Morenci, MI: It was Thanksgiving in Michigan. The weather had turned crisp and cool, as Winter was quickly approaching The Great Lakes State. As most across the Nation were celebrating the Holiday amongst family and friends, nothing seemed amiss in the sleepy town of Morenci, Michigan. More specifically, the Skelton family was adjusting to a new holiday routine and in stride, with Tanya Skelton (Zuvers) having custody of the three shared children of the former couple. Separation had recently struck the Skelton marriage. John and Tanya Skelton (Zuvers) agreed that John Skelton could have the couple’s three young sons; Andrew (age 9), Alexander (age 7) and Tanner (age 5) for Thanksgiving 2010.
November 25, 2010, Andrew, Alexander, and Tanner spent the holiday with their father, John. The three boys were seen outside playing in John’s yard that afternoon. The boys were alive and well, spending the day and night with their father. Tanya was due to have her sons returned the following day and life was supposed to resume as normal. Sometime between the last sighting of the boys and the early morning hours of 11/26/2010, things with John Skelton went very wrong and the three Skelton brothers went missing. The boys remain missing to this day, over ten years later.
John Skelton was not taking the separation well. Skelton had previously fled the state with two of the boys a couple of months prior. Tanya had to fight to get her children back from Florida and when she did, was granted full custody of all three children. That was the end of the Skelton marriage. However, no one ever expected or anticipated the hell John would soon inflict on the mother of his children and all who love Andrew, Alexander, and Tanner. John wrote the post below on his Facebook account on 11/24/2010. The post was discovered after the boys turned up missing.
The disappearance of Andrew, Alexander, and Tanner is clouded in mystery. Many unanswered questions. Many dead ends. Many broken hearts. Tall tales proven false by investigators. On November 26, 2010, John told Tanya that he had fallen off of a ladder and was in the hospital, claiming he had left the boys with a friend. The friend’s name was Joann Taylor and John alleged that Joann had taken the boys on Thanksgiving night because he was in the hospital.
Tanya and her sister proceeded to John’s home. The text interaction between her and John just didn’t sit right with Tanya. Call it a mother’s instinct or call it intuition, regardless; Tanya was determined to get answers about where her boys were. When Tanya arrived to John’s home, she was unable to make entry into the house (John was residing in the family home, while Tanya had moved to another nearby home.) John had wedged the door shut to their marital home with a board. Not being able to gain entry into the Skelton home, Tanya called 911.
Officers arrived and entered the Skelton home, finding the house in disarray. Law enforcement observed a noose tied around the banister of the staircase. The noose was also tied to a door knob. Causing further concern, the house was ransacked. Furniture was turned over, mirrors were broken, and cords were cut off most of the electronics in John’s house.
A nurse at the hospital where John was admitted told Tanya that John had attempted suicide by hanging, however the rope broke, causing John to fall and break his ankle. Investigators visited John in the hospital and observed ligature marks around John’s neck. John denied any attempts at suicide. He also maintained that the three boys were with his friend Joann, who was driving a silver van.
By 10:40 pm on 10/26/2010, an Amber Alert was issued for Alexander, Tanner, and Andrew.
In the following days, large scale searches were conducted for the boys. Over 500 searchers descended upon Morenci and surrounding areas.
- The searches covered 250 square miles.
- 475 miles of road searches.
- 15 miles of searches along riverbanks and waterways.
- Over 300 acres of water searched.
- A search of the landfill.
- Five search dog teams.
- Air searches.
All searches were unfortunately fruitless. Joann Taylor was never able to be located or verified.
While John Skelton remained in the psychiatric ward at Toledo Hospital, just across the State line in Ohio, Investigators began digging into the activities, both physical and digital, of John Skelton. The digital trail John left was bone chilling. Forensic exams of his computer produced a search history nothing short of alarming. John’s internet searches around Thanksgiving included things such as “poisoning with rat poisoning,” “is it possible to strangle someone’s neck with your bare hands,” and internet photos of breaking a neck. John’s phone pings raised more alarms. According to cell tower pings, on Thanksgiving morning at his home in Morenci, at 4:29 a.m. Skelton then left his home, pinging in Holiday City, Ohio at 5:00 am and 5:05 am. At 6:46 a.m., Skelton was pinging back at his residence in Morenci.
The Holiday City, Ohio pings are of great relevance. Holiday city is a very rural area, surrounded by cornfields, creeks, and rivers. The question to date remains; What did John Skelton do in Holiday City during the early morning hours of Thanksgiving 2010?
John Skelton and his numerous stories are alarming as well. Skelton told investigators that he gave the boys to an underground Amish “cult” to protect the children. Skelton also told investigators about Joann Taylor, as referenced earlier. Joann was never located.
In February 2011, Investigators announced the belief that all three of the Skelton boys are deceased. John Skelton was discharged from the psychiatric unit and was charged with unlawful imprisonment for the disappearance of his three sons and failing to produce them to authorizes. Sentenced in 2011, Skelton is still in prison to date, serving a 15 year sentence. His last parole hearing was in July 2020. Parole was denied in September 2020. Skelton will be eligible for parol again in two years.
If you or anyone you know has information pertaining to the disappearance or to the location of Alexander, Tanner, and Andrew, please call The Michigan State Police at 1-517-636-0689 or the NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST.