Area investigators now know that, in all likelihood, young Robert Bee Jr. never left the rural Pekin woods where his tentatively identified remains were found Monday.
How and when he arrived there remains unknown, but police now have a sharper focus on the case that increasingly appears to be a homicide.
Until Monday, investigators still could not rule out the chance that Bee, 13, had “run away or was still (alive) in Pekin,” police Detective Lt. Seth Ranney said Wednesday.
“Obviously, we can rule those scenarios out (now), and focus on what caused this boy’s death,” he said.
No arrests have been made since a man’s discovery of a boy’s skull inside his chain-link fenced backyard in the 14300 block of Illinois Route 29 led police to find the rest of the victim’s skeleton scattered just outside the fence.
Investigators, however, have established a connection to where most of the remains were found and the Bee case.
The woods behind the man’s property are owned by another person who has a nephew whom police have identified as a person involved in the investigation, Ranney said. The man who discovered the skull while mowing his lawn is not involved in the case, Ranney said.
That man’s brother speculated Wednesday that an animal may have carried the skull through a gap under the fence from the site, only several yards away, where the other remains were found.
Autopsy results Tuesday gave police enough to tentatively conclude the remains are those of Bee, 13, who’s been missing since he ran away on Nov. 17 from his Pekin home two miles north of where the remains were found. Official identification awaits DNA testing.
Pekin and Tazewell County police officials declined to speculate at a news conference Tuesday, where they announced autopsy results, on how long the skeletal remains might have been hidden in woods off the east side of Route 29, about a half-mile south of the Pekin federal prison.
The brother of the man who found the skull, and who also saw it, said it was devoid of any tissue or hair.
The autopsy did not reveal any specific trauma that could point to a cause of death, officials said at the news conference.
Bee ran away from his home at 233 Sapp St. when a truant officer came to take him to school. He reportedly stayed at an older friend’s house that night, but was not seen after his friend boarded a school bus the next morning.
His mother officially reported him missing later that day. She moved from the home to a downstate community a short time later.
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin