It was a matter of minutes that John Skelton was in front of a Lenawee County Circuit Court judge on Wednesday morning. The pre-trial hearing ended with the case being sent back to district court, so Skelton can be arraigned on the new charges. In addition to parental kidnapping, 39-year-old Skelton faces, three counts each of unlawful imprisonment and kidnapping, which carry a life in prison penalty if convicted. 7-year-old Alexander, 5-year-old Tanner and 9-year-old Andrew have been missing since Thanksgiving. Their father maintains that he does not know where they are.
"I think justice will take place as it needs to be and we're all accepting that," said Leasa Slocum who lives and works in Morenci.
The Morenci community is anxious for this case to move forward and some are clinging to a dimming hope.
"I think in a way we're all still hopeful because it's the unknown. We're just hopeful that they'll pop up alive but because of how the investigation has turned it's in the back of everyone's mind [and we're] coming to accept that it's not going to be the best outcome," said Slocum.
While no murder charges have been filed, Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks has declared this a homicide investigation and many in Morenci say it has gripped this community and changed them forever.
"You still look on the side of the road; you still look as the snow goes away. You're still watching," said Slocum.
Yellow ribbons have been put up all over the city to signify solidarity and to support each other as many now look for closure.
An auction supporting the Skelton brothers reward fund has been set up. It's happening March 19, 2011. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the auction starts at 6 p.m. Proceeds benefit the law enforcement and prosecution that are working on this case. Any remaining funds will go toward new playground equipment in the city. For more information on the auction, click on the link below.