The father of three missing Michigan boys has been charged with three counts of parental kidnapping, authorities announced Tuesday, as hope fades for finding the boys alive.

Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks said John Skelton was arrested by FBI agents after he was released Tuesday from a medical facility in Lucas County, Ohio. He said Skelton has been charged with parental kidnapping in the disappearance of his sons, 9-year-old Andrew, 7-year-old Alexander and 5-year-old Tanner Skelton. 

Authorities said earlier that it's looking less likely that the boys -- who have been missing since a Thanksgiving Day visit to their father's home -- will be found alive, though no murder charges have yet been filed. The announcement did not stop searchers from scouring the countryside for a fourth day hoping for a happy ending.

Weeks, looking tired and strained, chose his words carefully as he addressed the efforts to find the children. Skelton, 39, tried to hang himself Friday, and police have determined that he lied about giving the boys to a female acquaintance to pass along to their mother.

"Statements he made to investigators indicate it's not going to be a positive outcome," Weeks told reporters, volunteers and some members of the boys' extended family Tuesday morning.

"He's been forthcoming with some information, the credibility of which we can't verify," Weeks said of Skelton, who underwent psychiatric treatment at a hospital. 

Police released Skelton's photo on Tuesday and are looking for anyone who may have seen the boys or the Skeltons' blue, Dodge Caravan between Thursday and Friday afternoon. Police have seized the van, but were trying to determine where Skelton may have taken them before he attempted suicide.

Weeks said their mother, 45-year-old Tanya Skelton, who is Skelton's estranged wife, was told about the search's possible outcome.

Her reaction: "Imagine your worst nightmare come true," Weeks said. "How would you respond?"

For a fourth day Tuesday, crews searched the woods and fields around Morenci, about 75 miles southwest of Detroit and just north of the Ohio state line.

The purpose of the search may have changed, but it will continue, vowed Bill Foster of Morenci, who was wearing the names of the boys on the back of his yellow vest.

"It's not what you wanted to hear," he said. "The whole community had been hoping for a Christmas miracle.

"We're very saddened by the news, but the search has to continue. We won't quit the search until we bring the boys home."

Foster said locals began searching fields and woods on Saturday. They joined police efforts when those started.

Lenawee County sheriff's Corporal Jeff Paterson said woods, ponds, creeks, clumps of trees, tilled cornfields, roadsides and barns in Ohio and Michigan were searched Monday. He expected more of the same Tuesday.

"As long as tips continue to come in, we'll stay on it," he said.

The boys last were seen on Thanksgiving in their father's Morenci backyard.

Tanya Skelton filed for divorce in September. A judge gave her custody of the boys, but she and John Skelton reached an agreement on visitation.

She reported the boys missing Friday.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report