THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Identity of boy found dead in Maine is still unknown

By Brian MacQuarrie
Globe Staff / May 17, 2011

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SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — State Police have more than 100 tips and a dozen investigators poring over evidence. But the blanket-covered body of a young boy, discovered Saturday in a remote, wooded section of this small town, remained unidentified yesterday.

The death of the boy, estimated to be 4 to 6 years old, is shocking enough for this community on the New Hampshire border. But the deepening mystery about the boy’s identity has baffled and saddened residents who cannot understand why no one has reported him missing and how someone could have abandoned his 45-pound body off a cratered dirt road.

“It’s enough to make you sick,’’ said Sid Hall, who lives near where the body was discovered. “I can’t imagine in my mind why someone would do something like that, but there are some sick puppies around.’’

Yesterday, authorities called the discovery a suspicious death, instead of a homicide. They would not divulge the results of an autopsy con ducted Sunday on the boy, who was 3 feet 8 inches tall with blue eyes and dark blond hair.

State Police appealed again for information concerning the boy, a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck seen on the dirt road Saturday morning, or new reports of missing children. “Somebody out there knows who this boy is,’’ said Colonel Robert Williams, commander of the State Police.

The grim discovery rekindled memories of the 1997 killing of Jeffrey Curley, a 10-year-old boy from East Cambridge, Mass., whose body was found here in a Rubbermaid container in the Great Works River.

“It’s pretty devastating to hear of a child discarded,’’ said Katie Severson of Berwick, who wiped away tears as she placed flowers near the place where the body was found.

“It just felt right to come down and pay my respects to this boy and let him know I was thinking of him and that he has a place in my heart,’’ said Severson, as her 3-year-old daughter, Natalie, sat quietly in a car seat.

State Police Lieutenant Brian McDonough, chief of the criminal division for southern Maine, called the case “extremely unusual.’’ Schools in the area have not reported an unexplained empty seat in the classroom, a widely circulated computer-generated photo of the boy has not yielded his identity, and his parents have yet to notify the Maine police.

“This boy’s face is the best-known face in New England today,’’ said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the State Police.

Authorities are widening their search from the immediate area in ever-expanding circles, McCausland said. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also is providing help.

Investigators yesterday posted “No Trespassing’’ signs at the beginning of a long dirt driveway leading to the home of the man who Hall said discovered the boy’s body. Authorities think the child was dead about 10 hours before the body was found.

“He said he had been just out walking in the woods and found the body,’’ Hall said. “[He] was just about in tears when he was telling me about it. He said he’d just found a body of a little boy, and it was covered up with a blanket.’’ Authorities said the boy was wearing a gray camouflage hooded sweatshirt with the brand name “Faded Glory,’’ tan pants, and “Lightning McQueen’’ black sneakers.

Police, who would not identify who found the boy, said the person who made the discovery reported seeing the pickup truck, with a light-colored license plate, on the road at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. No residents on Dennett Road, where the body was found, own such a vehicle, McCausland said. Videos from surveillance cameras from stores and highways are being examined, police said. “As long as they continue, we have something to follow up and look into,’’ McDonough said.

Police believed they had a promising tip yesterday about a missing child who seemed to match the boy’s description, McDonough said. But those hopes were soon dashed when a follow-up check failed to produce a match, police said.

“There is a lot that we still don’t know and need to learn,’’ McDonough said.

In the absence of solid information, speculation is spreading through town. Some residents believe the boy was slain; others say he had been ill or died accidentally; and a few locals suspect the parents must live locally to have known such a remote spot to place the body.

At Lowery’s, a patio furniture store outside town on Route 4, Marlene Lowery offered this assessment: “We just think it might be somebody who brought him into the state.’’

As authorities did their work, mothers clutched their children a little closer, others shook their head, and the thought that a dead boy could remain unknown in an age of instant information seemed incredible to townspeople.

“How anyone could dump a little child, I don’t know,’’ said Christine Bilodeau of Eliot, who had driven to the scene with her husband, Raymond.

Down the road, Julie Vigue held one of her three children on her hip. A tire swing hung in the yard, a hand-hammered treehouse sat off the ground, and tall pines added to a sense of peaceful, rural solitude. “They’ve been at our side nonstop for the last three days,’’ Vigue said of her children. “It’s very sad.’’

MacQuarrie can be reached at macquarrie@globe.com.