PEKIN — Concern for a young Pekin boy is growing as the search for him has stretched into a month-long saga.
Area residents want Robert Bee Jr. to come home safely. In an effort to demonstrate the community’s concern, a candlelight vigil is planned for 5 p.m. Saturday on the Tazewell County Courthouse lawn. People are asked to bring coats, hats and gloves for distribution to needy children as well.
Area residents are being asked by a grassroots movement on Facebook to display yellow lights on their porches to indicate the home is a safe haven for the youngster to come to.
Saturday marks one month since Bee was reported missing. He ran from his home at 233 Sapp St. on Nov. 17 when a truancy officer and Pekin police officer told the boy they were taking him back to school. His mother reported him missing the next day when the officers returned to issue a ticket for truancy.
A vigil organizer, Patti Rawlings, said the vigil is the result of worried people connected on Facebook who are dedicated to bringing Bee home. The Facebook group has approximately 1,000 members now, said Rawlings. She said the idea of the vigil was to help people turn their frustration to something that could let Bee know people care.
“This will hopefully let everybody know, and Robert if he is able to hear it or see it, that there’s a whole community of people that are concerned about him and are here to help him. And also to let the family know that the community is here if they need us and we will do whatever we can to help them find him.”
The winter clothing drive is in recognition that Bee may be somewhere out in the cold. The items will be collected at the vigil and given to an organization that can distribute them to children in need of them, said Rawlings.
Saturday’s weather forecast calls for snow or ice and quickly dropping temperatures, so the location may change.
People have been limited in what they can do to help find Bee.
Pekin Police Public Information Officer Mike Eeten has said the public should not go out and do their own searches. Eeten said the vigil and yellow light campaign will help the community cope.
“We’ve encouraged people not to just go out and just do random searches and things like that because we want it to be controlled,” said Eeten. “This is one way that the community has come up with, an idea to be able to show their support and help, so I think that’s definitely a good thing for the community to be able to do.”
The police department continues to work the case, but there is “nothing at all” new to report, said Eeten.
He said the police did a “controlled search a few days ago and that resulted with nothing. We use a group of people who are specifically trained to do those types of searches and things like that, which is important. Also, if we’re going to put together a search, we are accountable for the people who are out there helping us and if they’re acting as an agent of the police as far as going out doing searches, it’s important that they’re trained and that we have a process in place to make sure the searchers are safe — keep count of them and if they go into a certain place, they come back out.”
The department has offered a $1,000 reward through CrimeStoppers for information leading to Bee’s whereabouts. Those with information can call CrimeStoppers at 673-9000 or the department at 346-3132 with anything they think will help.
“We need information from the public to be able to move forward with this. We have had a lot of leads, we’ve followed a lot of leads, but obviously nothing has lead us to Robert Bee,” said Eeten. “I think anytime that you show that the community is really interested in what’s going on and interested in the wellbeing of this young child, I think people can see the urgency in that and hopefully they will have some information and come forward.”
Rawlings had a message for Bee.
“Please know that you’re safe, you’re loved, you’re not in trouble,” she said. “Just come home so everyone knows you’re OK and we can wrap our arms around you and move forward.”
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin