State police in Michigan are taking an active interest in the bone fragments and teeth of three children found in a Missoula shed.
Tanner, Alexander and Andrew Skelton were 5, 7 and 9, respectively, when they went missing in November 2010 from their home in Morenci, a town of 2,200 in southern Michigan. They were last seen with their father, John Skelton, who is serving a 10- to 15-year prison sentence after pleading no contest to unlawful imprisonment in the case.
The skeletal remains were found in a shed at 2166 South 12th Street in Missoula and were confirmed to be of three children, estimated to be 2-4 years old, 5-8 years old, and 6-10 years old.
The remains have been sent for DNA testing to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, which runs the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs.)
“One of the things we’re looking to get from NamUs is whether or not they’re related,” Sgt. Travis Welch of the Missoula Police Department said Friday. “If that happens, if we can get DNA out of these fragments, if they can definitely determine they are brothers, that would go a long ways toward making us take a closer look at the Michigan case.
“As I understand it, that’s a month or even several months out. It’s not going to be a quick turnaround.”
Michigan will be watching and waiting.
“This information has just been presented to our family within the last several hours,” Tanya Zuvers, the boys’ mother, posted Thursday night on the Facebook page Missing – Skelton Brothers, Morenci, Michigan. “We are processing it and hopeful that we will have answers soon. We are thankful for all your thoughts and prayers.”
The Facebook page was created Nov. 26, 2010, the day the Skelton brothers went missing. According to news reports at the time, their father testified he didn't harm the boys but gave them to a stranger to keep them from Zuvers during a nasty custody fight. Police believe he killed them. Since their bodies could not be found, John Skelton was charged with and convicted of three counts of kidnapping.
Michigan State Police issued a news release Friday confirming that investigators are working with Missoula police to determine if there’s any connection to the brothers.
“There has been nothing previously reported to police linking the brothers to Montana, and it is not known at this time if the remains are from related siblings,” the release said. “Until ... testing is completed and additional investigation by law enforcement in Montana occurs, it cannot be determined if these remains belong to the missing Skelton brothers.”
Morenci has not forgotten the boys.
A Detroit News reporter and photographer visited the town last winter. A report published by the newspaper on Feb. 6 told of a bronze plaque in a municipal park that pictures and honors Andrew, Alexander and Tanner above the inscription "Faith, Hope, Love." A hair stylist keeps a missing person poster on her shop door and three electric candles in the window. The white board at the Pizza Box that lists the weekly specials also reads, "Keep the boys in your prayers!"
Missoula police said Thursday they’re seeking an unidentified person of interest in the case, though they have no suspect. Welsh said Friday he’s not aware of any other connection to the missing Michigan boys other than the correlating ages of the remains.
Michigan police first contacted the Missoula department when Detective Guy Baker, the lead investigator, was out of the office. Welsh believes that was on either Wednesday or Thursday morning. They first spoke and exchanged information Thursday night.
Welsh said he’s not aware of any other agencies that have been in contact with the Missoula department about the children’s remains.