On Thanksgiving Day 2010, Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton left with their father, John Skelton, and were never seen again
Eight years after three young brothers went missing from their Morenci, Michigan, hometown, questions still loom about their disappearance. On Thanksgiving Day 2010, Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton left with their father, John Skelton, and were never seen again.
The boys’ mother, Tanya Zuvers, told Toledo 13ABC, “I have, for several years now, I guess, accepted the fact that my boys probably are not alive. I believe that John killed them.”
John is serving a 15-year prison sentence for unlawful imprisonment, having told investigators that he delivered the boys to an underground sanctuary. He has never been charged with murder.
Despite pleas from police, family and the public, John has never disclosed additional information about the boy’s whereabouts.
An Ohio newspaper reporter who has covered the case since it began has now released a book where he outlines what he alleges are gaps in the investigation and pinpoints an area where he believes the boys’ bodies may be found. Lynn Thompson, a reporter for the Bryan Times, said he is hoping his theories will bring a renewed interest in the case, as well as spark additional investigations.
“Back when the boys were first reported missing, I followed search teams for days,” Thompson tells PEOPLE. “There were 500 to 600 volunteers walking wherever they could get to. The focus was getting the word out to find the boys, hopefully alive.”
As time went on, Thompson, who believes the boys had been murdered, turned his interest in the case toward evidence and what had been done to bring closure to a grieving family and community.
“I started really digging into as much information as I could find and I found some gaps, and I wanted to bring those gaps to light so that they might be further investigated,” Thompson says.
Thompson’s book, 76 Minutes, focuses on a timeline he believes Skelton had the boys between when they left home and he returned without them. He feels authorities should take a closer look at land near a campground that was a strong focus early on for police-led searches.
“They combed the campground but missed a big tract of private property next door,” says Thompson, adding he followed a path on the property where he found a tree with a Spalding little league baseball wedged into it. “The ball was made in 2010—the same year those boys disappeared and I don’t think it was there randomly; I think it was some type of trail marker.”
Thompson says he and the local Sheriff’s office made a “casual search” of the property in 2013, but he feels a more in-depth search should be made.
Thompson also shares his personal investigations show pieces of evidence, including questionable photos captured by dive teams of objects at the bottom of a pond, never made it to police investigating the case.
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“The cell phone data is also important, and much of it was missed at that time because they were looking at analog pings to towers, but Skelton had a smartphone and therefore they should have been able to track him digitally. I just think there’s a lot more data out there that police never got, or needs to be revisited,” he says.
Detective Lt. Jeremy Brewer of the Michigan State Police Special Investigations Section said the department continues an open and active investigation to find the boys.
“We are always open to ideas and theories, and we have conducted numerous searches and investigations that the public or media were never made aware of,” Brewer tells PEOPLE. “We process tips all the time, and our main focus is still on John Skelton; we believe he is the only one that knows where those boys are and we hope and pray one day he might have a change of attitude and help make some closure in this case.”