MORENCI, Mich. – A new tip from a woman who believes she saw a man matching John Skelton's description on Thanksgiving Day in 2010 led investigators to a pond in Ohio as the search for the missing Skelton brothers continues.
Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton vanished from the small town more than eight years ago, sparking a nationwide search.
Still, family members and police investigators said they get hopeful whenever a tip comes in, and one recent tip had some new information.
Police said it was a very credible tip because all the information matched up with what detectives already know, especially the location. The pond is in an area detectives have labelled the "hot zone."
Local 4 went along with search crews as they combed through an area that hadn't been searched previously.
"What leads us to this today?" Local 4's Sandra Ali asked.
"The information provider believes she saw a person and vehicle matching the description matching John Skelton and his van the day before the boys went missing," said lead investigator Jeremy Brewer, of Michigan State Police.
"Here we are, off the highway, and we're almost against a wooded area," Sandra said.
"Right, on a main road, just south of Morenci, maybe 30 to 40 feet off the road," Brewer said.
"You get so many tips, but what about this was different?" Sandra asked.
"No. 1, this information has never been out before," Brewer said.
Police said a woman came forward and told them she had passed by the wooded area on Thanksgiving Day in 2010 and saw a man matching John Skelton's description in a van parked on the side of the road.
"We are using the cadaver dog as a search tool to find material, and also using the side scan sonar in the pond, looking for larger objects in the pond, as well as map the bottom of the pond," said Sgt. Randy Parros, MSP marine services team commander. "It's about 14 feet deep -- the dive team has told us that based on their early scans. Visibility is pretty good. Bodies of water are very interesting to us. When a body goes missing, water is where a lot of things are found, whether that be evidence or actual bodies. Things can be weighted down so people, like hunters, can't see anything."
"Tell me about the land search," Sandra said.
"I'm watching the dog work," . "He's trained to find decomposing human remains. I guide him to the areas I want him to search. Using maps and tips, we figure out where we need to search. We follow up and figure out where we need to search.
"You know this case, have known it from the beginning. What's it like, still getting calls connected to this case?" Sandra asked.
"I treat them all like they're all the first search, and I treat each search like it's my own family I'm looking for," . "The entire unit is that way on our searches."
"Is it different when you know children are involved?" Sandra asked.
"It is different when it's children," . "They're innocent. It brings an emotional part to it, especially when you have kids of your own."
Investigators from multiple agencies in Michigan and Ohio didn't find any answers.
"Well, to me, a success isn't until you find something," . "But, to me, it helps the detectives because I'm confident this area -- the detectives can rule that out. They can move to the next tip. So I don't know if it's a success, but it's definitely a help in the big picture of the mission, so it's a success when we find something. That's the way I look at it."
"We just keep pressing on," Brewer said. "We can't live and die with every tip. We just have to keep doing what we do and hope that people that still do have information still come forward."