Skelton boys still missing after a year 2011.11.30

Written by David Green.

skeltons at lakeBy DAVID GREEN

“Our lives are going to change in a big way.”

That’s the message Morenci Chief of Police Larry Weeks told the city’s mayor, Keith Pennington, a year ago after the sudden disappearance of Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton.

Pennington recounted that phone call Sunday afternoon in the high school gymnasium when he faced an audience of several hundred people gathered to observe the one-year anniversary of the brothers’ absence.

Pennington said he wanted to bring a bag of cash and dump the $60,000 reward fund onto the stage to remind people it’s still here, ready to go to anyone providing information about the case.

“Now is the time to come forward,” he told the crowd, but noted that the big break will likely have to come from the boys’ father, John Skelton.

Skelton is serving a sentence of 10 to 15 years at the Chippewa Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, Mich., after pleading no contest to unlawful imprisonment of the boys.

When it was Chief Weeks’ turn to speak, he recounted stories about the people from dozens of agencies and organizations that have assisted the Morenci police in investigating the case.

He told of FBI agents and Michigan State Police officers refusing to leave for a rest and occasionally falling asleep in their chairs.

The chief said it pains him when he’s not able to give all the details of the case, especially when he’s unable to provide all the answers that people want to hear. He continues to do everything he can think of to work toward resolution of the case, such as the distribution of flyers last week at the intersection of Morenci Road and U.S. 127.

“When I go to bed at night and lay my head on the pillow, I want to know I’ve done everything I can do,” he said.

Weeks said he’s occasionally asked if it’s a cold case and his answer is that it definitely is not.

“We hold up hope that we’re going to solve this case,” he said.

It’s a matter of “when” and not “if,” repeating what he’s heard others involved in the case say. That’s the attitude he hears frequently and it’s what gives him the strength to carry on.

At the end of his talk, Chief Weeks received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Michigan State Police trooper Sarah Krebs, who works with missing person cases, said Morenci is very fortunate to have such a close relationship with Chief Weeks and his department. That’s something she doesn’t see in all communities.

Krebs, a detective and forensic artist with the state police, said people are often critical of missing person investigations, thinking that officers just aren’t doing enough. She agrees that in years past there were weaknesses, but she believes procedures have been strengthened and gaps filled to create a much better system, including communication with family members and the public.

Krebs praised the support of the community in working to solve the case.

“I’m happy to see Morenci has taken volunteerism to heart,” she said. “Continue to do this. Do everything you can so it doesn’t happen again.”

A slideshow highlighting some of Michigan’s missing persons indicated that more than 3,000 people in the state are unaccounted for—many for a decade and more.

“I would like to congratulate the Morenci community for its support of the Skelton family and I really hope you continue to help in your efforts,” Trooper Krebs said.

tanya hugTanya Zuvers, the mother of the missing boys, said afterward that she was pleased with how the program went. This was the first event that she and her daughters planned, from beginning to end, and it went even better than anticipated.

“I feel that we accomplished what we wanted by keeping it out there that Andrew, Alexander and Tanner are still missing,” she said. “Until they are brought home, we will not stop.”

Once again, she said, people from Morenci and the surrounding area came to give comfort to the family.

“We are blessed by all the outpouring of support,” she said.

  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.
  • Front.starting
    BIKE-A-THON—Children in Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program brought their bikes last Tuesday to participate in a bike-a-thon. Riders await the start of the event at the elementary school before being led on a course through town by organizer Leonie Leahy.
  • Front.train
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