The father of three young brothers who have been missing since Thanksgiving was charged with their kidnapping on Tuesday, hours after police said it’s unlikely the boys will be found alive.
John Skelton, 39, was arrested by FBI agents after his release from a medical facility in Lucas County, Ohio, where he had been being treated since attempting to hang himself on Friday.
Skelton was charged in Lenawee County, Mich., across the state border, with three counts of parental kidnapping, Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks said during a brief news conference.
Skelton was being held at the Lucas County jail and would be extradited back to Michigan, Weeks said.
Nine-year-old Andrew, 7-year-old Alexander and 5-year-old Tanner Skelton have not been seen since Thanksgiving, when they were with their father in Morenci.
John Skelton told detectives early on that he gave the boys to a female acquaintance to pass along to their mother, but police say that he was lying. Nevertheless, Skelton has continued to speak to investigators, Weeks told reporters earlier Tuesday.
“Statements he made to investigators indicate it’s not going to be a positive outcome,” Weeks said. He declined to say what Skelton said. “He’s been forthcoming with some information, the credibility of which we can’t verify,” Weeks added.
Weeks said their mother and John Skelton’s estranged wife, 45-year-old Tanya Skelton, was told about the search’s possible outcome.
Her reaction: “Imagine your worst nightmare come true,” Weeks said. “How would you respond?”
Late Tuesday afternoon, Weeks responded to reports that bodies had been found.
“I understand that there has been some sort of media indication that bodies were recovered near Holiday City. I have calls into that right now, waiting to hear back. But there is no confirmation of that at this time,” Weeks said.
“I was told second-hand that someone posted something to a Facebook page, that led to someone else to something else, and here we are,” he said.
For a fourth day Tuesday, crews searched the woods and fields around Morenci, about 75 miles southwest of Detroit and just north of the Ohio state line.
The purpose of the search may have changed, but it will continue, vowed Bill Foster of Morenci, who was wearing the names of the boys on the back of his yellow vest.
“It’s not what you wanted to hear,” he said. “The whole community had been hoping for a Christmas miracle.
“We’re very saddened by the news, but the search has to continue. We won’t quit the search until we bring the boys home.”
Foster said locals began searching fields and woods on Saturday. They joined police efforts when those started.
Lenawee County sheriff’s Corporal Jeff Paterson said woods, ponds, creeks, clumps of trees, tilled cornfields, roadsides and barns in Ohio and Michigan were searched Monday. He expected more of the same Tuesday.
“As long as tips continue to come in, we’ll stay on it,” he said.
The boys last were seen on Thanksgiving in their father’s Morenci backyard.
Tanya Skelton filed for divorce in September. A judge gave her custody of the boys, but she and John Skelton reached an agreement on visitation.
She reported the boys missing Friday.
Reporter Matt Wright of TV station WTOL tells WWJ investigators that some of John Skelton’s statements to police may have helpt to make him a suspect in their disappearance
“It’s a little unclear exactly what he is saying, at this point. But, by the way the search is going it doesn’t really seem like they have a whole lot of direction as far as information coming in from John,” he said.
Police released John Skelton’s photo on Tuesday and are looking for people who might have seen the boys or the Skelton’s blue, Dodge Caravan between Thursday and Friday afternoon. Police seized the van, but were trying to determine where John Skelton may have taken them before he attempted suicide.
Anyone with information about the kids is asked to call 911 or the Morenci Police Department at (517) 458-7104.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.