ADRIAN -- The father of three missing boys made his first appearance Wednesday before a Lenawee County judge through a video hookup on charges that he unlawfully kept the children from their mother.
John Skelton, 39, who is charged with three counts of parental kidnapping/custodial interference, was seated in a wheelchair during the 10-minute hearing.
A video monitor in the courtroom allowed Judge James Sheridan and the defendant, who was in the county jail, to view and talk to each other. About 15 television and newspaper reporters watched a 20-inch monitor above the spectator seating area in the courtroom.
After reading the charges filed against Mr. Skelton in Lenawee County District Court, Judge Sheridan continued his bond at $30 million, or $10 million for each charge, and continued the case until Dec. 28, when a preliminary hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m.
Mr. Skelton told the judge that he didn't have enough money to hire an attorney and asked for a public defender.
When questioned by Judge Sheridan about his assets, he said he only had about $20 in a checking account.
According to paperwork he completed on Tuesday after he arrived at the Lenawee County jail, Mr. Skelton declared ownership of a 2000 Dodge Caravan minivan, on which he makes $100 monthly payments, and claimed no savings.
The unemployed truck driver said he must make $373 monthly child support payments to his wife and owes $55 a month on credit card debt and $50 a month on student loans.
Judge Sheridan appointed attorney John Glaser to represent Mr. Skelton.
Mr. Skelton was brought back to Michigan and placed in the jail on Tuesday after waiving extradition in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
He was arrested Nov. 30 after he was released from Mercy St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, where he was treated following a failed suicide attempt in his Morenci home.
His sons, Andrew, 9; Alexander, 7, and Tanner Skelton, 5, were last seen on Thanksgiving Day in the backyard of Mr. Skelton's Morenci home and reported missing by their mother, Tanya Skelton, the next day.
The complaint accuses him of taking or retaining for more than 24 hours each of the boys with the intent to detain or conceal them from their mother. Each offense is punishable by up to one year and one day in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Neither Prosecutor Jonathan Poer, who filed the charges Nov. 30 in district court, or an assistant prosecutor from his office was in the courtroom.
In an interview after the hearing, Mr. Glaser said he had just learned from the court that he was appointed and said his knowledge of the case was limited to media coverage.
"I don't know anything about this other than what I have read in newspapers or watched on television," he said.
Mr. Glaser, a longtime lawyer in the city, graduated from the University of Toledo college of law in 1984 and was licensed later that year to practice in Michigan. He made an unsuccessful attempt to be elected district judge in the November.
Family members of Tanya Skelton or Mr. Skelton didn't attend the hearing. However, the court session did attract a handful of spectators, including Jeff Glore and his father, Dale Glore of Morenci. Both men said they believe the boys are alive.
"I wish in a way he would tell where those kids are at," said Dale Glore, a retired janitor for Morenci Schools.
"I hoped that he would tell where the kids are at so they can bring them home," said Jeff Glore of Adrian. "For the families, I just want them home safe. I want the town to get back to normal."
Mr. Glore, a 1984 Morenci High School graduate, said he joined the hundreds of volunteers who searched in vain for the boys the week after Thanksgiving around Morenci and Ohio.
Jodi Perez of Adrian said she went to the hearing out of concern for the missing boys' family. "We just came to show support for the boys," she said.
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.