By DAVID GREEN
When Tanya Zuvers attended a “Missing in Michigan” event last year, she heard some state troopers talking about age progression photographs.
They told her the service is provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and they said she could participate if interested.
“I had no hesitation,” she said. “Let’s do it.”
The photos show what her three boys might look like now, two years after they went missing from their father’s house.
It’s somewhat of an odd concept, she admits, but an intriguing one.
“I have two nieces who were born about the same time as Andrew and they look different than they did two years ago,” she said.
She remembers viewing the age-progressed photos for the first time with her daughter, Brittany, on her phone and thinking, “That’s not my boys.”
Brittany’s young daughter, Emma, was looking also. She knows who her uncles are, Tanya said, and she tries to say their names as she learns to speak.
“She took the phone from my hand and pointed at Alexander and said the word she uses for him,” Tanya said.
That experience made it easier for Tanya to look at the photographs of her sons who were 9, 7 and 5 years old when they disappeared. If Emma could see the likeness, she knew she should take a closer look herself. She has an image frozen in her mind, but it’s now two years old and the boys were growing fast.
“The longer I look at them, the more I can see where it’s possible that’s how they could look,” she said.
Showing off the new photos was supposed to be part of the two-year observance scheduled Sunday at Wakefield Park, but Tanya knows that “everybody” has seen them by now after they started making the rounds on Facebook.
Still on the agenda Sunday at Wakefield Park is the unveiling of a plaque showing the three boys. The plaque is now attached to a memorial rock that was placed at the park last year when three trees were planted.
Concern was expressed to her about people leaving memorials, flowers and trinkets at the rock.
“That’s not what we want,” Tanya said. “This isn’t to become a ‘shrine.’ The trees are just to provide shade and the rock is a place to sit.”
She said if the case has a positive outcome—if the boys are found alive—the rock would be moved to her house. If the resolution of the incident is not a positive one, the rock would be used as a grave marker at the cemetery.
After the plaque is unveiled, the event will move to the fire station for refreshments and to create paper Christmas decorations that will be laminated at the elementary school and hung in the three trees at the park.
“The boys loved Christmas,” Tanya said. “We’ll do some things the boys would enjoy doing just to keep the awareness out there that they’re still gone.”
A bake sale is also planned, along with other fund raising activities, to raise money for AAT Awareness (Andrew, Alexander and Tanner). Funds are used to print flyers about the missing boys. Tanya said she’s asked occasionally if fliers are available for someone traveling to another state.
Finally, Chinese lanterns will be on sale to take to Wakefield Park for launching. The lanterns fill like a hot air balloon and rise into the air before burning out and returning to earth.
Meeting the press
Tanya says she has developed a relationship with the media that ranges from toleration to affection. She’s grown close to some reporters; others have not produced the same reaction.
She gave two interviews on Saturday, became unavailable on Sunday, and followed up with five more on Monday.
“It’s exhausting. It’s draining. I start to feel like I’m a broken record.”
But she knows it’s important in her effort to make people remember. Her sons are still missing and she wants them back home.
Still a murder investigation
Although there’s been no shortage of tips related to the missing Skelton boys, their disappearance remains a mystery. With the second anniversary of their absence approaching, the Morenci Police Department has received inquiries from several media outlets asking about the status of the case.
Morenci Chief of Police Larry Weeks issued a press release this week stating that the investigation remains active and at the forefront of the department members’ thoughts and prayers.
“As of this date, we have received approximately 1,300 tips and continue to encourage people to report any information they may have regarding this incident,” Weeks said. “A reward of up to $60,000 for information leading to the whereabouts of the Skelton children remains available.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s has released age progression photos of the children, and Weeks said he has no objection to that.
“However, the position of the investigation task force remains the same,” he said. “That is, that the facts of this case lead us to believe that John Russell Skelton murdered his sons and likely disposed of them during the early morning hours of Nov. 26, 2010.”
Since that date, Skelton has continued to tell his version of the events which the police say are wrought with inconsistencies.
“His choice to hide behind this outlandish story is selfish and cowardly,” Chief Weeks said. “If he cared about his sons at all he would disclose the truth and bring resolution to this case.”