Outlook not good for missing Michigan boys

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | 2:15 p.m. CST

MORENCI, Mich. — It's looking less likely that three young brothers who have been missing since a Thanksgiving Day visit to their father's home will be found alive, a police chief admitted Tuesday, even as searchers scoured the countryside for a fourth day hoping for a happy ending.

Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks, looking tired and strained, chose his words carefully as he addressed the efforts to find 9-year-old Andrew, 7-year-old Alexander and 5-year-old Tanner Skelton. The boys' father, 39-year-old John Skelton, tried to hang himself Friday, and police have determined that he lied about giving the boys to a female acquaintance to pass along to their mother.

"Statements he made to investigators indicate it's not going to be a positive outcome," Weeks told reporters, volunteers and some members of the boys' extended family Tuesday morning.

The FBI, which has been working with local authorities on the case, said it would hold a news conference at 3 p.m. to "announce recent developments in the investigation."

John Skelton was under psychiatric care at a hospital, and has been speaking with investigators, Weeks said earlier.

"He's been forthcoming with some information, the credibility of which we can't verify," Weeks added.

Weeks said no decision has been made about whether to bring charges in the boys' disappearance, and he declined to say what the boys' father may have told investigators.

Police released John Skelton's photo on Tuesday and are looking for anyone who may have seen the boys or the Skelton's blue, Dodge Caravan between Thursday and Friday afternoon. Police have seized the van, but were trying to determine where John Skelton may have taken them before he attempted suicide.

Weeks said their mother and John Skelton's estranged wife, 45-year-old Tanya Skelton, was told about the search's possible outcome.

Her reaction: "Imagine your worst nightmare come true," Weeks said. "How would you respond?"

For a fourth day Tuesday, crews searched the woods and fields around Morenci, about 75 miles southwest of Detroit and just north of the Ohio state line.

The purpose of the search may have changed, but it will continue, vowed Bill Foster of Morenci, who was wearing the names of the boys on the back of his yellow vest.

"It's not what you wanted to hear," he said. "The whole community had been hoping for a Christmas miracle.

"We're very saddened by the news, but the search has to continue. We won't quit the search until we bring the boys home."

Foster said locals began searching fields and woods on Saturday. They joined police efforts when those started.

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