• Crime In The Mitten

Episode #3 - Missing Skelton Brothers

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

Missing Skelton Brother 2010 Transcript

This episode I'm going to tell you about a missing case that has been going on for almost a decade now dealing with three little boys from Morenci, Michigan. After all the years passing by and with little to no success in finding these boys, there's one man who can bring closure on what really happened to the Skelton brothers and that is John Skelton, the boys father.

Before we really get into things, I want to take time out to talk about the boys because from doing my research I fell in love with these three boys as if they were my own little brothers. To be honest I seen my little brothers in these three and it really hit home because I wouldn't know what to do if this happened.

Andrew was 9 years old and was described as being super smart, maybe a little too smart for his own good at times though. He was an expert at games and could beat you in anything except guitar hero, which I definitely get. Whenever he'd lose he'd switch the game to something he could beat you in, cause he just wasn't going out like that. His family called him the National Inquiry because he knew all the tea.

Alexander was 7 and was a daredevil with no broken bones. He was what you would consider your typical boy he'd do things like start water fights with his older sister. Like many of these kids he loved phones, real or fake. His favorite phone was his grandpa's phone that came with the belt clip. Alexander was just a loving boy who likes to sit in your lap and just chat it up.

The youngest brother Tanner who was 5 was a little story teller who imagination was out of this world. He would make up this wild story just for him to say he was just kidding at the end. He was a cuddly little guy but didn't play about sharing his mom with anyone else. His sister would sit on their moms lap and if Tanner caught wind of this, he was on his way over to take his place on his mom's lap. Like every little brother, Tanner hated being left out and tried to keep up with his big brother. He loved to play the game Uno Moo, but he lost one time and has been cheating ever since.

Andrew, Alexander, and Tanner played soccer growing up. Andrew was the runner, Alexander the goalie, and Tanner just tried to keep up on the field. Which pretty much described me back in high school when we had gym together. The boys did good in school and they all enjoyed it. But what they enjoyed more was after school going over to their grandparents house to hang out. They would do chores and play games while there. The boys loved being outside, they would ride horses, ride bikes, 4 wheeler

, swim, and play with the neighborhood kids. Pretty much live their best lives and they really were living their best life once they mastered making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

This story takes place a little time before Black Friday when the boys went missing. To be honest, I want to say it started when John returned to his hometown for a high school reunion back in September of 2010. When John had returned from this reunion, he brought to Tanya the idea of the whole family moving down to Florida. John said he would be able to make more money and also he would be closer to his family. His father, mom, and sister still lived in Jackson. Tanya wasn't going for it and tried to shut it down. The boys entire lives have been in Morenci, why would they take them away from their friends and family. But John really pushed the idea. He really believes this move to Florida will be the best thing for them.

So one day John decides to take things in his own hands. It's kind of like he was going to show Tanya how being in Florida can be great for the boys. Tanya dropped the boys off to go school like she did everyday. The boys had their book bags with their medicine in it, ready to go for when they get to their grandparents house after school. Not too long after Tanya drops the boys off to school, John picks the boys up and tells the office the boys are going on a family vacation and will be back in a week. This seems a little suspicious to the school though so they call Tanya to verify this. Tanya immediately calls John to confront him about this. He then tells Tanya that he's going to take the boys on a vacation for a week to Florida. Tanya argues that school just started and that the boys don't need to miss that much school especially this early in the school year. John tells her that he'll just enroll the boys in school when they get there. This confuses Tanya because this wouldn't be a vacation if the boys were in school and also, that's not how school works.

So Tanya decides to contact her lawyer for some advice. The lawyer ends up telling her that to prevent John from leaving the state with the boys, Tanya needs to file for divorce and then file for emergency custody. It's somehow made known that John also contacted a lawyer earlier that day and it just so happened to be the same lawyer that Tanya contacted. Talk about being a small world. So John consulted with this lawyer earlier that day but he didn't pay him yet, so he was technically not working as his lawyer yet. With Tanya knowing this information, she sends her daughters to the lawyers office immediately to pay the lawyer and get the paperwork together. Tanya calls John back in an attempt to stall him. She convinces him to come back to the house to get the boys paperwork then, since he's going to register them in school and there's no way that he'll be able to do it without any of that. John falls for this and makes his way back to the house. Tanya stalls as she pretends to look for the paperwork for the boys. While waiting for Tanya to find the papers, the lawyer calls John and informs him that he is not allowed to represent him.

