ADRIAN, Mich. – A man charged with parental kidnapping after his three boys went missing on Thanksgiving told a judge Friday that he wasn't able to turn over the children.
John Skelton, appearing during a brief divorce hearing, answered "I can't" when the judge asked whether he was prepared to give the children to their mother. He didn't explain why not.
Skelton has said that he gave the boys to someone in a van from an organization that he wouldn't identify. Investigators have said he earlier made false claims about turning his sons over to another woman.
He is being held on a $30 million bond on the kidnapping charges.
His sons Andrew, 9, Alexander, 7, and Tanner, 5, were last seen playing on Thanksgiving in their father's backyard in Morenci, a town about 70 miles southwest of Detroit near Michigan's border with Ohio.
Skelton's estranged wife, Tanya Skelton, reported her sons missing the next day after he didn't return them to her from a court-ordered visitation.
The two are divorcing, and she had custody of the boys but had agreed to let them visit with their father on Thanksgiving.
Authorities and volunteers spent a week searching through fields, vacant homes, and ponds for the boys in both Ohio and Michigan. The police chief leading the effort later said he didn't expect a positive outcome.
Police have said they've followed up on 900 tips, including some suspected sightings, but none of them led authorities to believe the boys are still alive.
Skelton was chained at the waist Friday in Lenawee County court during the hearing related to custody of the children, not his criminal case.
Lenawee County Circuit Judge Margaret Noe set a pretrial hearing in the divorce case for March 18.
Skelton in December waived his right to a hearing to determine if prosecutors had probable cause to charge him with parental kidnapping.
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