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Published: Thursday, 7/28/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

Family, police respond to no contest pleas by Morenci father

Andrew, top left, Tanner, middle, and Alexander Skelton have been missing since Thanksgiving Day. Andrew, top left, Tanner, middle, and Alexander Skelton have been missing since Thanksgiving Day.

ADRIAN, Mich. — The father of three missing Michigan boys pleaded no contest in Lenawee County Circuit Court Thursday morning, but the plea will not interfere with the ongoing investigation into the boys’ disappearance, investigators said in a statement.

John Skelton, 30, of Morenci, entered the plea on three counts of unlawful imprisonment. Other charges against him are expected to be dropped.

“We believe the plea agreement in this case represents what a jury would likely have concluded based upon the facts and evidence as currently developed and assures separate felony convictions for each victim,” according to the joint statement released late Thursday from Lenawee County Prosecutor Jonathan Poer and Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks.

They said the plea agreement was entered into with the support of the Morenci Police Department, the Lenawee County Prosecutor’s Office, and Tayna Skelton, the boys’ mother, along with her family. Investigators continue to pursue a final resolution.

Mr. Skelton’s three boys — Andrew, 9, Alexander, 7, and Tanner, 5 — have been missing since Thanksgiving. He has repeatedly told investigators that the boys are with an underground sanctuary group.

Family friend and spokesperson Kathye Herrera said the family supports all decisions made by law enforcement.

“There is a sense of discouragement that John will not receive the sentence he deserves,” she said in a separate statement, also released late Thursday. “However our focus is still on Andrew, Alexander, and Tanner and this will not be over until the boys come home.”

Police have said they are considering the case to be a murder investigation.

The judge will be given a police report or other documents for the judge to review and then decide “whether or not she can find him guilty,” a court official said. The hearing was not on the morning docket, a court clerk said.

Sentencing is set for 8:15 a.m. Sept. 15 in Judge Margaret Noe’s court.

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