MORENCI, Mich. -- The father of three missing Morenci boys was moved from a hospital bed to a jail cell Tuesday hours after authorities said his children were presumed dead.
John Skelton, 39, was charged with three counts of parental kidnapping in connection with Friday's disappearance of his sons, Andrew, 9, Alexander, 7, and Tanner, 5, Skelton. The boys remain missing.
During a morning news conference, Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks delivered the news that friends, neighbors, and strangers working to find the three boys dreaded hearing -- he doesn't expect to find the children alive.
"There's been information that's developed since we last spoke," the chief said in a halting voice. "Based on the information we have, we do not anticipate a positive outcome here."
While Mr. Skelton has been charged in his children's disappearance, the chief said Mr. Skelton has not revealed what happened to the young boys or where they are now.
Mr. Skelton most recently had been hospitalized at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo following a suicide attempt on Friday. He told police he had given his sons to a woman named Joann Taylor and said she was to deliver the boys to their mother, who is his estranged wife, Tanya Skelton.
On Monday, Chief Weeks reported that Mr. Skelton had recanted his story about Joann Taylor.
Tuesday, Mr. Skelton was released from the hospital and moved to the Lucas County jail by FBI agents from Toledo.
When he arrived, deputies wheeled him inside the jail. He was wearing a hospital gown. Mr. Skelton was placed on suicide watch at the jail, authorities said.
An extradition hearing was expected to be held in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, which will enable authorities to move Mr. Skelton to Lenawee County, where the kidnapping charges were filed.
Meanwhile, the search for the boys continued in earnest Tuesday as school buses loaded with volunteers and firefighters were taken to walk along rural roads surrounding Morenci and in Fulton and Williams counties in Ohio.
People who turned out to again search for the boys said the news that the children are probably not alive did not change what they were there to do.
"Not in my eyes," said Joe Pruzinsky of Clayton, Mich. "It's very important to find them one way or the other for the family."
"I'm really hoping he gave them to somebody to hide," he said. "You always hope for that till it's over."
Mr. Skelton's mother, Roxann Skelton, appeared Monday on ABC's Good Morning America and tearfully said she believed the boys were safe.
She said she believed the story her son offered about handing over the three boys to a woman.
"Those boys are out there, terrified, but they are out there. They need to come home," she said.
Tuesday, she refused to answer questions when reached by The Blade at her home in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
"I cannot discuss John, so have a good day," she said.
Beverly Bovee of Morenci, who has been out looking for the boys every day since the search parties were organized on Saturday, said she doesn't plan to stop now.
"We know it's a recovery mission right now," Ms. Bovee said. "For Tanya and the family, we've got to. That's what it's about."
Michelle Van Dam of Alvordton, Ohio, went to school with Ms. Skelton in Morenci and showed up to search for the boys Tuesday after returning from a trip to Florida. She drives a motor coach for a living.
"After two or three days, you just assume," they won't be found alive, she said, adding that she couldn't help but "come home" to help with the search. "This is a small community. When you need everybody, everybody's here."
It may be a small town, but the story of the boys' disappearance has reached far beyond its corporation limits.
Carl Loeffler, 77, drove to Morenci from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, to walk along the roads and ditches in search of the boys. He said he'd never been to Morenci and didn't know anyone involved.
"I just felt the more people that get out and look around, the better the chances are of finding them," he said.
Mr. Loeffler said hearing the boys' story on the news struck a chord with him.
"I got very emotional about it. Raising six kids is part of it," he said, adding, "Not enough people care."
"We continue to talk to virtually all parties involved in this investigation, including Mr. Skelton," Chief Weeks said. "Statements that he's made to investigators would indi cate that it's not going to be a positive outcome."
He declined to be specific about what Mr. Skelton has told them.
The boys' mother has not spoken to the media, and family members did not attend Tuesday's news conferences.
Asked how Ms. Skelton had taken the news, the chief paused, then said, "Well, I guess my response to that would be, imagine your worst nightmare come true. How would you respond?"
The Rev. Donna Galloway, pastor of Morenci United Methodist Church, shook her head when asked how Ms. Skelton took the news that her children would not be coming home.
"I've been in close contact with the family, and just as the chief said, imagine your worst nightmare and then multiply it," Ms. Galloway said.
She asked for prayers for the family. The ordeal has been a huge strain on the family, the community, and her personally.
"I've done a lot of things. I've been through a lot of things. This is learning on the job," Ms. Galloway said. "For me, I'm just trusting and praying and doing, just loving and being. I've been very, very involved, and it's not easy."
Emily Hepker, 22, of Morenci, remembered the Skelton children as spirited little boys whom she enjoyed seeing as she jogged past their house.
"We'd run by the house and they'd be like 'Hey.' Not shy at all, just friendly," she said. "It's horrible. We know the outcome isn't good."
Like many, Chief Weeks included, she is frustrated by Mr. Skelton's unwillingness to lead law enforcement to the boys.
"Why can't he just tell us where they're at?" she asked.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.