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ADRIAN — A Michigan man suspected of killing his three young sons, who have been missing since visiting his home on Thanksgiving, was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison on Thursday, a punishment that will keep him behind bars while police pursue murder charges.

Before hearing his sentence, John Skelton told Lenawee County Circuit Judge Margaret M.S. Noe that he has cried every day since he last saw his sons. He and his ex-wife were going through a bitter divorce and she had been granted sole custody of the boys. Skelton insists he gave them to a group to protect them from their mother, but he has refused to identify the group.

Judge Noe sentenced him to 10 to 15 years in prison, a stiffer penalty than the four to 12 years the state recommends for the unlawful-imprisonment charge to which he pleaded no contest in July.

The unlawful imprisonment charge pertains to Skelton’s failure to return the boys to his ex-wife the day after Thanksgiving.


Stepmom sentenced in disabled girl’s murder

NEWTON — A North Carolina woman will spend up to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday to murdering her disabled 10-year-old stepdaughter, nearly a year after freckle-faced Zahra Baker’s disappearance and death shocked communities here and in her native Australia.

Elisa Baker, 43, entered the courtroom wearing a hot-pink jail jumpsuit and handcuffs. She sat between two defense attorneys and teared up before pleading guilty to second-degree murder with aggravating factors that included desecrating the body of Zahra Baker, who used a prosthetic leg and hearing aids after a struggle with bone cancer.

Baker also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the case and to charges unrelated to Zahra’s death, including obtaining property by false pretenses, financial identity fraud and bigamy.

Adam Baker, Zahra’s father and Elisa’s husband, was present in the courtroom. Mr. Baker, who came to the U.S. with his daughter after meeting Elisa online, faces multiple criminal charges of his own, although none is related to his daughter’s death.

From wire dispatches and staff reports