Morenci school administrators have thoroughly discussed how staff members will respond when the Skelton brothers are found, preparing for both the best and the worst cases.
One thing not discussed previously, said Superintendent of Schools Michael Osborne, was a response for a protracted period of time during which neither good nor bad news arrives.
That’s the current situation, three weeks after Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton disappeared from their father’s house in Morenci on the day after Thanksgiving.
Their father, John Skelton, has remained in the Lucas County Jail with a charge of parental kidnapping and is offering no information about the boys’ location.
Morenci police chief Larry Weeks expected Skelton to be transferred to the Lenawee County Jail sometime this week following his extradition hearing Tuesday morning.
And that’s where the news ends.
It may appear that not much is happening with the investigation, but Chief Weeks will tell you otherwise. FBI agents remain in Morenci, continuing to sift through tips in a relentless search for the brothers.
“My whole focus is bringing these kids back,” Weeks said Monday.
The lull in the news doesn’t make it any easier for the boys’ mother, Tanya, who constantly waits for an update at the home of her parents, Don and Beverly Zuvers.
“I can’t put my phone down,” Tanya said Monday afternoon. “I sleep with this thing in my hand because 24/7 someone could call.”
Everyone in the house is waiting for that one, important phone call.
“If the phone rings, everybody just kind of jumps,” said family friend Kathye Herrera. “It’s hard to make a routine. It puts a whole new spin on your life.”
“We think of how our lives are turned upside down,” Bev said, “but you think of all the other families who are suffering, and the classrooms that have little holes in them. It’s not just us.”
“I want to wrap those kids in a hug and tell them, ‘I’m sorry that you’re having to deal with this,’” Tanya said. “No child should have to go to bed wondering, ‘Where are my friends? Why did this happen?’ That’s when all the anger comes to the surface.”
That anger is always soothed by reflecting on what others have given to help in the search for the boys. So much love and compassion has been shown, Kathye said.
“Morenci is the core and it’s just radiated out,” Bev added.
Volunteers from as far away as Texas. Someone who came down with a search dog from Ontario. Strangers who came from the Detroit area to attend the prayer vigil. So many gifts of food. Cards and letters from children. A woman who searched for five days simply because her granddaughter went to school with one of the boys. A card from a stranger in California. A donation of money from someone in Zeeland, Mich. The devotion shown by the FBI agents and other law enforcement personnel who spend day after day away from their own families.
The list goes on and on.
“I can’t find the words other than ‘thank you,’” Tanya said. “It seems small. It doesn’t seem enough for what they’re doing for my sons.”
Those thoughts help keep a positive attitude in the Zuvers house where hope for the best remains.
“I don’t think they’re gone, as their mom,” Tanya said, and Bev agrees.
“We feel they’re out there somewhere,” she said. “I just feel they’re with somebody.”
“They’re still with a stranger,” Don added. “They need to be back here in Morenci at home.”
Tanya remembers her last memory of being together at home with the boys, shortly before Thanksgiving. The youngest two had a disagreement about something, crying resulted, and soon all three boys were on the sofa, sitting on Tanya’s lap.
“We said a family prayer, everybody participated, and by the time we were done everybody was laughing and hugging. That happened Tuesday night. That’s my happy memory,” Tanya said, “and it’s the one I’m holding on to.”
Grandparents describe the three boys
Tanya Skelton and her parents, Don and Beverly Zuvers, spent a few minutes Monday afternoon talking about the missing brothers.
“They’re three all-American boys,” Don said.
Tanner, 5, is the story teller who will spin a tale as serious as can be, but it’s an unbelievable story, such as the time he went deer hunting with a boomerang.
“Is that true, Tanner?” Don would ask about a story.
“Nah, I’m just pulling your leg,” Tanner would answer.
Alexander, 7, is the tech guy among the brothers. He’s always looking for an old cell phone to play with, and his grandparents always keep one charged so he can take photos—and pretend to make a call.
“He’s the boy with a thousand questions,” Don said.
“Don’t tell me it’s red,” Bev said. “Tell me why it’s red.”
Andrew, 9, is the analytical son. Very sensitive, very smart—the one who will quietly sit observing things trying to figure out the whole picture.
Bev recalls a time when Andrew disputed something—maybe it was a rule about bicycle riding—and he came up and put his around her and said, “Grandma, I think we need to talk about this.”
Family members urge people anywhere to contact the Morenci Police Department with any leads (517/458-7104).
“Everywhere you go, look around,” said family friend Kathye Herrera, “because you never know.”