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An elderly Kensington-area man who was robbed in his home three weeks ago and who had been instrumental in organizing his neighbors to fight crime was found dead in his ransacked home about noon Saturday.

Ocie Houston, 80, of 965 Northland Ave. was killed in his home. Police would not speculate on the cause of death until an autopsy is completed today but said his death was a homicide.

Friends and family who had become concerned that Houston did not answer his phone went to his home Saturday morning and found the front door kicked open. He had lived alone there for the past 10 years, since his wife, Marie, died in 1980.

Houston's 1984 Ford LTD was missing from the garage attached to the 1 1/2 -story frame home at Northland and Wyoming Avenue, said Lt. James Rautenstrauch of the Homicide Squad. Police are looking for the car, a black model with a red vinyl top, and license plate number ECG 953.

Houston's son, Sylvester, said his father had been robbed of a pistol and $600 during a break-in at the house about three weeks ago.

Three men between the ages of 19 and 22 had robbed his father earlier, Sylvester Houtson said, but his father could not identify them for police.

"He was there but he said they didn't do anything to him," Houston said. He said that his father was frail after being hospitalized with cancer three months earlier this year.

Neighbors expressed shock at the killing Saturday evening. They described Houston, a retired autoworker, as a quiet man who took good care of his home and lawn and served as a neighborhood watchdog.

"This is a quiet block, and he was a quiet dude," said Charles Davis of 979 Northland. "It (crime) is getting too close to home."

Alice Merrill of 936 Northland said Houston had encouraged her husband, Herb, to revive the Northland-Kelly Gardens Block Club and establish the "Neighborhood Crime Watch" about two years ago because he wanted to keep the neighborhood safe.

"He was the one who got it going," she said of Houston. "He always looked out for his neighbors, and he's the one who got murdered. He was the nicest man around. He would not hurt a flea. As sick as he was, when the street would flood, he would go out and clean the drains."

Doris Parker of 951 Northland described Houston as "everybody's father over here -- he tried to keep the neighborhood safe as it can be."

"All the neighbors are in shock. It put a damper on our Christmas," she said.

Mrs. Parker said Houston had taken great pride in his car and took great care of it.

"He kept it shined up. He never would drive it much and every time he would drive it he would wash it off and lock it in the garage," she related.

Minnie Reid, a friend who had taken care of Houston since the death of his wife, said she and Houston's daughter-in-law, Christina Houston, had visited him Friday to clean the house and "make it look nice for Christmas."

Mrs. Reid, 90, who took Houston his dinner, said they arrived about 11 a.m. and stayed until about 3 p.m., cleaning and decorating.

When she left, she told him, "I'll call you at 10 o'clock," she said, explaining that she always called to check on him at 10 p.m.

"That's the last time I kissed him goodbye," she said.

When she called at 10 and again at 10:30, Mrs. Reid said, there was no answer. However, she was not concerned because she thought he was in the bathroom or basement and could not hear the phone.

She said she began calling Houston again at 8 a.m. Saturday.

After several attempts, she called Sylvester Houston to take her to his father's home about 9:30.

"I was uneasy about him in his condition," she said.

They arrived about 10 a.m. to find the front door kicked in and asked neighbors to call the police.

Sylvester Houston said his father had retired 15 years ago after working more than 25 years at the Chevrolet Delavan Plant. A native of Mobile, Ala., he came to Buffalo in 1936 and had lived on Northland Avenue for nearly 25 years.

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