An 85-year-old Northeast Washington man was found dead in his home yesterday. Police investigators called the death a homicide.

Neighbors identified the victim as William Harris, who lived alone in a semidetached house in the 5900 block of Sheriff Road.

Neighbors said police indicated that his body was bound to a chair and that he apparently had been beaten to death. The neighbors said they understood that robbery may have been a motive. They also said Harris had been robbed inside his home several times in the past.

One neighbor said police indicated that the killer may have entered through a basement door.

Harris's body was found by a niece who came to the quiet block about 1:30 p.m. yesterday to check on him after being unable to reach him by telephone for several days.

It was not immediately clear how long he had been dead.

Neighbors said Harris had retired from construction work and had lived in the neighborhood for decades. One neighbor called Harris a "nice old man" who frequently could be seen on slow walks to and from a nearby store.

Neighbors expressed particular sadness at Harris' death.

"A man that old," said one of them, "what harm could he do?"