Despite a long prison term, John Skelton frustrates police with his silence in the year-old disappearances

By Howard Breuer
Updated December 03, 2011 08:05 AM
Lad Strayer/The Daily Telegram/AP

John Skelton is serving hard time for abducting his three sons, but one year later he still won’t tell police more about the missing boys’ fates.

Authorities have found no trace of Tanner, Alexander and Andrew – who ranged in ages from 5 to 9 – and their father’s no-contest plea to false imprisonment has gotten investigators no closer to answers.

“Certainly there’s frustration,” Morenci, Mich., Police Chief Larry Weeks tells PEOPLE. “We have three boys out there that are missing, and he doesn’t seem willing to provide us with factual information about where they’re located.”

Always as Suspect

After the boys’ disappearance, police identified Skelton as a suspect and determined that he got rid of the boys on the morning after Thanksgiving in 2010.

“We know he left his home 4:29 a.m. the morning after Thanksgiving and returned at 6:46,” Weeks says. “It’s during that time that we believe that he disposed of them in some fashion.”

Skelton has provided various accounts of what he did with the boys.

He said he gave them to a pastor’s wife named Joann Taylor, because he was going to commit suicide. Then he said he gave them to an unnamed underground organization to protect them from abuse by their mother, Tanya Zuvers.

Cleared by authorities of any wrongdoing. Zuvers has told PEOPLE that she doesn’t understand her former husband’s unusual behavior.

No-Contest Plea

Skelton has never been tried for harming the boys. Over the summer, he pleaded no contest to three unlawful imprisonment charges and was sentenced to 10 to 15 years.

Skelton maintains that he’s unable to contact the organization that he claims took the boys and he doesn’t know where they’re being kept.

“He says that they’re alive and they’ll be back when they’re old enough, when there won’t be a danger of abuse by their mother,” says his attorney John Glaser. The lawyer declined to comment as to whether he believes his client.

Investigators, however, are skeptical that the boys are alive after finding a noose in Skelton’s house and a search for “neck breaking” on his computer.

A Town’s Anguish

Their unsolved disappearance has been traumatic for the whole community of Morenci, which is at the southern edge of Michigan, about 40 miles west of Toledo, Ohio.

Hundreds of people gathered Nov. 27 at the Morenci High School gym to remember the boys and to remind the country that there is a $60,000 reward for information leading to their recovery or return.

The crowd wept as family members and friends read poems, sang and played a slideshow of the brothers. They also unveiled a plaque of the boys that was to be fastened to a rock at a local park.

Addressing the audience, Zuvers urged people “to keep those prayers going. Let’s not have to do this in another 365 days.”