John is pissed at this point, he begins to yell and make a scene, Tanner coward behind his mom as his dad goes off. He then calls for Andrew and Alexander, who were playing outside in the front yard at the time, to get in the van. The boys do as they are told and John speeds out the driveway, almost hitting Tanya's little sister Tanille in the process. And guess what, Tanya daughters literally pull up a minute later with the officer to serve the papers.

The next day, it's Tanya's birthday and she gets a call from the boys in Florida. They seem to be having a good time and to be safe. They went on about how they had went swimming and that they were staying with their dads friend Hillary. Tanya immediately makes her way to Florida to get her boys, and once there, she notifies the police of what's going on and how she filed for emergency custody in Michigan. Tanya was able to get to the boys, but a judge wanted to see John and Tanya before they left. Tanya knew the meeting was harmless but something told her she should get a lawyer and thank goodness she did, because when she walked into the meeting with the judge, John not only had a lawyer with him but he was also ready to throw her under the bus by any means. Tanya was charged with having a sexual relationship with a 14 year old boy in 1998 and John used this as a prime reason for a lot of his actions. John went on to say how he believed that Tanya was sexually abusing the boys and that he brought them to Florida to protect them. Tanya was straight up with her lawyer, and as she should, so he already knew how to defend against these attacks. The judge orders them both to leave Florida immediately. They will continue to have joint custody of the boys until they get to the Michigan state borderline and that's when the emergency custody will take effect and the boys must be in Tanya's possession.

Once back in Michigan, Tanya decides to go through with the divorce but John wants to still be together, he said that the boys needed to see their father. But this was a situation that didn't need to be discussed, Tanya felt betrayed by John twice. One for taking the boys to Florida without her permission and the second bringing her past up against her like that and even accusing her of sexually abusing her own sons. How can you just move on from that with someone and work on a marriage? John moves not to far from the boys. Like close enough where they tell if John's van was in his driveway or not. I couldn't imagine living this close to my ex at all. Tanya really didn't want to let the boys be alone with John, but her lawyer mentioned that it would look good when they went to court for their divorce if the judge seen that Tanya was allowing John visitations with the boys, so Tanya did.

Before I get into the case, I want to tell you a little about John so we know who we're dealing with. John Russel Skelton was born on November 22nd, 1971. He was was raised in Jackson, Florida. After high school he went into the army and that caused him to move around a lot. Eventually, he moved to Michigan to be with the family he had there and he ended up staying there after meeting and marrying Tanya in 2002. They had their first kid and every two years had another boy. These three handsome boys were his bubbies. John was previously married before and had a daughter in that marriage. After the divorce, his ex wife moved to another state, which really limited how much he got to see his daughter. This could be a reason John wanted to stay with Tanya in fear of not being able to see his boys again. John was described by many people to be very intelligent... intelligent enough to pull something like this off.

Tanya had worked out with John that he will get the boys for Thanksgiving that year. He would pick the boys up from their grandparent's home at 5 pm and bring the boys home Friday (black Friday) at 3 pm. He wanted more time but prior to this John had told the boys that Tanya had been in jail before, so you can see why she wasn't having it. When john had the boys, he called Tanya and begged her again to get back together again and to forget about the divorce and once again Tanya told him it wasn't happening. While on the phone, Tanya could hear the boys laughing and playing in the background, having a good time. On Friday, Tanya decides to call John to see if there was anyway she could get the boys a little early, she wanted to still celebrate thanksgiving with her boys. When she called John, he told her that he and the boys weren't home, they went over some of his friends house to eat for thanksgiving. Tanya could see John's van in the driveway though. When she asked him about this he said that his friend had picked them up because he didn't want to drive. Tanya didn't find a reason not to believe him so she just said give her a call when they get back. Time goes by and Tanya reaches out again to John and his story changes. He tells Tanya he has a confession, he tells her that he is actually at home and that the boys are over his friends house. He said that during the Thanksgiving dinner the boys clicked with the kids there and they wanted the boys to stay the night and have a sleepover. He said the boys were with his friend Joann and that he had met her by helping her with her car alongside the road one day and she was very nice. Tanya still didn't see anything wrong. She asked John what time did she plan on bringing the boys home and John told her he wasn't sure. He also wasn't sure if she was going to drop the boys off to John or to her. She offered to get the boys from her but John just danced around everything.

