The father of three missing Michigan boys lied about having a relationship with a woman to whom he said he gave the brothers in an attempt to shield them from his botched suicide attempt, police said today.
"We can confirm that there is no established relationship between [John Skelton] and the person he described as Joann Taylor," Morenci Police Chief Larry Weeks said.
Skelton had told police that he handed sons Andrew Skelton, 9, Alexander Skelton, 7, and Tanner Skelton, 5, off to Taylor to return them to their mother on Thanksgiving evening. Skelton is separated from his wife, Tanya Skelton, who has full custody of the boys.
Skelton had said he met Taylor and her husband a few years ago when he helped them after their car broke down, and then began e-mailing her, police said.
But confirming that Taylor even exists has been a challenge for authorities since the boys disappeared.
"A reported relationship between Mr. Skelton and Joann Taylor doesn't exist," Weeks said, adding that Skelton had lied during questioning.
Weeks asked for the public's help in locating Skelton's car, which, he said, was not at home Thursday and Friday. Specifically, Weeks wants to know whether anyone saw the car between 2:30 p.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. Friday.
"Authorities have information that the vehicle was not at home during some of that time and believe the boys were in the car that morning or the evening before," Weeks said.
The blue 2000 Dodge Caravan, license plate No. 9JQ H93, has since been towed from Skelton's home, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Investigators are also expanding their search to the Ohio-Michigan border, specifically in Holiday City in Ohio, and said they have taken several items from Skelton's home. Weeks declined to comment on whether authorities had seized Skelton's computer.
Doug Rowland, the owner of the Lazy River Campground in Pioneer, Ohio, told ABCNews.com that about 60 investigators visited his property today to search for the boys but came up empty handed.
Rowland said police told him they were working on a lead from a "ping" they got off a cell phone and they also suggested that Skelton himself mentioned a campground during an interview.
Police have said that the boys, who have been missing for four days, could be in "extreme danger."
"We remain hopeful," Weeks said. "That's why we're doing what we're doing to find these boys and bring them home."
The grandmother of the missing boys earlier today made an emotional plea for their return.
"We just have to reach out to this person and relay how very important it is that they come home to their mom," said Roxann Skelton, the boys' fraternal grandmother. "[Taylor] needs to put herself in the mother's position for five seconds and multiple it by one thousand and she'd realize the pain and hurt and terribly agony the family is going through for these boys."
Search crews, as well as hundreds of volunteers, looked for the boys throughout the weekend, focusing much of their efforts in wooded areas surrounding Skelton's home.
Asked how she knows her son is telling the truth about Taylor, Roxann Skelton responded, "Because I know my son. ... He loves his boys, his boys are his life, it's as simple as that.