MORENCI, Mich. (WXYZ) - Three little boys from South-central Michigan have been missing since Thanksgiving of last year. Their father, 39-year-old John Skelton, who may have been the last person to see them before they disappeared, will be sentenced Thursdayin a Lenawee County courtroom for unlawful imprisonment.
He could get up to fifteen years on that charge instead of the possible life sentence for the kidnapping charge he originally faced.
His sons, Alexander, Andrew and Tanner are now considered homicide victims despite the fact that no evidence of that crime has been found.
Some of the statements Skelton made that were analyzed by prosecutors and police likely came from Skelton’s pastor who was one of the first people to talk to John Skelton after it became clear that the boys were missing. As the spiritual leader of the Morenci United Methodist Church, Skelton knew and trusted Pastor Donna Galloway and asked for her as he waited for treatment in a hospital near the Michigan Ohio border.
What Pastor Donna says Skelton told her over several hours of conversation is shocking. What he told her over a cell phone just before he was arrested left her breathless. She collapsed on a hospital visiting room floor after hearing the words “I’ve sent them home."
Her discussions with Skelton started with simple questions.
“I asked him to start from the very beginning," the pastor told Action News.
Pastor Galloway was shaking, trying to talk between the tears as she recounted several conversations she had with Skelton. The first was in the hospital where Skelton was being treated for a broken ankle suffered in an apparent suicide attempt. Another while Skelton was in Toledo police custody in the city jail.
“I would listen to whatever he had to say, and do whatever I could to bring the boys home.” she said.
Skelton and his wife Tanya were separated at the time the boys went missing. She has since been granted a divorce.
Skelton had turned to his pastor for comfort, but she wanted answers about the missing children. “That’s when he said to me there was a big blank spot in his brain, it was like a big dark hole,” his pastor recounted to Action News.
“And” she added, “He didn’t know where the boys were, he didn’t know what happened, he didn’t know anything.”
Those first conversations were followed by a bizarre phone call from Skelton. Pastor Donna was still in the hospital; in a room where family had gathered along with an FBI agent. That’s when she says Skelton told her in an angry, impatient tone, he had “taken the boys home."
Not back to his wife Tanya, not to a relative, but, he had taken them home. He said the pastor, of all people, should know what he meant.
Action News Investigator Bill Proctor asked the pastor if, right then, she came to the conclusion that the boys were no longer with us.
“In my head,” she agreed, "in my head."
In a recent interview with John Skelton, Action News asked Skelton what he meant when he said he "sent [his sons] home.”
Was he suggesting that the children are dead?
Skelton answered, “Yeah, well the FBI and Donna were into that zone,” he told me, “and they would not listen or leave me alone, so I let them go on their rant.”
"So, it’s not true?” Bill Proctor asked Skelton.
“Oh, absolutely not,” he said.
Skelton told police repeatedly that he gave the boys to an un-named family to protect them from their mother. But there has been no proof that Skelton did what he claims.
Pastor Galloway says her early conversations with Skelton still haunt her. For more than eight months, she has encouraged her flock and the relatives of the missing boys to believe that one day the children will be found alive and well. But she has struggled with her own advice.
“I would like nothing more than to have some person pop up from the other end of nowhere and say I’m bringing them home. I didn’t think it’s going to happen," she said.
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