MORENCI, Mich. – The father of three young brothers who have been missing since Thanksgiving was charged with their kidnapping on Tuesday, hours after police said it's unlikely the boys will be found alive.
John Skelton, 39, was arrested by FBI agents after his release from a medical facility in Lucas County, Ohio, where he had been being treated since attempting to hang himself on Friday.
Skelton was charged in Lenawee County, Mich., across the state border, with three counts of parental kidnapping, Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks said during a brief news conference.
Skelton was being held at the Lucas County jail and would be extradited back to Michigan, Weeks said.
Nine-year-old Andrew, 7-year-old Alexander and 5-year-old Tanner Skelton have not been seen since Thanksgiving, when they were with their father in Morenci.
John Skelton told detectives early on that he gave the boys to a female acquaintance to pass along to their mother, but police say that he was lying.
"Statements he made to investigators indicate it's not going to be a positive outcome," Weeks said earlier Tuesday before charges were announced. He declined to elaborate.
"He's been forthcoming with some information, the credibility of which we can't verify," Weeks added.
Later Tuesday, while announcing the charges against Skelton, Weeks said Skelton had asked for a lawyer and stopped talking to investigators.
Police released Skelton's photo and were looking for anyone who might have seen the boys or the Skelton's blue, Dodge Caravan between Thursday and Friday afternoon. Police seized the van, but were trying to determine where he may have taken them before he attempted suicide.
Weeks said their mother and Skelton's estranged wife, 45-year-old Tanya Skelton, 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.