Police: Skelton investigation is now being treated as a murder caseWritten by David Panian | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Police have switched the focus of the Skelton brothers investigation from a missing persons case to a murder case.
The announcement was made at a news conference this afternoon, 68 days after 9-year-old Andrew, 7-year-old Alexander and 5-year-old Tanner were last seen at their father’s home in Morenci.
Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks said the investigative team, which includes state police and FBI agents, met Jan. 19 to evaluate the evidence collected to that point.
“The decision was made by myself to shift the focus of the investigation (to a murder case),” Weeks said in a separate interview.
He then informed the boys’ family, including their mother, Tanya Skelton, of the decision.
The reasons to announce the change in the focus are threefold, Weeks said.
One reason, he said, is that as spring approaches and people return to doing things outdoors, he wants them to be aware of what they might find, and “not be thinking that they’re with an ‘organization.’”
The boys’ father, John Skelton, testified in a custody hearing in December that he gave the boys to an “organization” that he refused to name at the time.
Another reason, Weeks said, is that he wants to be up front with those who have held out hope that the boys would be found. He said John Skelton has spread “false hope” with his statement about giving the boys to an organization.
“There’s been a lot of effort by the people in our community and surrounding areas going into locating the boys alive and well with this organization,” Weeks said. “Based on the information that we have in the investigation, it’s important that people understand where we’re at and the direction it’s going to process that information accordingly.”
Weeks also said he wants people to be aware that given the timeframe from when the boys were last seen to when John Skelton went to the hospital for treatment of an ankle injury suffered in an apparent suicide attempt — about 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day to about 1:30 p.m. the next day — the boys could have been taken a long distance from Morenci, even further than the areas searched in Lenawee and Hillsdale counties in Michigan and Fulton and Williams counties in Ohio in the week after they were reported missing.
Weeks also said John Skelton gave him the name of the alleged organization to which he gave his sons, but based on the resources available to him, he has been unable to locate a group by the name United Foster Outreach and Underground Sanctuaries.
“Obviously, based on earlier comments, we don’t believe the story about turning the kids over to an organization is a truthful one,” Weeks said.
Early in the investigation, Weeks said he does not anticipate a “positive outcome” to the case.
So far, more than 1,000 tips have been received, Weeks said. He said a lot of those have been specific to finding the boys alive. He said he is hoping that announcing the change in the investigation’s focus will develop tips that will advance the murder investigation.
The frequency of tips called into the Morenci police at 517-458-7104 has decreased as winter weather has set in, Weeks said. Police have checked out some tips, including suspicious bags or packages, but none resulted in any leads.
Weeks said there is no timetable for when murder charges might be filed.
“The plan is to continue with our investigation, and, obviously, develop as much information as we can to support the investigation and, ultimately, when the time is right, we’ll turn it over to the prosecutor’s office for review,” Weeks said in a separate interview.
Under Michigan law, Weeks said, it is possible to charge someone with murder without a body being located. However, whether to do so is up to the prosecutor and depends on what other evidence is developed in the case.
Addressing claims from John Skelton’s family that he has accused Tanya Skelton of molesting the boys, Weeks said separately that no report claiming child abuse of any kind has been filed with the Morenci police nor was it brought up in custody hearings in Michigan or in Florida. In September, John Skelton took the boys to Florida, where his parents live, but returned them to Michigan after Tanya Skelton reported the incident to police.
Reported by The Adrian Daily Telegram