States Army Area Veterans Honor Guard handed a precisely folded flag to Delbert Belton’s great granddaughter Natasha.
She sat silently, occasionally crying, along with more than 300 people gathered in Spokane for the military burial of the World War II veteran.
The 88-year-old man was shot in the leg during the Battle of Okinawa, one of the fiercest battles of the war.
Belton was robbed and beaten to death last week in his car while he waited for a friend.
People who knew “Shorty” were there to remember the man who repaired cars in his spare time, liked to go out dancing at night, and was always willing to help a friend.
The funeral also drew people in the area who hadn’t met the man, but felt compelled to say goodbye and offer condolences to his family.
Two 16-year-old boys are facing first-degree murder and robbery charges in Belton’s death.
In a bizarre twist in the case, one of the Spokane teens accused of killing Belton claims the elderly vet had been selling them crack cocaine.
Spokane police say they have found “no evidence” of that.
What investigators have found, according to Spokane’s KREM TV, is a note reportedly detailing what the teens did to Belton.
The note was found on a bed at the home where Kenan Kinard was arrested.
Court documents indicate the note says the teens were “going to get a zip of crack” from Belton. Police believe the note was meant for Kinard’s mother, as it describes “socking” Belton three times.
Kinard’s lawyer has repeated the claim that Belton “shorted” the teens during an alleged crack deal, prompting the attack.
A lawyer for the other teen allegedly involved, Demetrius Glenn, says he is skeptical of the claims made in the note.
Friends remembered “Shorty,” who was barely 5 feet tall, as a “kind man.”
He was born in Sunnyside, Washington to a family of 13 children. When he was 5, the Great Depression began and the family moved to a rural area near Spokane. They made money by selling cord wood.
Belton liked horses and was a jockey for awhile.
In the military, he was a sharp shooter. When he left the service, he worked for Kaiser Aluminum for the rest of his career.
Dozens of American flags flew near his grave and a vocalist sang “We’ll Meet Again.”
By LINDA THOMAS