PEKIN — A candlelight vigil was held Tuesday night for missing Pekin boy Robert Bee. Earlier that morning, authorities said skeletal remains found Monday south of Pekin are presumed to be his.
Bee went missing in November after running away from a truancy officer. Since then, members of the Pekin community have formed the "Team Bonzai" group to search for the missing 13-year-old. Robert Bee's nickname was "Bonzai."
"It's sad, but I'm kind of thankful it's over," said Bobette Spillman, a member of Team Bonzai. "A lot of emotions have run wild between yesterday and today."
Scattered skeletal remains were found in a yard off Illinois Route 29 on Monday evening. After an autopsy Tuesday morning, authorities stated no other reported missing person in the area needed to be considered as the possible victim.
Team Bonzai member Brooke Bailey said even though she believes their search is over, the group will never stop fighting for Bee.
"Justice will be served," Bailey said at the vigil. "We will be at every court date. We will be everywhere, one way or another."
Mary Jane Richards, a member of Team Bonzai, said the news "still hasn't hit her."
"It's just hitting everybody a little bit at a time," she said.
Members of the community held candles and balloons to the vigil as they shared stories about Bee.
"He was a good kid, he just needed a little guidance and some love," one man said. "We tried to do that."
Another woman said she was thankful for Team Bonzai's efforts, even though the search for Bee did not end in the way anyone had hoped.
"This is not in vain," one woman said during the vigil. "All of this is not in vain because of what (Team Bonzai) is doing."
According to Richards, an anonymous donor has volunteered to sponsor Bee's funeral.
"Bonzai did not get the love that he deserved, but we're going to share it for him," Richards said. "He's going to feel the love from everything we do, from now on."
Maddie Gehling can be reached at 686-3194 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mgehling_pjs.