The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Skelton brothers case turns to homicide investigation 2011.02.02

Written by David Green.

skelton.sittingBy DAVID GREEN

The focus is changing in the search for Morenci’s three missing Skelton brothers. At a press conference this week, Morenci Chief of Police Larry Weeks announced that the inquiry is shifting from a missing persons case to a murder investigation.

There’s no new information leading to that decision, Weeks said. Instead, an assessment of all information collected prompted his decision.

“Back on the 19th of January our investigative team met and made an assessment of the information we’ve collected on the investigation up to this date,” he said. “Based on all the information we’ve collected, and not one particular thing, the decision was made by me to shift the focus of the investigation in this direction.”

Following that, he said, the boys’ mother, Tanya Skelton, was notified of the change.

Investigators said in November shortly after the boys disappeared that a positive ending to the case was not expected. Despite that, the Morenci Police Department and other law enforcement personnel have investigated dozens of tips and alleged sightings of the boys, but none have led to the location of the children.

Weeks gave two reasons for announcing the new focus to the public.

First, he wants people to be alert in the coming months.

“I need to have people in the spring, when they return to farming, camping, enjoying outdoor activities, to be mindful of the possibility that these boys are out there somewhere, and not be thinking that they’re with an organization.”

The children’s father, John Skelton, claims that the boys are with an organization that he says is called United Foster Outreach and Underground Sanctuaries. Investigators have been unable to verify the existence of an organization by that name.

“Based on my earlier comments, we don’t believe that any organization or the story about turning the kids over to an organization is a truthful one,” Weeks said.

He reviewed the locations that volunteers and law enforcement personnel searched after the boys disappeared, but emphasized that a much wider area could be involved.

The boys were last seen by a neighbor around 3:30 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. John Skelton went to the Fulton County Health Center for treatment of an ankle injury about 22 hours later, after he claimed to have botched a suicide attempt.

“That’s a significant window,” Weeks said. “They could have traveled great distances and I don’t want people thinking that’s the only area where they could be located or recovered.”

Weeks stated in November that a smaller window of time exists in which Skelton’s vehicle was apparently in the Holiday City, Ohio, area—sometime between 4:30 and 6:45 a.m. Friday, Nov. 26—but that’s a only small portion of the time he was gone.

“I don’t want people to get tied into that period of time,” he said. “I don’t want to frame it. I want people in this region to think, ‘I could be the one who sees them.’”

Another reason for the announcement is for the public to understand the direction of the investigation. A lot of false hope has been spread by John Skelton, Weeks said, and the new announcement will allow people to process the information accordingly.

Weeks said an obvious question now is to wonder when criminal charges will be filed. He said there is no timetable.

“The plan is to continue with our investigation and develop as much information as we can to support the case,” he said. “Ultimately, when the time is right, we’ll turn it over to the prosecutor’s office for review.”

Weeks was asked if a murder case can go forward without a victim. Michigan law does allow an individual to be charged for murder without a body, but that decision would have to be made by the prosecutor.

Weeks said by changing the focus of the investigation he hopes to narrow tips to those relating to a murder investigation.

The chief was asked about a statement attributed to John Skelton’s parents claiming that the boys mother had molested them.

“No report has been filed with our department of her molesting or abusing the children in any way,” Weeks said, nor was one filed in a Florida court where there was also a custody hearing.

Weeks said his office will continue to collect information and keep the county prosecutor informed. He also remains in contact with FBI and state police officials almost daily.

Weeks said he understands that the new focus of the investigation will be difficult for many people to accept because they’re holding out hope that the boys will be found safe.

“When you look at what our community has been through,” he said, “I think it’s difficult for people to wrap their head around losing another child.”

• Skelton family representative Kathye Herrera announced that the family has no plans for additional interviews and wishes to be left alone.

They support the auction planned March 19 to raise additional money for the reward fund, hoping that tips will help lead to the prosecution of anyone involved in harming the children.

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