ADRIAN -- The father accused of kidnapping his three sons refused Thursday to tell a Lenawee County judge the name of the person who he claims took the children from his Morenci home three weeks ago.
Testifying in a civil hearing in Circuit Court, John Skelton said his sons -- Andrew, 9, Alexander, 7, and Tanner Skelton, 5 -- are with an "organization," but he refused to divulge its name or where the boys are being held.
He testified that he handed over the boys to a "person" who came to his house on Thanksgiving night in a van, but he didn't know the person's name, only that the individual belonged to the organization.
"I would rather not say," was Mr. Skelton's response to Judge Margaret Noe when she asked what organization has his children.
Mr. Skelton, 39, faces criminal charges in an unrelated case for allegedly kidnapping the boys.
He is being held in the county jail in lieu of $30 million bond on three counts of felony parental kidnapping/custodial interference.
The boys were last seen in the backyard of Mr. Skelton's home on Thanksgiving Day and reported missing by their mother the next day, which was when Mr. Skelton was taken to a Wauseon hospital to get treated for an ankle injury suffered in an apparent suicide attempt.
Mr. Skelton, an unemployed truck driver, initially told police he had given his three sons to a woman named Joann Taylor and said she was to deliver the boys to their mother, Tanya Skelton, a story that investigators said days later was not true.
He was arrested Nov. 30 after he was released from a Toledo hospital and held in the Lucas County jail until Wednesday when he waived a detention hearing and was return to Michigan.
Under a mutual agreement between the couple in their ongoing divorce case, Judge Noe signed an order Oct. 11 giving Mr. Skelton parenting time with the boys after school on each Wednesday until 7 p.m. and from 5 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Sunday every other weekend.
Judge Noe revoked the father's visitation rights on Nov. 29, giving the boy's mother exclusive custody of their sons.
Thursday's hearing in the divorce case was held in response to Ms. Skelton's motion to have Judge Noe begin the process to have her husband held in contempt of court for failing to abide by the visitation order and return the boys to her.
Judge Noe told Mr. Skelton he could be found in contempt of court and could be kept in jail if he continued to refuse to provide information he may have about the location of his sons.
Mr. Skelton said that he was "unable," not unwilling, to tell Judge Noe what he knows about where his sons are being held.
Judge Noe appointed Adrian attorney John Glaser to represent him in the divorce proceeding.
His former attorney, Harvey Koselka, asked to be removed from the case, in part, because he had not had any communication with his client in at least six weeks.
Mr. Glaser was appointed Wednesday to represent Mr. Skelton on the criminal charges. Judge Noe continued the pretrial custody hearing to Jan. 28.
Ms. Skelton, 44, testified she last saw the children the day before Thanksgiving.
"Their father picked them up from [my parents'] house. I was not in town. He took them for Thanksgiving and he was to return them to my home around 3 p.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and that has not happened," she told Judge Noe.
In response to questions from her attorney, David McFarland, and Judge Noe, she said she traded texts and talked to her estranged husband that Friday on the phone in an attempt to locate her sons while he was at the hospital.
"He indicated he had given them to a woman named Joann Taylor and she would be returning them to me," Ms. Skelton said.
Ms. Skelton also told the judge she does not know where her children are.
"I have not had access to talk to him," she said of her estranged husband.
Through most of Thursday's proceeding, Ms. Skelton sat at a table beside her attorney and rested her chin on clasped hands.
Her husband, dressed in a red jail jumpsuit, was seated in a wheelchair at the table beside hers. He appeared without an attorney and was surrounded by three sheriff's deputies.
The Morenci Police Department said Thursday they had received about 900 tips concerning the case, including alleged sightings of the boys, who have been the subject of a massive search.
So far, police said, none of those sightings have been confirmed.
Earlier, Morenci police Chief Larry Weeks said he did not expect the case to have a "positive outcome," signalling that the boys were likely dead.
The City of Morenci also announced the establishment of a reward fund for information leading to the return or recovery of the Skelton children.
Donations to that fund would be added to a $10,000 reward already provided by an anonymous donor.
In a statement, Morenci officials said the hope is that a larger reward will provide a greater incentive for people with information about the boys to come forward.
Anyone who would like to donate to the fund may do so at any First Federal Bank branch, or mail their donation with attention to the "Skelton Reward Fund" to: First Federal Bank, 601 North Clinton St., Defiance, OH 43512.
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199