Authorities in Michigan are working with Montana police to determine whether the remains of three children found in a shed in Missoula belong to three brothers who went missing in 2010.
Workers cleaning out a rental home in Missoula on September 27, after the previous tenants were evicted, discovered a box of bones in an outdoor shed.
On Wednesday, police in Montana said they had identified the remains as belonging to three children, one between the ages of two and four, one between five and eight and the eldest between six and 10.
The discovery caused shockwaves 1,500 miles away in Morenci, Michigan, where three brothers went missing seven years ago.
Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton were nine, seven and five years old at the time of their disappearance, matching the ages of the remains found.
Police are investigating whether the bones of three children found in Missoula, Montana are the three Skelton brothers who went missing in 2010. Andrew (center), Alexander (right) and Tanner (left) where nine, seven, and five years old in November 2010 when their father failed to return them to their mother after Thanksgiving
The boys' mother is pictured above in November 2011, a year after their disappearance
Authorities cautioned against raising hopes too soon, since there's nothing as of yet that connects the bones to the three brothers other than the age range.
But Montana and Michigan authorities are now working together to conduct further forensic testing on the remains, to try and match them to the brothers.
'Nothing we've been able to connect them too yet, however, we are working with the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children, and other missing person databases to see if that's a possibility,' Sgt. Travis Welsh told MTN News.
'The thing is, there are missing children all over the world. And the thing is, we don't know that this particular case is isolated to the city of Missoula. We don't know where the bones came from, and if they were transported from one area to another, and ended up here,' he added.
The Michigan State Police said in a statement: 'Further forensic testing has been requested by police in Montana that may provide more answers. Until this testing is completed and additional investigation by law enforcement in Montana occurs, it cannot be determined if these remains belong to the missing Skelton brothers.'
The remains were found in a box inside this small outdoor shed attached to a rental home in Missoula, Montana
The boys' mother, Tanya Zuvers, says she still hopes that her sons are alive but she knows that realistically they are probably dead.
On Thursday, she took to Facebook and appeared hopeful for some closure in the case.
'This information has just been presented to our family within the last several hours,' Zuvers wrote. 'We are processing it and hopeful that we will have answers soon. We are thankful for all your thoughts and prayers.'
The three boys went missing after Zuvers let them spend Thanksgiving with their father, John Skelton, in November 2010.
The boys' father John Skelton was sentenced to 10-15 years in prison after pleading no contest to unlawful imprisonment. He's pictured on the left in December 2010 and on the right in March 2011
Volunteers are pictured above searching for the boys in a field outside Pioneer, Ohio on December 1, 2010
She reported them missing the next day when her ex failed to return the kids.
At first, Skelton said the children had been with friends. But he later changed his story and said that he had given them to an underground organization to protect them from their mother.
In 1998, Zuvers pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual conduct after she was accused of having sex with a 14-year-old boy and her ex claimed that she had started to prey on her own children.
Zuvers denied the claim.
Cellphone data showed that on the morning of Thanksgiving, he drove down into Ohio and then returned home.
Last year, the authorities released pictures showing what the boys would look like six years older. From left to right - Andrew, Alexander and Parker
At one point, he said that he gave the kids to an Amish group, and there are many Amish communities in Ohio.
But the boys were never found.
The Morenci police chief has previously said that he believes the father killed the boys, but he was never charged with that crime.
Eventually Skelton was charged with unlawful imprisonment and parental kidnapping.
The latter charge was later dropped and in September 2011, Skelton pleaded no contest to unlawful imprisonment and was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison.
He still refuses to say what organization he allegedly handed the kids over to. Authorities said they are not sure whether he has been informed of the latest lead in the case.
Montana authorities said there is a person of interest they want to speak to, but stressed that that person of interest is not a suspect.
According to a court filing, there was a complaint about a man who had 'illegally occupied the backyard of the property last year'.
The man camped in the backyard and had access to the garage and shed.
A city residential housing code compliance officer said that she felt the man had a 'surveillance camera set up to alert him to the presence' of visitors.
It's unclear when that man vacated the property, and what his relation to the former renters of the apartment was.
Missoula Police Sgt. Travis Welsh says they haven't been able to connect the bones to the three brothers yet, but they will be doing additional forensics analyses
MICHIGAN STATE POLICE STATEMENT
On Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, the Michigan State Police (MSP) First District Special Investigation Section learned that human remains were found in Montana in September, that were recently determined to likely be the skeletal remains of three children.
MSP investigators are working with Missoula police to determine if there is any connection to Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton who were reported missing from Morenci in Lenawee County the day after Thanksgiving in 2010. There has been nothing previously reported to police linking the brothers to Montana, and it is not known at this time if the remains are from related siblings.
Further forensic testing has been requested by police in Montana that may provide more answers. Until this testing is completed and additional investigation by law enforcement in Montana occurs, it cannot be determined if these remains belong to the missing Skelton brothers.
In the years since the Skelton brothers disappeared, their vanishing has been vigorously investigated by the Morenci Police Department, FBI and MSP. Significant assistance has also been provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In 2013, the MSP became the lead investigating agency. New age-progression photos of the three brothers were released in November 2016.
At the time the boys went missing they were in the care of their father, John Skelton. Skelton pleaded no contest to three counts of unlawful imprisonment in September 2011, after he claimed he gave the boys to unknown individuals. Skelton is currently serving a 10-15-year prison sentence..