Police Tuesday released a clue that they hope will help them learn the identity of the young boy whose body was found Saturday in South Berwick.

The case has baffled investigators and stunned the small town, which now is at the center of a mystery that’s getting national attention.

Police have been searching for a blue Toyota Tacoma that was seen on the secluded driveway near where the body was found. At a news conference Tuesday, state police Lt. Brian McDonough said the witness who saw the pickup truck also recalls seeing a Navy insignia on the white background of the license plate.

The involvement of a recently relocated military family could explain why no one has come forward to identify the boy, despite extensive media coverage that has included his photograph, McDonough said.

“Maybe these people are from away, assigned on temporary duty in the military and aren’t that well embedded in the community,” he said. “Right now we’re going to all the naval reserve centers around the area.”

A Dennett Road resident found the body of the boy, who was estimated to be 4 or 5 years old, at 5 p.m. Saturday in woods a short distance from the resident’s driveway. It was the same spot — just out of sight of the house — where the blue pickup had been seen at 7:30 that morning.

Police now believe that’s when the body was left in a grove of hemlocks, covered by a green Army-style blanket, a few hours after the blue-eyed, blond boy had died.

The woman who saw the pickup got only a passing glance and could recall few details, but said the lone driver appeared to be a woman.

Police are now checking on each of the 236 late-model blue Toyota Tacomas registered in Cumberland and York counties, starting with those registered by owners who live closest to the scene, McDonough said.

Maine investigators have enlisted the help of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and sent information about the boy to Interpol so it can be distributed through Canada, McDonough said. Fourteen detectives from Maine are assigned to the case, and New Hampshire has sent three investigators to help.

Some residents think the mystery surrounding the boy’s identity just prolongs the neglect he experienced as his corpse was left in the woods.

“People just can’t believe it,” said Debra Bodwell, owner of The Hair Shop on Main Street in North Berwick, the village closest to where the body was found. “It’s not something you want to have in your backyard.”

“What mother in their right mind would leave their child in the woods?” said Judy Watterson, a retiree who said the case has dominated the breakfast conversation at the Maine Street Cafe for the past few days.

Sid Hall of Dennett Road speculated that someone from Massachusetts sought a place in rural Maine where they could discard a body unnoticed.

“They didn’t know where they were — figured they were in the Maine woods,” he said.

Some residents have a gnawing feeling that it could involve someone local.

“It’s not a road someone would go on if they didn’t know about it,” Bodwell said.

Police will say nothing about the boy’s condition, even whether he was the victim of a crime. McDonough said the boy did appear to have been cared for. He was not malnourished, he had clean clothes that were appropriate for the weather, and he even had clean fingernails.

With no one coming forward about the boy, police must consider the possibility that a parent or guardian is involved in whatever happened to him, McDonough said.

Gail Brown, who was at North Berwick’s laundromat Tuesday, said she doubts the boy could have been a local resident. In this small community, people know each other and know each other’s children, she said.

“Nobody can understand why nobody will come forward. They just think somebody is hiding something,” she said.

Residents want to help, trying to think of any helpful lead, looking at every dark blue pickup that passes.

“I think everybody is devastated,” said Laura Robbins, owner of the Yellow Zebra, a quaint secondhand shop on Main Street. “Hopefully, they catch whoever it is quickly.”

Other cases have given South Berwick more than its share of grim news.

In 1997, the body of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley was found weighted down by concrete in the Great Works River. He had been killed by two men from Massachusetts and dumped there.

In 2004, the body of Treasure Genaw, a 17-year-old Berwick girl who had been stabbed to death by a former boyfriend, was found in a thicket off Route 236.

Over the past three days, police have fielded 200 leads from all over the country. Every one has been checked by police, and the boy matches none of the active missing-person cases in the country, McDonough said.

Analysts at the Maine State Police Crime Lab in Augusta are preparing DNA profiles to rule out any connection with active missing-person cases.

Police have not characterized the case as a homicide, but continue to say it is an investigation into a suspicious death. The cause of the boy’s death has not been released.

Police did release a close-up photograph of the boy’s distinctive Lightning McQueen sneakers, a relatively new pair, size 12½, hoping that they might jog somebody’s memory.

A Maine woman who now lives out of state set up a Facebook page this week to help generate interest in the case and spread the boy’s image. Under the heading “Help give this boy a name, where he came from and who took his life,” it had a few hundred people following it early Monday. By Tuesday, 90,000 people had signed on.

The lack of a missing-person report on the boy is extremely unusual, says the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Such cases happen only about once a year across the country, said the center’s spokesman, Ernie Allen.

The wooded location where the body was found is now a memorial, with flowers, teddy bears and other items left in remembrance of the boy. Residents held a candlelight vigil in the boy’s honor Tuesday night.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: [email protected]