The next call she gets from John, he tells her he is on the way to the hospital over a leg injury due to a suicide attempt. When Tanya hears this she instantly gets worried. With John on his way to the hospital who were going to get the boys from this Joann chic? Tanya contacts her lawyer about what's going on and he advises her to wait until the drop off time, 3pm, and if the boys are not there by then she can go to the police. So she waited and waited until 3pm and when 3:01 came and there was still no sign of the boys she alerted the police immediately. An amber alert was put out immediately and the state police along with the FBI began the search for the Skelton brothers. Tanya's lawyer also advised Tanya not to go to John's home because it may be a crime scene, but Tanya hated just sitting around and her boys could be in there. When she went to the house, Tanya couldn't even open the door because something big was blocking the door. She called out the boys name in hope they would respond, but she heard nothing. When this was a dead end, she returned to her house in case this Joann lady did bring the boys to the house. But no Joann ever turned up and neither did the boys.

An investigation breaks out and and John of course is in the spotlight. They want to know who this Joann Taylor lady is too. The one that John said had the boys last for Thanksgiving and was suppose to bring them home. For all police know about Joann Taylor is that John had met her while helping her with her car. Tanya said that Joann Taylor added her on this mom app she used call Cafemom but later that turned out to be John pretending to be a Joann Taylor which I mean doesn't make him seem suspicious at all. There was a possible sighting of the boys though with a woman that could have been Joann Taylor in Sandusky Ohio at a donut shop. The cashier noted that the boys didn't want to go in the shop. They all looked tired and hungry. The only reason the lady assumed it was the boys was because the lady who had the boys referred to the youngest as Tanner. She told him to hurry up and pick something. The lady didn't know that the boys were missing at the time until after the holidays and even then she hesitated to tell the police because she wasn't sure of what she had saw. Eventually her manager convinced her to call in. The police looked into this but the more they looked they could not find a Joann Taylor anywhere. Which makes me think that if there ever even was a woman that played a part in this, she might have given the wrong name.

Detectives then looked at John's phone to see if they can find anything off that. They noticed that at 4:29 John's phone pinged 3.3 miles from his home. Then his phone pinged again at 5 am at Holiday City, then his phone either dies or he turns it off. His phone gets active again at 6:46 am and he was back at home. This left a nice time gap for him to have done something with the boys. When John came back to the house he was very active on his phone. He made a status saying how he hope God and Tanya can forgive him for what he has done. He also dropped a lot of his personal items off to his family members because he didn't think he would be around long.

When police finally searched inside of John's home, they couldn't believe the state the home was in. There were broken items everywhere. There were broken dishes and broken furniture and even cords cut. There were knife gashes in the mattresses in the room. Police retrieve John's laptop and looks at his search history and find something strange. John had made two searches the last night the boys were with him. One, Can you break someone's neck with your hands? and two, can rat poison kill kids? John said in his defense that he and the boys were watching a karate movie the night before and the boys became curious when they saw these kind of deaths in the characters so they looked it up.

John's side of things start months back when he said he tried to report the sexual abuse that he suspected between Tanya and the boys. He said that the chief of police would not accept his report at the time. In a courtroom in 2011, John stated that he felt like the system failed him and that if they would have chose doing their duties instead of being a friend, he wouldn't have had to resort when to what he did when it came to the boys. John says that the boys one day told him the Tanya had been sexing them. He told his parents about this and that's when he said he tried to make a report. John said that after helping Joann, they kept in touch and she told him she knew of this group called the underground Sanctuary that will take care of the boys for him to protect them from Tanya. Supposedly after the boys had dinner that night, a few members from the group were going to pick the boys up and John was under the impression that this was a trial run and that he will get them back. On the boys last day with John, he made their favorite food fried chicken and they ate a cake that John had made for them. They watched a karate movie that night together. John then told the boys that they will be going to live with a better family for a while. A few members from this group by the name of Joann, Virgil, Sue, and Elijah came to pick the boys up in a van. John wrapped the boys in the blanket, gave them each a toy, and watched as they drove off with the boys into the night. John then told police that the boys were given to the Amish to community to be raised. But although members in the Amish community live away from mainstream, they still are aware of the news that go on and if three boys were dropped off into the Amish on the Indiana and Ohio border community the police would have been alerted. Although John's story changes so many times over the years, he did go back and say he regretted giving the boys away in the first place.

