In a story that get stranger by the detail, police in Michigan are currently looking for three missing boys and having a difficult time finding out if the woman who John Skelton says kidnapped his three sons even exists. Skelton, 39, is recuperating with “mental health issues” in an Ohio hospital after attempting suicide by hanging. He says that a woman named Joann Taylor, someone he had met several years ago and had stayed in contact with online, had taken his three boys and was supposedly delivering them to their mother. According to the Associated Press, police responded to John Skelton’s claims by issuing an Amber Alert for the three boys on Friday.
By Saturday, however, local police, along with the Michigan State Police and the FBI, still had found no trace of Joann Taylor and were beginning to wonder if she even existed.
Skelton told police that he had not wanted his sons around when he committed suicide, so he had talked Joann Taylor into taking the boys to their mother. According to the Detroit Free Press, he said he last saw them in the backyard of his Morenci home on Thursday.
Morenci is a small Michigan town just north of the Ohio state line.
Taylor supposedly lives in southern Michigan. Skelton claims that he and the woman have had an online relationship for years. According to the Free Press, Skelton told police he had met Taylor and her husband a few years ago when he had assisted them after they had experienced vehicle trouble and he had stopped to help them. He and the couple remained in contact afterward, developing an online relationship.
Skelton, a long-haul trucker, had asked Taylor to take the boys back to their mother’s home. Skelton said his wife had recently filed for divorce and his sons had been staying with him for the holiday.
Skelton was hospitalized after an attempted suicide Friday. Police issued the Amber Alert the same day after hearing Skelton’s story. The Alert was issued for 9-year-old Andrew; 7-year-old Alexander; and 5-year-old Tanner. Authorities believe the boys might be in “extreme danger” as well.
The Associated Press reported that Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks was not ruling out John Skelton as a possible suspect in the investigation. “We haven’t ruled anything out, yet,” he said.
“The bulk of our action has been putting together a timeline and trying to locate this Joann Taylor,” Weeks told the Associated Press.
Taylor was last seen by Skelton driving a silver van. Authorities had as little success finding the vehicle as they had its driver.
“We’ve exhausted our resources at this point,” Chief Weeks told the Free Press Saturday.
Such uncorroborated stories generally lead to speculation of parental involvement in the disappearance of children. When law enforcement and rescue agencies are unable to verify the existence of an abductor or discover leads as to their existence, scrutiny focuses on the individual telling the story. Elaborate tales of kidnappings or carjackings usually accompany stories of missing children in these cases, and the stories are at times found to be artifices of teller.
The most famous of these types of cases was that of Susan Smith, the then 23-year-old mother who drove her car into a South Carolina lake in October 1994 with her two small boys still strapped into carseats inside the vehicle. She later told police that an unknown black man had carjacked her car. After the police found the vehicle, Smith’s story began to unravel. She was convicted in July 1995 of murdering her 3-year-old and 14-month-old sons and sentenced to life in prison.
The missing boys are all described as white males. Alexander William Skelton is 7 years old, 3′ 9″ inches tall, and weighs 45 pounds. He has brown eyes, brown hair and a scar at the hairline and on his chin.
Tanner Skelton is 5 years old, 3′ 6″ inches tall with blue eyes and blonde hair.
Andrew Skelton, 9, is 4 feet tall and has brown eyes and brown hair.
As yet, a description of the alleged abductor, Joann Taylor, has not been provided to the public.
(Pictures of the three missing boys can be found on the Associated Press and the Free Press articles and at MissingKids.com, the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.)
Police are asking that any information regarding the missing Skelton children, the alleged female abductor, or the silver vehicle be reported by calling 911, the Morenci Police Department at 517-458-2323, or Lenawee County Dispatch at 517-263-0524.
Associated Press, “Amber Alert Issued For 3 Michigan Brothers,” NPR.org
Gina Damron and Andrea K. Farmer, “Amber Alert issued for 3 boys missing from Lenawee County,” Freep.com