A sweatshirt found Sunday by volunteers searching for signs of a Pekin boy missing since November is not connected to him, police said Monday.
“Nothing will come of it” as detectives continue seeking to learn the fate of Robert Bee Jr., 13, said Pekin Police Public Information Officer Billie Ingles.
The volunteers, members of the non-profit, St. Louis-area Trucks for Kidz team, found the red sweatshirt Sunday in flood-prone woods under the Shade-Lohmann Bridge along the Illinois River’s west bank in Bartonville.
Bee was wearing a red and gray T-shirt, blue jeans and red Nike shoes when he ran from his Sapp Street home last Nov. 17 as a truant officer arrived to take him to school. His mother reported him missing the next day.
The search group’s leader told police they were led to the bridge location “by an anonymous tip,” said Bartonville Police Chief Brian Fengel. Anthony Accardi declined Monday to relate more details of the tip.
It was the third trip Trucks for Kidz searchers have made in search of signs of Bee’s fate. They twice scoured wooded Pekin areas in June at the invitation of one of two Facebook-connected citizens’ groups that have formed to help find the boy. About 90 people, including local volunteers, took part in the second search.
The latest trip by about two dozen group members came unannounced to the Pekin and Bartonville police departments. They contacted the latter, however, after finding the sweatshirt, said Fengel, who turned the clothing item over to Pekin detectives.
Accardi said his group, which states it’s helped find more than three dozen runaway children in the St. Louis-area, will continue its efforts for Bee, but another search is not yet planned.
“We are waiting for a detective to call us to see what direction we’re going to take,” he said.
Fengel said the sweatshirt, “in pretty bad shape,” was found about 50 yards from the river in an area that takes in deep flood waters and could have been left there after a flood receded. The area has no roads.
“I have to give (the searchers) credit,” he said. In conditions that were “muddy, nasty, (had) mosquitoes, hot, they were down there.”
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin