ADRIAN — Accused of abducting his three sons who are presumed dead, John Skelton's only concern on Monday in a divorce hearing was the fate of his personal belongings he said were left in the house he shared with the boys and their mother.
He told Judge Margaret Noe he didn't want his estranged wife, Tanya Skelton, to sell their former home on East Congress Street in Morenci, Mich., because of uncertainty about items he left there.
"You give my wife sole use of the house. There was no courtesy call after she got the property she wanted out of the house," Mr. Skelton said during the hearing in Lenawee County Circuit Court.
Mrs. Skelton filed for divorce from her husband Sept. 13, more than two months before the boys disappeared. Mr. Skelton, 39, who is being held in the county jail in lieu of $30 million bond, is charged with three counts each of kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment.
A preliminary examination on the six charges is scheduled for June 3 in Lenawee County District Court. The charges carry a sentence that could keep him locked up for life.
The boys — Andrew, 9, Alexander, 7, and Tanner, 5 — were last seen playing in the backyard of their father's home in Morenci on Thanksgiving Day.
Judge Noe denied Mr. Skelton's objection to selling the house, allowing Mrs. Skelton's attorney, David McFarland, to sell or list the property, which is in foreclosure.
The judge told Mr. Skelton that the purpose of yesterday's hearing was not to address personal property but instead to act on Mrs. Skelton's request for permission to sell the house.
Mr. McFarland said his client has a potential buyer who wants to purchase the property by assuming the debt on it, and the judge's permission was needed so the buyer could arrange financing.
He said Mr. Skelton's belongings had been removed from the house.
"My objection is the property that is going to be lost in the sale of the house. Why there is no property in the house I don't know," said Mr. Skelton, who doesn't have an attorney in the divorce case.
In granting the request, Judge Noe ordered that Mr. Skelton be notified before the transaction is completed.
With the decision about selling the home, the only issues remaining to be settled in the divorce will be custody of the three boys and parenting time. A trial on the divorce is scheduled for June 7.
The search for the boys shifted to a murder investigation on Feb. 1 when Morenci police Chief Larry Weeks announced that evidence indicated there was little hope they would be found alive. In the weeks that have followed, authorities have released no new information on the case.
— Mark Reiter