Mystery surrounds death of Pekin boy one year later

By Holly Eitenmiller For Chronicle Media

Robert Bee

One year ago this week, the search began for Robert Bonsai Bee, Jr., a 13-year-old boy who was reported missing after he didn’t show up for school one morning.

It wasn’t unusual for Robert to go missing from school. On Nov. 17, 2016, he fled by bicycle from his home at 233 Sapp St. when a Pekin Police Dept. truancy officer visited the home to issue a truancy ticket.

When the boy he wasn’t in school the next day, a truancy officer came by the house, again, that morning, where his mother, Lisa Bee, reported Robert missing. With no reason to believe he’d been the victim of wrongdoing, Robert was listed by police as an endangered runaway.

Due to his mother’s conflicting reports of the 4-foot-6, 110-pound boy’s whereabouts the night before, police considered the afternoon of Nov. 17 to be the last time Robert was seen before he vanished, though his mother said he returned home later that day.

“It was Friday morning. His friend walked him to the bus stop. He didn’t get on the bus. He didn’t go to school,” Lisa Bee told WMBD-TV news the following Monday.  He had stayed the night before at a friend’s house, she told search crews, but the sleepover was never confirmed.

A group of Pekin youths distribute flyers earlier this year in hopes of finding 13-year-old Robert Bee, Jr., who was reported missing Nov. 18, 2016. His remains were discovered later that summer on July 24.  (Photo by Holly Eitenmiller / for Chronicle Media)

Nine months later, on July 24, Robert’s scattered remains were discovered 11 miles from his home on the 14300 block of Rte. 29, on, and around, property owned by the family of a friend of Lisa Bee’s. Within 48 hours, investigators matched Robert’s dental records with dental evidence.

Two months later, DNA from the Robert’s mother and father, Robert Bee, Jr., conclusively linked the remains to Robert. It took time to collect the DNA as the boy’s father died on March 8.

“It was complicated because they needed two samples,” Tazewell County Coroner, Dr. James Baldi said. “The father passed away earlier (in the year), so it took us a while to run that down. They needed better sampling of the father’s DNA.”

On Oct. 10, Baldi ruled Robert’s death a homicide and issued a death certificate to his mother, who published an obituary stating that Robert “was pronounced dead at 3:15 p.m. Monday, July 24, 2017, in Pekin.” A memorial visitation was held Oct. 14 at Preston-Hanley Funeral Homes & Crematory in Pekin, where private family services were later held.

A cause of death has yet to be determined, and Robert’s remains were turned over to the Pekin Police Department, Baldi said.

The yard on 14300 block of Rte. 29 where Robert Bee’s remains were found in July. His death was determined to be a homicide and remains under investigation by the Pekin Police Department.

“His mother was given a Certificate of Death so the family could get some closure, have some ceremonies,” he explained.

Bee’s half-sister, Stephanie Clauser said there is yet no marker or gravesite for Robert. “His body has not been released. His little body is being held for evidence,” she said.

Regarding his remains, Pekin Police information officer Billie Ingles said, “Any evidence is still in custody.” The matter, she said, is “under investigation.” Ingles did not confirm if there are any suspects connected to the case.

Immediately following Robert’s disappearance, an impressive contingent of volunteers began holding frequent searches and vigils for the boy. “Team Bonsai” enlisted the help of Trucks 4 Kidz, a Missouri-based volunteer group dedicated to locating missing children.

Since late July, many of the local volunteers have since merged into groups seeking justice for Robert Bee.



Related content: Tests confirm remains are those of Pekin boy; investigation into death continues

Human bones found on property near Pekin, autopsy set for Tuesday

Theories abound but no real leads on missing Pekin boy



— Mystery surrounds death of Pekin boy one year later —