Judge imposed harsher sentence than required for his no contest plea on false imprisonment charges

By Howard Breuer
Updated September 15, 2011 05:30 PM
Lad Strayer/The Daily Telegram/AP

John Skelton was sentenced Thursday to 10-15 years in prison in connection with the Thanksgiving disappearance of his three young sons, who are presumed dead.

The Morenci, Mich., dad has said he handed his boys off to an underground group to keep them from their mother, and that he wanted to deprive her of memories of her sons. Police, who found a noose in Skelton’s home, vowed Thursday to pursue murder charges.

Lenawee County Circuit Judge Margaret M.S. Noe, who imposed a much harsher sentence than state guidelines, told Skelton that “their mother, their family, the schoolchildren, the community of Morenci will never lose their memory of these children. They will lose their memory of you.”

Skelton was never tried for the disappearance of Andrew, Alexander and Tanner, ages 9, 7 and 5. Instead, he took a plea deal last July, pleading no contest to false imprisonment in exchange for the dropping of kidnapping charges.

The boys’ mother, Tanya Zuvers, who holds out hope that the boys are still alive, told the court she can’t stop thinking about the boys and whether they’re okay.

“I worry about them – are they safe, warm, being fed and, most importantly, being loved?” Zuvers said. “My fear is that the answer to these questions are no because no one will ever be able to love those three precious boys like I do.”