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Police order tests of remains for link to Mich. boys

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Police in Montana have ordered forensic tests to determine whether the remains of three children are those of three Michigan brothers who were reported missing seven years ago.

The bones and teeth of three children were discovered in September in a shed in Missoula, Montana, Montana police. The children’s ages were estimated by an anthropologist to be 2-4 years old, 5-8 years old and 6-10 years old.

The Montana case has similarities to three brothers who have been missing since 2010. Tanner, Alexander and Andrew Skelton were 5, 7 and 9 when they disappeared in Morenci on Black Friday that year.

Tanner Skelton, 5, from left, and his older brothers, Alexander, 7, and Andrew, 9, have been missing since 2010.

Michigan State Police issued a press release Friday, explaining more forensic work must be done to determine the identities of the remains.

“MSP investigators are working with Missoula police to determine if there is any connection to Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton,” the release said. “There has been nothing previously reported to police linking the brothers to Montana, and it is not known at this time if the remains are from related siblings.

“Further forensic testing has been requested by police in Montana that may provide more answers,” state police said. “Until this testing is completed and additional investigation by law enforcement in Montana occurs, it cannot be determined if these remains belong to the missing Skelton brothers.”

When the boys were reported missing they were in the care of their father, John Skelton. Skelton pleaded no contest to three counts of unlawful imprisonment in September 2011, after he claimed he gave the boys to unknown people. He is currently serving a 10-15 year prison sentence.

The boys’ mother, Tanya Zuvers, couldn’t be reached for comment.

John Skelton, father of three boys missing from their Morenci home is seen in this file photo in the courtroom of Lenawee County Circuit Judge Margaret Noe on Thursday, September 15, 2011. Taken into custody shortly after their disappearance, police believe he killed them. He and his wife were in the midst of a bitter divorce and custody fight when he claims he gave them to a mysterious group to protect them from sexual abuse by their mother.

The Montana remains were sent to the University of North Texas for DNA testing, police said.

A search warrant showed police were called to a rental home on Sept. 27 for a report of the discovery of possible human remains, according to a Montana TV news report. After the tenant had been evicted, a cleaning crew discovered a box in the shed that contained the remains.

The Montana Crime Lab verified the remains as human, according to KTVQ. An anthropologist determined the remains were more likely modern than archaeological.

Missoula police said they are seeking a person of interest but the individual isn’t a suspect.

In the Skelton case, their father, John Skelton, is serving a 10-15 year prison sentence for unlawful imprisonment. Police believe he killed the children because of a nasty custody fight.

The brothers were last seen in John Skelton’s backyard on the day they were supposed to be returned to their mother.

Skelton has given conflicting accounts of what happened to his children, including giving them to a stranger to keep them away from his wife.

Despite the passage of time, Morenci hasn’t forgotten the missing brothers. Seven years later, their photos continue to hang from storefronts and car windows.