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.little Ball
    Fayette's Demetrious Whiteside (left)Skylar Lester attempt to keep the ball from going out of bounds during Morenci's recent basketball tournament for fourth and fifth grade teams. Morenci's Andrew Schmidt stands by.
  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.

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