MORENCI, Mich. – Forensic evidence shows the human remains found in Montana do not belong to the missing Skelton brothers, Local 4 has learned.
Sandra Ali spoke to Missoula County Undersheriff Rich Maricelli, who confirmed the bones are not a match with the three Skelton boys.
The remains were sent to a lab in North Texas in December, and Maricelli said he just received the report from forensic experts, who determined the remains are not the Skelton brothers.
The University of North Texas report suggests the bone samples found in Montana are "historical and archeological" in origin and are over 99 years old. They used advanced radiograph technology and dental record comparisons to come to their conclusions.
According to the report, the bone fragments and teeth had been buried for "some time" prior to being uncovered and exposed to the elements. The report narrowed the age windows for the three sets of human remains, finding that they belonged to:
- An individual 2-5 years of age
- An individual 5-9 years of age
- An individual 6-8 years of age
North Texas found that the 2- to 5-year-old individual and possibly some of the loose teeth were from a person of Asian derived Amerindian ancestry.
Given the limited amount of bone specimens submitted to the lab, additional information was inclusive.
The findings also rule out the possibility that the remains are linked to a missing 11-year-old boy from Washington state.
The coroner's office requested the remains be turned over to the North Texas Human Identification Evidence Control section for DNA testing in an attempt to confirm the remains don't match any known missing person.
Due to the number of cases at North Texas, the results are projected to take 6-8 months to return.
MSP requested information on remains found in Montana
When the remains were found, police said it was a possible new development in the case of the missing Skelton brothers -- Andrew, 9, Alexander, 7, and Tanner, 5 -- who disappeared in 2010. The discovery was made in Missoula, Montana.
Local 4 was in contact with detectives in Missoula and in Michigan. Michigan State Police confirmed they were looking into the possible new development.
The boys' mother, Tanya Zuvers, said she was made aware of the possible new development, as well.
Police said a box containing bone fragments, rocks and teeth was found inside a storage shed that sits behind a rental property in Missoula. Officials believe the human remains belong to three children.
"Loose teeth," Missoula City Police Sgt. Travis Welsh said. "There was what appeared to be bone from a lower jaw, and others that were not as specifically described, but I would call them pieces of bone. There were also rocks in this box."
Missoula detectives turned over what they found to an agency called NamUs in Washington, D.C. NamUs is conducting DNA testing that is sometimes known to take up to several weeks.
Local 4 has been in touch with members the Skelton family, but they didn't want to comment on the development until there's more information.
Police said the remains were initially taken to an anthropologist at the University of Montana. The anthropologist determined the remains were modern bones belonging to three children who were 2 to 10 years old at the time of death.
Officials said the bones are from the last several years.
John Skelton responds to discovery
John Skelton watched the news coverage of the Montana discovery from prison.
In one of his early letters, he wrote, "I am still processing all the negative stories abut me on the news a few weeks ago. I am not ready for an interview. Those news stories really jeopardized my safety, and quite a few people no longer speak to me."
John Skelton said when fellow inmates heard about the discovery in Montana, they started calling him a child killer and a monster and promised they would find a way to retaliate against him.
"When I saw it on the news I just rolled my eyes," he said. "Yeah, those are not my boys."
Father says he gave Skelton boys away 7 years ago
For the better part of a decade, there have been more questions than answers in the disappearance of the three Skelton brothers.
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.
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, who now goes by Tanya Zuvers, 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," Zuvers 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."
Andrew was 9 years old, Alexander was 7 and Tanner was 5 when they went missing.
"I wonder, are they scared?" Zuvers said. "Are they crying for me?"
Zuvers 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.
Investigating father's claim he gave boys to Amish group
Much of the speculation around where Andrew, Alexander and Tanner could have gone focuses on Amish country and whether their father, John Skelton, left them there.
The Skelton boys' father claimed to have given them to "a group." He even mentioned the Amish as being the group.
The Amish live all over Michigan, and even more are in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Local 4 visited an Amish bakery in Camden, Michigan.
Amish people don't use electricity or cars, and they live by old standards. But they stay informed.
An Amish woman said she reads the newspaper every day so she's aware of current events, both national and local. She is 20 years old and remembers when the boys from Morenci went missing.
"I just remember it was in the paper every day," she said. "Yeah, I remember that."
She said she didn't remember that John Skelton claimed to have given his sons to the Amish. But she said if someone brought children there, the Amish community would take them in.
The Amish might care for children that were dropped off, but they would know who they are. They would know they were the missing boys from Morenci.
"I'd think they would call the police or someone," the Amish woman said. "They would. It's not like they would hide them."
She said the communities stay in contact with one another, and if the boys turned up, the whole group would know.