Search for three missing boys shifts to northwest Ohio

Andrew Skelton, Alexander Skelton, Tanner Skelton have been missing since Thanksgiving Day, 2010.

Authorities have shifted their search for three missing Morenci, Mich. brothers to areas around Pioneer in Williams County, Ohio.

The three boys were last seen on Thanksgiving Day before their father tried to kill himself.

An Amber Alert was issued Friday for Tanner Skelton, 5; Alexander Skelton, 7; and Andrew Skelton, 9. The boys were last seen in the backyard of their East Congress St. home on Thursday. They were reported missing by their mother, Tanya Skelton.

John Skelton, 39, of Morenci, told investigators that he didn't want the boys in his house when he committed suicide, so he asked a woman named Joann Taylor to take them to their mother, who is separated from Skelton. Authorities now say they have ruled out any reported relationship between a Joann Taylor and Skelton.

In a press conference Monday morning, Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks said authorities remain hopeful that the boys are still alive. The focus of their search has now shifted to areas of Williams County, just south of the Ohio-Michigan border in Ohio. A command center has been set up in Pioneer, with a search extending to Holiday City and Kunkle.

A fixed wing aircraft has been brought in to help with the search.

Authorities are also asking the public if they saw a blue 2000 Dodge Caravan anywhere near the Ohio-Michigan border or Ohio Turnpike late Thursday or Friday. The minivan's license plate is 9JO H93.

A prayer vigil was held for the boys Sunday night after the conclusion of that day's search of fields, farmland and wooded areas along the Ohio-Michigan border. Authorities, including FBI child abduction teams and behavorial science experts, have used planes and search dogs to scour areas along the state line. Numerous police and volunteers have also joined in the search for the missing boys.

Weeks says Skelton is being treated at a hospital in Ohio for "mental health issues" after trying to hang to hang himself Friday. When asked if Skelton was a suspect in his sons' disappearance, Weeks said: "We haven't ruled anything out yet." Investigators continue to have conversations with Skelton regarding his sons.

John Skelton's mother, Roxann Skelton of Jacksonville, Fla., told the Detroit Free Press that her son wouldn't hurt his children. "I know my son, he's not a monster," she told the newspaper. "He's a good son and he would not harm his boys. I know those children are, you know, still with us."

Friends said the Skelton boys, before being reported missing, started celebrating the holidays early by making greeting cards. One of the older brothers wrote "Jesus is awesome" on his and drew a Nativity scene, said Kathye Herrera, a friend of Tanya Skelton. "They love church. They love the interaction, and they know all about Jesus."

If you have any information you are asked to call the Morenci Police Department at 517-458-7104.

(The Associated Press contributed to this article. All Rights Reserved.)