Lucas County Sheriff's Dept./AP
Howard Breuer
July 28, 2011 05:00 PM

The father of three boys missing from Morenci, Mich. since Thanksgiving pleaded no contest Thursday to unlawful imprisonment, as disheartening details emerge suggesting that the boys may not be found alive.

As part of the surprise plea deal in Lenawee County Circuit court, other charges were dropped against John Skelton, 39, including kidnapping and parental kidnapping. Skelton could get 15 years at his sentencing, which is scheduled for Sept. 15.

In court Thursday morning, Circuit Judge Margaret M.S. Noe read aloud from police reports stating that a week before the disappearance, Skelton searched online for information on how to break a neck. Noe said Skelton told investigators, “The children will hibernate until they graduate.”

The boys – Andrew, 9; Alexander, 7, and Tanner, 5 – were last seen alive on Thanksgiving at their father’s home. After the boys went missing, Skelton tried to hang himself, police said.

The boys mother has said she believes they re alive, and Skelton has given different versions of his story that he gave the boys to someone to keep them from their mother.

But after several fruitless searches, police have given steadily greater indications that they believe the boys are dead. In February, Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks announced they had reclassified the missing person s case as a homicide investigation.

Courtesy Tanya Skelton

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