It has been 12 years since Tanner, 5, Alexander, 7, and Andrew, 9, were last seen with their father John Skelton at his Morenci home.
Their father had spent time with the boys for the Thanksgiving holiday during an ongoing divorce and custody battle with their mother, Tanya Zuvers. He was supposed to return them to their mother on Black Friday, Nov. 26, 2010.
Police said John Skelton’s phone could be tracked leaving his Morenci home and traveling 25 miles southwest into Holiday City, Ohio. Then he returned to Morenci. The boys haven’t been seen since.
When he didn’t return the boys, and Zuvers couldn’t get a clear answer from him about where they were, she became worried. She contact the police and an Amber Alert was issued.
It’s been 12 years since that day, and the boys’ whereabouts are still unknown.
“Every so often we’ll get a tip that makes a lot of sense to us,” MSP Detective Lt. Jeremy Brewer said in 2020. “We’ll throw everything at it -- all our resources. If anyone recalls anything from 10 years ago, maybe about a blue Dodge Caravan over in (the Morenci or Holiday City areas), that would be helpful. We rely on the public quite a bit to be our eyes and ears on the ground.”
Father says he gave Skelton brothers away to protect them
John Skelton said he gave the boys away to an underground group to protect them from their mother. He alleged that Zuvers had abused the boys, she denies that allegation.
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 is 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.”
Local 4 spoke with Brewer in 2020, who said John Skelton was holding back key information in the case.
“This is not a case of everyone hates John Skelton,” said Det. Lt. Jeremy Brewer. “We just want to find these boys.”
John Skelton in prison, parole denied
On Sept. 15, 2011, John Skelton pleaded no contest to three counts of unlawful imprisonment. He was sentenced to 10-15 years in prison.
John Skelton was denied parole in 2020 and 2022, but he can apply again next year.
“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 in 2017.
John Skelton is being held in the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan.
“I always have maintained that he’s not going to get his parole, but there’s always that little nag that says, ‘But what if?’ So when the letter came It was a huge relief,” Zuvers said in 2020.
Father claims he gave boys to Amish group
John Skelton has claimed to have given the boys to “a group” and he has mentioned the Amish as being that group.
The Amish live all over Michigan and in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. While Amish people don’t use electricity or cars, they do stay informed.
Local 4 visited an Amish bakery in Camden, Michigan. An Amish woman there said she reads the newspaper every day so she’s aware of current events. When Local 4 spoke to her she was 20 years old and remembered when the Skelton brothers vanished.
“I just remember it was in the paper every day,” she said. “Yeah, I remember that.”
She said she wasn’t familiar with the claim that John Skelton left the boys with the Amish, but she said if someone brought children there the Amish would take them in.
“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 Amish communities stay in touch with each other and if the boys turned up, everyone would know.
If the boys are alive, they would be 17, 19 and 21 years old now.
Anyone with information about the case or the boys’ whereabouts is asked to call Michigan State Police at 1-517-636-0689 or the NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST.
Shattered: Black Friday is a 10-episode podcast investigating the disappearance of the Skelton Brothers from their home in Morenci, Mich. on Nov. 26, 2010. The podcast debuted on Feb. 2, 2018. You can listen to every episode for free by clicking here.