PEOPLE Explains: Possible Link Between Skeletal Remains Found In a Shed and 3 Missing Brothers
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
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.
As investigators determine whether this discovery will finally solve the mystery, here are five things to know about the case.
1. The Boys Vanished While in the Care of Their Father
According to the police, the boys were last seen on November 26, 2010, in front of their father’s house in Morenci, Michigan. When the boys went missing, John Skelton was unable to give an explanation police believe was credible about their whereabouts.
Police say that John Skelton claimed “he gave the boys to unknown individuals.” He is currently serving 10 to 15 years in prison after pleading no contest to three counts of unlawful imprisonment in September 2011.
The boys’ parents were separated at the time of the disappearance. The divorce has since been finalized, and the boys’ mother, Tanya, has been awarded exclusive parenting rights to the boys.
2. Experts Believe the Ages of the Boys Could Be Consistent with the Remains
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.
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PEOPLE’s calls to the Missoula Police Department were not immediately returned.
The outlet reported a tenant was evicted from the home over the summer. When a cleaning crew was brought in, workers found a box containing teeth and bones.
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.
3. There is No Known Link Between the Boys and Anyone in Montana
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 announced in a Thursday statement. “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.”
4. The Boys’ Mother, Tanya Zuvers, Is Desperately Searching for Her Sons
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.
5. The Bones Are Being Tested for DNA
Police are now trying to identify the remains — and determine their causes of death.
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“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,” a spokesperson for the Missoula Police Department, Sgt. Travis Welsh, told KPAX.
“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.”
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.