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Montana bone fragments not missing Skelton brothers

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

Human remains discovered in Montana last year aren’t connected to three missing brothers in Michigan, authorities said Friday.

A forensic examination of the bones and teeth suggested they’re more than 99 years old, according to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office.

The three Michigan brothers, Tanner, Alexander and Andrew Skelton, ages 5, 7 and 9, disappeared from their home in Morenci in 2010.

“Anthropologists were conclusively able to exclude the remains of the aforementioned children,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

When the bones were discovered in a Missoula backyard in September, Michigan officials became interested because the remains were from children whose ages were similar to the Skeltons.

The sheriff’s office sent the remains to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, where anthropologists used advanced radiograph technology and dental record comparisons.

They said the remains came from three children whose ages ranged from 2 to 5, 5 to 9, and 6 to 8. At least one may have been an Indian, according to the center. The limited amount of remains made it difficult to identify the sex, stature or ancestry of the remains.

Law enforcement agencies had asked that the remains be turned over to the school’s Human Identification Evidence Control section for DNA testing to see if it matches that of missing juveniles.

The Skeltons’ mother, Tanya Zuvers, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

After the September discovery, Zuvers wrote on Facebook she was following the developments and hoped it would solve the mystery of her children’s disappearance.

The brothers were last seen in the backyard of their father, John Skelton, on the day they were supposed to be returned to Zuvers. They were reported missing the next day.

Skelton, who was embroiled in a bitter custody fight, has given conflicting accounts of what happened to his children, including giving them to a stranger to keep them away from his wife. Police scoffed at the notion of another person being involved in the crime.

Skelton was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison for unlawful imprisonment of his children. Police believe he killed the children because of the custody fight, but he otherwise hasn’t been criminally charged related to their disappearance.

Skelton told a Detroit television station several days ago that the remains found in Montana wouldn’t match his children.

The remains were discovered by a cleaning crew who were removing trash from a Missoula rental home, said Missoula officials. The tenant had been evicted a week earlier.

The cleaning crew went into a shed in the backyard and discovered a box that held the remains.

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Twitter: @francisXdonnell