More than seven years after three Michigan brothers vanished, their father claimed in a prison interview that he gave them to three unidentified people involved with what he termed an “underground sanctuary” — and he tearfully said he now regrets doing so.
According to police, the Skelton brothers — Tanner, 5, Alexander, 7, and Andrew, 9 — were last seen on November 26, 2010, in front of father John Skelton’s Morenci home. After Skelton didn’t return the boys to the house of their mother, from whom he was separated, he told police “he gave the boys to unknown individuals,” a claim police did not find credible.
He is currently serving 10 to 15 years in prison after pleading no contest to three counts of unlawful imprisonment in September 2011.
Speaking exclusively with local 4 TV news reporter Sandra Ali at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan, Skelton said he gave the boys over to a man and two women driving a light-colored van to live on a farm in Ohio, near the Indiana border. He told the boys they would have a better life with a new family, who would buy them the farm boots they’d been asking for and would let them ride on a tractor whenever they wanted.
Skelton said in the interview that he was a good dad and “would never hurt my boys or anyone.”
He said that on the last night he was with them, he made their favorite meal of fried chicken and cake to celebrate Andrew’s birthday and watched a karate movie at home with them.
He added, “I miss their voices.”
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It is unknown where the boys are or if they’re still alive.
The boys’ mother, Tanya Zuvers, responded to Skelton’s interview, telling PEOPLE, “My initial thought is what he is saying is still more lies.”
Zuvers added, “He’s had six years to perfect his story before agreeing to meet with a reporter.”
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.
In December, the partial remains of three children were found in the shed of a rental home in Missoula, Montana. Investigators are working to determine whether the remains could be those of the Skelton boys.
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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 authorities, this process could take months.