Michigan police are investigating whether the partial remains of three children found in the shed of a rental home in Missoula, Montana, could belong to brothers missing for more than seven years.
Authorities are attempting to determine if the remains, which included fragments of bones and teeth, are those of three brothers who went missing in Michigan in 2010: Alexander, 9, Andrew, 7, and Tanner Skelton, 5.
Michigan State Police confirmed Thursday that they are investigating whether the bones that were found in September belong to the siblings.
“MSP investigators are working with Missoula police to determine if there is any connection to Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton who were reported missing from Morenci in Lenawee County the day after Thanksgiving in 2010,” the state police said Thursday. “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. 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.”
According to the police, the boys went missing while in the care of their father, John Skelton. Skelton is currently in jail serving a 10-15-year sentence after pleading no contest to three counts of unlawful imprisonment in September 2011. The boys’ father claimed “he gave the boys to unknown individuals.”
The boys’ mother, Tanya Zuvers, took to Facebook after police made the possible link public and asked for prayers for her family.
“This information has just been presented to our family within the last several hours. We are processing it and hopeful that we will have answers soon. We are thankful for all your thoughts and prayers,” she wrote.
Zuvers has continued to buy Christmas, Birthday and Easter gifts for her sons in the hope they would one day come home, according to the Detroit News.
Police in Missoula found the remains in the shed of a rental home after cleaners reported them to the police in September, according to The Missoulian. A spokesperson for the Missoula Police Department, Sgt. Travis Welsh, told the outlet there is no suspect, but they did want to interview a specific person.
PEOPLE has reached out to the Missoula Police Department.
The outlet reported a tenant was evicted from the home over the summer. When a cleaning crew was brought in, they found a box containing teeth and bones.
Welsh told KPAX that it was not uncommon for police to respond to reports about discovered bones.
“The fact that they are human makes this case unusual,” he said. “Typically, they are determined to be animal bones.”
Police are now investigating the children’s identities and the cause of their death, KPAX reported.
“Nothing we’ve been able to connect them too yet, however, we are working with the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children, and other missing person databases to see if that’s a possibility,” Welsh told the outlet.
“The thing is, there are missing children all over the world. And the thing is, we don’t know that this particular case is isolated to the city of Missoula. We don’t know where the bones came from, and if they were transported from one area to another, and ended up here.”
According to the Associated Press, an anthropology professor at the University of Montana estimated the ages of the children to be 2-4 years old, 5-8 years old and 6-10 years old.
The remains have been sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification for DNA testing, which runs the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, according to The Missoulian.