By DAVID GREEN
No matter what the outcome of John Skelton’s criminal charges relating to parental kidnapping, the 39-year-old Morenci resident could face indefinite incarceration resulting from child custody issues.
Skelton and his estranged wife, Tanya, both appeared Thursday in Lenawee County Circuit Court for a civil hearing regarding his failure to return the couple’s three children following a Thanksgiving visitation.
Tanya Skelton told Judge Margaret Noe that John picked the boys up from her parents’ house on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and he was to return them around 3 p.m. Friday, the day after the holiday. That never happened, she said.
“Has he indicated to you where the children are?” asked her attorney, David McFarland.
Tanya replied that she had phone and text message communication with her husband on Friday, Nov. 26, and he indicated that he gave the children to a woman named Joann Taylor, who was to deliver them to Tanya.
The two spoke by phone, she said, because he was in the Fulton County Health Center being treated for an injury which he said resulted from a failed suicide attempt.
“You heard Mrs. Skelton ask for the return of her children,” Judge Noe said to Skelton. “Do you intend to comply?”
“I don’t know where the kids are,” Skelton answered.
The judge asked if he was unwilling or unable to comply, and he said he was unable because he does not know their location.
When Skelton said that he gave his children to a person in a van at his home Thanksgiving night, Judge Noe asked if he knew the person.
“I know the organization but not the person,” he said.
“What’s the name of the organization?” the judged asked.
“I’d rather not say,” Skelton said.
The judge pointed out that Skelton’s failure to cooperate is an apparent contempt of court.
“Are you prepared to make the children immediately available to Mrs. Skelton?” asked the judge.
“I have no way of doing that,” he answered.
Judge Noe told Skelton that his failure to comply with the court’s order could result in incarceration until he does comply.
Judge Noe scheduled a civil contempt hearing for 8:15 a.m. Jan. 28. She appointed John Glaser to serve as Skelton’s attorney since he was already appointed to represent Skelton in the criminal charges of parental kidnapping.
Skelton was initially held in the Lucas County Jail, but he was brought to the Lenawee County Jail in Adrian following an extradition hearing. His bond is set at $30 million.
Morenci police chief Larry Weeks said he has heard of organizations that assist a spouse during custody disputes when the safety of the children is of concern. However, he’s not aware of organizations of the sort that Skelton is suggesting in which the children are kept in hiding without a spouse involved.
He doesn’t expect a criminal or underground organization, if it exists, to come forward with information.
Investigators have doubted Skelton’s testimony about giving the children away and it’s led to statements that a “positive outcome” in the case is not expected.
Skelton faces a preliminary hearing Dec. 28 in regard to the three charges of parental kidnapping.