Shattered Podcast | Black Friday, Ep 3 | 'Maze Runners'

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. Episode 3 focuses on the investigators trying to solve the case. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Stitcher, Google Play, or through the player below. If you have any information about this case call lead investigator Jeremy Brewer at (517) 636-0689. If you want to reach Jeremy and the Shattered staff email: shatteredpodcast@wdiv.com


John Skelton

Imagine for a moment that you’re standing in front of a maze, a complicated maze, with a group of strangers. You know nothing about them. But for some reason you do know that the guy standing right next to you, he invented the maze.

And let’s say that lives depend on you solving this maze.

But try as you might, you can’t figure it out. You’re not even sure how you got here, you never asked to be here, but you know it’s your job to find the end. You search … and search, but all you find are walls, dead ends. After a while you decide to head back to the beginning, planning to start over. Standing there is the architect. He hasn’t moved. He’s staring off stoically. He knows your looking at him, he likes knowing that you need him. You beg for answers, you beg for a way out. He turns slowly and with a blank, expressionless look, he gives you direction. You feel immediate relief and head off on the directed path. It’s not long before you realize that you’ve been lied to.

Defeated and confused, you and the rest of the group return to the start again- the maze builder – still there. You notice his gaze is now fixated on the woman to your immediate left. You can feel that they know each other – well. And then it clicks – he’s doing this because of her – it’s all about her.

You know that you need to help her. You know that you need to help the lives that hang in the balance, but the maze is too complicated. You know that the architect, the quiet man, the spiteful man standing in front of you might be the only way.

That’s how the police and Tanya felt and still feel today. John Skelton is the maze builder -- the man responsible for the disappearance of the boys. The police had hundreds of avenues to travel and search – but they haven’t been able to find the right one – yet.

Hearts and lives have been broken, but the architect, the quiet man, the spiteful man, just sits there – holding onto the only truth that really matters.

The maze is hard for everyone involved.

Investigators continue to try and crack this case, knowing full well that all the answers are stored away in one man’s head.

I was hoping to bring you a lot of details about this case, but because this investigation is still very active, I can’t.

Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks addresses the media in 2010. 

Larry Weeks was police chief in Morenci when the Skelton brothers went missing. He left his post in 2013 to become chief in Eaton Rapids, Michi. The case was handed over to Detective Lt. Jeremy Brewer with Michigan State Police, and Brewer still oversees the case today. 

Investigators have worked exhaustively to uncover evidence in this case, interviewing anyone connected to the family and potential witnesses. They have cell phone records and a roughed out timeline of where everyone was when the boys disappeared. But they've never found the boys, have no evidence on where they may be, and they have little cooperation from John Skelton -- the last known person to see the boys alive. 

Skelton now resides at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, Mich. He's not charged with murder, because there’s no proof of murder. Instead, he’s been charged with unlawful imprisonment of his children, which carries a sentence of 10 to 15 years. The earliest Skelton could be a free man is Nov. 29, 2020, but that’s not likely. He continues to lie to police, offering no helpful information. Police usually don’t appreciate that kind of behavior. 

Detective Lt. Jeremy Brewer

Here's what we know from investigators. On Black Friday 2010, Skelton’s cell phone registers with a tower close to his home in Morenci. At 4:29 a.m. he's about 3.3 miles from home, and at 5 a.m. he's near Holiday City in Ohio. At 6:45 a.m. he's back home, according to phone records.

To recap: assuming that he had his phone in his possession, sometime before 4:29 a.m. he drove down into Ohio in a blue van, and then ack home around 6:45. That's the window of time -- about 2 hours and 15 minutes -- police suspect he did something with the boys. 

Police searched the rural countryside for evidence for days, but Brewer compared it to finding a needle in a haystack hundreds of acres wide. They never found the boys. 

A Facebook post about the missing Skelton brothers reads: 

As I drive through downtown Morenci, I can’t help but see faded yellow ribbons tattered and torn. Pictures faded, playgrounds empty. The day is cold and gloomy. Winter is upon us. It seems that maybe everybody has forgotten about the three little boys that used to live here and now are missing and forgotten.

That post was written by the account’s administrator. The boys haven’t been forgotten, but as time moves on and distance settles in between now and then, they aren’t talked about as much, that much is true. But investigators haven't forgotten.

They continue to work the maze, building their case against the architect.

Related Material 

Detective Lt. Jeremy Brewer discusses the Skelton brothers case: 

2010 news report when the Amber Alert was issued for the Skelton brothers: 

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