3 Michigan brothers still missing nearly 7 years after father says he gave them away

Skelton brothers still missing after father says he 'gave them to a group'

By Sandra Ali - Anchor/Reporter , Jeremy Allen - Producer , Derick Hutchinson

MORENCI, Mich. - For the better part of a decade, there have been more questions than answers in the disappearance of the three Skelton brothers.

The Skelton brothers have been missing from Morenci, Michigan, since 2010. Their father sits behind bars, and their mother holds out hope that her sons will be found alive.

It's been seven years since anyone has seen Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton. The three boys vanished from their home in Morenci.

On Nov. 26, 2010, the day after Thanksgiving, the boys' mother, Tanya Skelton, told Morenci police Officer Ryan Hillard that her husband, John Skelton, was supposed to bring the children back to her. But he never did.

An Amber Alert was issued, and the FBI came to town as massive searches spanning down through Ohio began.

MORE: Missing Skelton boys: Have you seen this blue minivan?

Community heartbroken by disappearance

"I wonder, are they scared?" Tanya Skelton said. "Are they crying for me?"

Tanya Skelton said she's heartbroken that her sons haven't been found.

"It's so hard to imagine them hurting for me and not being able to do anything about it," she said.

The people of the small town felt her pain, and many still think of the boys to this day.

"Everybody thinks about it, but time does cover things up," a resident said.

"It was the talk of the town for awhile, but then it died down," another resident said.

Andrew was 9 years old, Alexander was 7 and Tanner was 5 when they went missing.

Over the years, the National Center for Missing Children has created age-progressed photos of what they might look like.

Lead detective still working on case

The case is still open, meaning investigators are actively working to find the boys.

"There are still some posters up here and there," said Lt. Detective Jeremy Brewer. "There's yellow ribbons hanging on some doors as you look around town, but it's just -- it's kind of sad."

Brewer took over the case back in 2013 when Morenci police Chief Larry Weeks left for the same position in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. He said he can't give out many details in the case, but he can say they are closer to solving it now than they were in 2010.

"As a police officer, you know, you're realistic," Brewer said. "You have to be realistic because you've had cases that some are solved and some are not. On a case like this, with the magnitude, with the resources we have directed towards it, I firmly believe without a doubt that we will get some type of closure on it one day."

Father's side of the story

John Skelton's original story was that he gave the boys to a group. This part of the case is still a mystery.

The boys are missing and a group has never been found or come forward. Since then, the father's stories have changed.

John Skelton is currently sitting in a jail cell at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan, on an unlawful imprisonment charge.

"When you see three boys that were all very close, from a close-knit community, and that the last person that ever saw them was their own father, and seven years later we still don't have them, I mean, that story is pretty tragic," Brewer said.

Mother defends herself

John Skelton claimed he was trying to keep his boys out of harm's way. Tanya Skelton was charged with fourth-degree criminal misconduct in the late 1990s for having sex with a 14-year-old boy. John Skelton said she was abusing her own sons, but she said that's not true.

"That has all been investigated," Tanya Skelton said. "My stuff was gone through. My children come first. Always have, always will. My dream job was to be a mom, and it is the greatest job in the world. But to say that I abused my sons, (that) kills me."

Brewer said he keeps an eye on John Skelton in prison. He also talks to him from time to time.

"The innocence of children is such a pure thing that we have, and when that type of system, when the integrity of that is compromised, people can identify with that," Brewer said.

Police hope that someone saw something the morning of Black Friday in 2010. They want to know if anyone other than John Skelton can share information to bring closure to the family and community.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 517-636-0689.

Coming up

Local 4's coverage of the missing Skelton boys will continue Tuesday. The lead detective will answer viewer questions at 11 a.m. on Facebook Live. Then, join Local 4's special team coverage on Missing in Michigan. (Watch that here)

On Local 4 News at 4, no parent wants to think about it, but what if your child goes missing? Karen Drew has the one thing you can do to help detectives find your child quickly.

At 5 p.m., Sandra Ali will dig deeper into the Skelton boys' case.

On Local 4 News at 6, we'll look at how detectives decide to issue an Amber Alert.

At 11 p.m., the latest on Danielle Stislicki and the missing person's case that has gripped Metro Detroit for nearly a year.

COMING SOON: Black Friday - a new podcast from Local 4 revisiting the case of the missing Skelton brothers nearly 7 years since they vanished from Morenci, Michigan.

MORE: Missing In Michigan

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