DETROIT — Police are investigating whether human remains found in Montana are of three Michigan boys who disappeared seven years ago.
Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton, of Morenci, Mich., were in their father John Skelton’s care when they went missing over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2010. They were 9, 7 and 5 at the time.
A crew that was cleaning a property in Missoula, Mont., in September discovered a box containing human bones and teeth, according to a search warrant application posted on the website of KTMF-TV in Missoula. The remains were examined and found to belong to three children who were around the same age as the Skelton boys.
Michigan State Police First Lt. Michael Shaw said the agency has been in contact with Missoula authorities, who are aware of the Skelton case.
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“We are taking it seriously, but right now it’s too early,” he said.
A news released issued by the Michigan State Police late Thursday said nothing has previously been reported to authorities that would link the Skelton boys to Montana. It’s also unclear whether the remains are from siblings.
“Further forensic testing has been requested by police in Montana that may provide more answers,” the release said. “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.”
Missoula Police Sgt. Travis Welsh did not return messages seeking comment.
Kathye Herrera of Morenci, a friend of Tanya Zuvers, the boys’ mother, learned about the possible break in the case Thursday from a news report. She said a million questions are running through her head.
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“Answers. We’ve been praying for answers,” she said. “If that could give the family peace of mind, it may not be the answer we want, but it would just enable the family to have some closure.”
Zuvers could not immediately be reached for comment.
The boys’ father, John Skelton, is serving a 10- to 15-year sentence after pleading no contest in 2011 to three counts of unlawful imprisonment in connection with his sons’ disappearance.
Skelton previously insisted he didn’t know where the boys were and that they had been with members of an underground sanctuary group. Police previously said they believed he killed the boys.
Filed in Montana’s Fourth Judicial District, the application for the search warrant says the cleaning crew discovered the box with remains inside of a shed on Sept. 27. The crew was hired to clean the property after the tenant had been evicted the previous week.
The bones and teeth were of modern age and belonged to children who were 5 to 8 years old, 6 to 10 years old and 2 to 4 years old when they died, an anthropology professor at the University of Montana determined.
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Authorities plan to test the remains for DNA to see whether the children are related and if the results match any missing persons cases.
The report also said Missoula police have identified a person who they want to interview in connection with the discovery of the remains.
The Skelton boys’ disappearance has been investigated not only by Michigan State Police but also by the Morenci Police Department and the FBI. Michigan State Police became the lead investigative agency in 2013.
Contributing: Gina Kaufman, Detroit Free Press. Follow Ann Zaniewski on Twitter: @AnnZaniewski
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