Aug 23, 2013 2:26 PM by Elaine Sheridan
A 16-year-old has been arrested in the robbery and beating death of an 88-year-old veteran from Spokane, Wash., who survived being wounded in World War II.
A second male teen was still being sought in the murder of Delbert "Shorty" Belton, a retired aluminum company worker who was brutally attacked in the parking lot of his lodge Wednesday night and died the following morning.
The suspects' names were not released because of their age, police said. The teen in custody was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery.
The victim's daughter-in-law, Barbara Belton, said doctors told her his face was battered so badly that they couldn't stop the bleeding.
"That was no way to have to die," she told NBC News shortly after the arrest was announced. "They said even if he had survived, there probably would have been brain damage. It was horrendous."
She said her father-in-law would not have been carrying more than $150 on him when he drove up to the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie #2.
"Who beats an 88-year-old man in the face?" she said.
At the lodge, a makeshift memorial overflowed with flowers, U.S. flags and messages of sympathy as friends remembered Belton as an active and generous man who had been widowed for about six years.
"He was outstanding," sister Alberta Tosh said. "He went dancing. He worked on cars all the time. He would help anyone who needed help."
Friend Linda Herde told NBC station KHQ of Spokane that Belton "had a heart of gold."
"There wasn't a thing he wouldn't do for anybody," she added. "He'd give you the shirt off his back."
Great-nephew Allen Hills told KHQ that when he hit bottom about 10 years ago in California, where he was unemployed and sleeping on his mother's sofa, Belton stepped in with the offer of a car and a new life in Washington state.
"It seems trivial, but he really did save my life," Hills said. "He made it possible for me to get a job and find work."
Ted Dennison, a friend, called Belton "a tough old bird" who was shot in the leg in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa. His experiences in the war didn't appear to have dampened Belton's instinct to help others, Denison said.
"He was always there any time I needed anything," Denison told KHQ.
Barbara Belton said the suspected arrested Friday was "awfully young" to be involved in such a terrible crime.
"Kids today, they think they can do whatever they want and it doesn't matter. Kids do this kind of stuff and end up in jail and probably end up worse when they come out."