Missing Skelton boys: Trial date set for mother wishing for court to declare them dead

The mother of the Skelton brothers - missing since 2010 -  wants the court to declare them legally dead.

On Thursday Tanya Zuvers moved one step closer with a pretrial hearing to declare Andrew, Alexander, and Tanner deceased in Lenawee County Probate Court.

In Michigan, a person is typically considered to be dead after they have been missing for five years. It was an unusual hearing, but this has not been an ordinary case for years.

In November 2010- the three Skelton brothers - then 9-year-old Andrew, 7-year-old Alexander, and 5-year-old Tanner Skelton - from Morenci Michigan mysteriously disappeared. They have never been found.

Their father, John Skelton, claimed they were given to an underground sanctuary to protect them from their mother. Yet officials didn’t believe the father and charged him with child abandonment.

He was convicted- and sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison. But he is scheduled to be released in November 2025.

John Skelton (Photo: MDOC)

"Suzanne Wilhelm, representing the Skelton boys," said Wilhelmina.

And John Skelton has kept quiet and didn’t even attend Thursday’s final pretrial.

"He was able to hear everything that was said, even though he indicated he could not," said Burke Castleberry, the attorney for Zuvers.

And John Skelton has kept quiet and didn’t even attend Thursday’s final pretrial.

Tanya Zuvers filed the paperwork last December. 

"This decision came after much thought and discussion with my family and friends. It did not come lightly and was definitely a difficult decision to make. No parent wants to lose a child, but to have to have the courts step in and declare them deceased is just unfathomable," Zuvers wrote in a statement last week.

"The unit has been logged in for sometime, but I don’t see anybody in there," Judge Catherine Sala said.  "We are ready to proceed to trial."

Judge Sala set the case for a trial, starting July 29th. 

At the time of the case, Zuvers said she stopped hearing from John Skelton, so she went to his house. He wasn't home because he was at a hospital after he broke his ankle. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, he told hospital workers that he injured his ankle while trying to commit suicide.

Police were able to get into his home, where they found the house destroyed, but the boys weren't there.

John Skelton is accused of changing the story of where they were while he was at the hospital. He said they were with friends before telling investigators that the boys were given to an unknown woman. He also told police that he gave them to an underground group that would keep them safe.

According to the statement from Zuvers, John Skelton previously "claimed that the boys would hibernate until they graduate." All three boys are now old enough that they would have graduated from high school.