Firefighters with the Anderson Creek Fire Department were battling a house fire at 30 Appaloosa Drive, off N.C. Highway 210, at about 8 a.m. when they found the body, authorities said.
Authorities haven't identified the body, but nearby residents said Bill Smith Jr. lived alone in the house with his dog.
Next-door neighbor Dorothy Hayes said some loud sounds awoke her Thursday morning.
"Around 5:15 or 5:30, I heard two loud pops, and my dog went crazy," Hayes said. "I didn't pay any attention."
Investigators determined Smith's pickup was missing from the home, and deputies found the Dodge Dakota a few miles away at about 10 a.m.. No one was around the vehicle.
Hayes said she never noticed anything suspicious at the house.
"I just noticed a lot of people coming and going out of there. I didn't have any trouble or anything like that," she said.
Daniel Robertson, who was in the Boy Scouts with Smith and later served with him in the Army, said his longtime friend had recently started spending time with a bad crowd.
"He came to my house beat up more than one time – probably about seven times. I told him that he needed to stay away from them, but he never would stay away from them," Robertson said.
Smith, who was in his late 40s, grew up in the house, said Robertson's wife, Ellen. He moved back into the house about a year ago, after both of his parents died, she said.
The fire caused minor damage to the house.
Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office at 910-893-9111.