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Two years since the Skelton boys disappeared

6:29 PM, Nov 24, 2012   |    comments
If Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton are still alive, they may now look like this. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created this age-progressed image of the boys, who disappeared November 2010.
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MORENCI, Mich. (DETROIT FREE PRESS)-- Tanya Zuvers says she's ready to confront the man suspected in the disappearance of her three sons two years ago -- the boys' father.

She said she wants to visit John Skelton in the Upper Peninsula prison where he is serving a 10- to 15-year sentence after pleading no contest last year to unlawful imprisonment in connection with the boys' disappearance.

Zuvers said it would be the first time she has spoken with her ex-husband since their sons went missing from their Morenci home over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2010.

"Where I'm at in my own personal growth, I'm ready to confront some things with him, and I have things I want to say to him," she said.

On Sunday, supporters will gather at Wakefield Park in Morenci to raise awareness and remember Andrew, Alexander and Tanner, who were ages 9, 7 and 5, respectively, when they went missing.

Skelton has insisted he doesn't know where his sons are and said they are with members of an underground sanctuary group. Police believe he murdered the boys.

Zuvers has thought about what she'd say to her ex if he accepts her visit. She even has jotted down some notes -- but she wants Skelton to be the first to hear it. She said the conversation would mostly focus on their sons.

Maybe she'll get some answers, Zuvers said.

"You know," she said, "there was a time when we were in love, and I don't know what went wrong there."

'Running out of time'
On the one-year anniversary of the boys' disappearance, community members and other supporters filled the bleachers of the city's high school gym. Zuvers pleaded for everyone to keep praying.

"And let's not have to do this in another 365 days," she said at the time.

But the two-year anniversary has come.

"Our hope is that we'll get them home within the year," the boys' grandfather Don Zuvers said Tuesday. "I said last year that they would be home this year, but we're running out of time."

In the past year, efforts have continued to get information about their disappearance.

Members of an awareness group have been passing out flyers at rest areas and truck stops along major roadways, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released age-progressed images of the boys.

Seeing her sons older was difficult at first for Tanya Zuvers.

"It was very emotional," she said. "But now it's almost like, when I think of them and maybe what they're doing today, I can almost picture them looking like that."

Despite the new images, the investigative task force still believes Skelton killed his boys and disposed of their bodies.

What records show
During a court hearing in July 2011, after prosecutors struck a plea deal with Skelton, Lenawee County Circuit Judge Margaret M.S. Noe read aloud details from police reports.

Skelton pleaded no contest to charges of unlawful imprisonment, and charges of kidnapping -- punishable by up to life in prison -- were dismissed.

Noe said Skelton told investigators that he wrapped his sons in blankets, gave them stuffed animals, put them in his van and drove away.

Noe said records show Skelton searched the Internet for information on how to break a neck a week before his sons went missing and reportedly took his sons' winter coats and toothbrushes to his aunt's house and said he didn't need them anymore.

Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks said investigators believe Skelton disposed of his sons' bodies within 80 miles of Morenci, based on information from cell phone records.

In a statement released Tuesday, police said Skelton's story has been "wrought with inconsistencies."

"His choice to hide behind this outlandish story is selfish and cowardly," Weeks said in the statement. "If he cared about his sons at all, he would disclose the truth and bring resolution to this case."

The next step
Zuvers holds out hope that her sons are alive, but said she knows it is possible they were killed.

"But until they can give me 100% proof," she said, "I don't have to believe it."

Zuvers said she has gone to counseling, which helped her realize "that there are things that right now in my life I have no control of. I cannot change certain things, so I have to accept that."

She said she has realized she wants to speak to Skelton, who is being housed in a prison in Munising. If he won't visit with her, Zuvers said she will write him a letter.

In the past year, Zuvers said, she has learned that she has to move on with life.

"You've got to keep living, you can't not be a part of life and you've got to go on," she said. "And that was a hard thing to come to, that it was OK to keep living life."

 

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