A man by the name of Mose Gingerich also comes up. John said that when the boys were ready to be found, this is the man that will contact John. Police were actually able to track this man down. Mose did have an organization called the Underground railroad that helped new Amish community members. Around the time John produced this story this idea of this happening to the boys, Mose had a show on tv that talked about the work of the Underground Railroad. Mose actually met face to face with John and he told John that he had no idea who his sons were until 6 months prior meeting him. And this was 7 years after the incident even took place! Also, something that Mose didn't key John in on. John was asked when he found out about the group and he said back in 2010 but Mose revealed that he didn't go public with his show until 2012. John seemed mind blown by the fact that Mose had no idea who the boys were and for the first time John was starting to feel like things might not have went well. After meeting with John, Mose stated that John was a smooth guy and very intelligent.

John's family of course had an input on things. His father was upset with how John handled things with the police when he went to report the supposed child abuse with Tanya. Which I want to add when people in the community were asked about this, they said it was clear that the boys were loved by their mom and they couldn't imagine her harming them. John's dad stated that John should have went to the state police instead when the local police didn't act on things. John's dad believe that when the boys become of legal age the real story of what happened will come out. Although his isn't sure if this is when the oldest boy turns 18 or when they all turn 18. John's father shared that one day while he was out getting gas, someone came up from behind him and told him not to turn around and that the boys are safe and not to worry. He responded by saying okay and went on with what he was doing.

John's mom believed that the boys were 100% safe but also believes that what John did was stupid and irresponsible. His mom went on about how Tanya would play with John's emotions when it came to the boys. She said Tanya would call John over on Sunday nights to stay the night but would make him leave in the morning before the boys will wake up. And then she would tell him a few days later that he wasn't going to be allowed to see the boys. His mom believe this is the emotional stress that caused him to do what he did. His mom believes this whole situation, John was mistreated by the police. Being kept in isolation in prison for years, supposedly he was drugged when the police interrogated him, and when being interrogated he was allowed to eat, sleep, or use the restroom.

John's sister believed that even growing up, John was the brains. She would be the physical sibling while John was the thinker. She definitely believe that her brother is capable of doing something like this. She also believes that Tanya did molest the boys as well. John's side of the family only contact Tanya one time after the boys disappearance which seems kind of strange in itself but I'm taking that they aren't really that close.

9 years later, a discovery was made in Missoula, Montana which really confused police. Michigan state police didn't even have Montana in their radar but when the remains were found of three kids that fit the age range of the boys, they linked up to find out if these were the remains of the bones. The owner of the house hired a cleaning team to clean the house after the previous tenants. While the cleaning team were cleaning up they came across a set of bones. At the time of death the bones were estimated to be around the ages 2-4 years old, 5-8 years, 6-10 years old. The bones were tested at the University of North Texas. When the discovery went public, Tanya didn't want to make a comment to the public but that's understandable. The news was something that would definitely take by surprise. John watched from prison as the news played out on the tv. He went on to say how this news had an effect on his safety there. Prisoners began to call him a child killer and a monster. He even went further to say some people stopped talking to him. After 6 months of waiting, the results came back negative for being the Skelton brothers.

9 years after the disappearance of the boys a credible tip came in from a lady who claims to have seen John at a pond with his van the morning John's phone pinged in that area. Police had always considered this a hot zone but never searched the area. Police used cadaver dogs and side scan sonars to look for the boys on the water. A land search with search dogs took place as well but nothing was found and they were just as close to finding the boys as they were before the search.

The boys are still missing and the boys family along with detectives are not giving up hope of bringing the boys home. I'm going to post on our website some age progressed photos of the boys just so that we all can be on the lookout for the boys. Now, we're not sure how accurate these are of the boys because of many factors like hair color and eye can be change but it gives us a general idea and to be honest the technology these days amazes me because it's like looking at the boys school pictures over the years. Now if you have any information on this case, please contact the Morenci police 1(517)458-7104. I also want to give a shout out to the Podcast Shattered who dedicated an entire season to the Skelton, be sure to listen to their episodes on these brothers. They have interviews with John and Tanya and many other people who played a part in this case.!/quality/90/?

Shattered Podcast Season 1 episode 1-12

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