CBSN

Police probe whether remains of three children found in box are long-missing brothers

Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State Police are investigating whether the remains of three children found in a box behind a Montana home could be linked to the 2010 disappearance of three Michigan brothers. The bones and teeth of three children were found in September in a shed in Missoula, Montana. 

An anthropologist estimated the children's ages to be 2-4 years old, 5-8 years old and 6-10 years old.

Tanner, Alexander and Andrew Skelton were 5, 7 and 9 when they were last seen at their father's Morenci, Michigan, home in November 2010. CBS Detroit reports that their father, John Skelton pleaded no contest to three counts of unlawful imprisonment in September 2011. He claimed he gave the boys to unknown individuals in an effort to keep the children out of harm's way. Claims that the mother was abusing the boys were not true, according to Tanya Skelton, who says she is heartbroken her boys were never found.

Michigan State Police Detective Lt. Jeremy Brewer tells WTVG-TV in Toledo, Ohio, the agency has requested more information from Montana police but the only current connection between the cases is the victims' approximate ages.

The Missoulian reports that Missoula police launched an investigation after a cleaning crew found the box containing the skeletal remains when the former tenant was evicted from the property. Police confirmed that information to CBS affiliate KPAX.  

Police documents say the Montana State Crime Lab verified the remains as human, and an anthropology professor at the University of Montana determined they were "likely modern and not archaeological." 

Police obtained a search warrant for a potential homicide in late November, but no additional evidence was gathered.  

KECI-TV in Missoula reports the remains are undergoing DNA testing in Texas.

Police say nothing has been previously reported that would link the brothers to Montana.

John Skelton is currently serving 10-15 years at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, Mich.