On Black Friday 2010 in Morenci, Michigan, John Skelton took his sons— Andrew, Alexander, and Tanner — on a morning car ride. Nine years later, the three boys still haven’t been found. This chilling story is the inspiration behind and the subject of Without Wax: A Story of True Evil.
The film stems from humble beginnings. Adrian College students Logan Heffner, Kyle Stratton, and Brandon Milligan decided to join together on a film project that would serve as an independent study— a test of their education to that point. Their advisor, Adrian College film professor, Michael Neal, offered both his aid as a director and a potential focus for their project. “He told us the story of Alexander, Andrew, and Tanner Skelton,” said Heffner in the Without Wax trailer, “and everything changed.”
Through research, investigation, and interviews, the team began weaving together a film that they hope can keep these boys’ stories alive.
Following the story
The investigation itself was “surreal,” said associate producer, Gage Dansby. “All of us on the crew have heard of these true crimes stories… but this case happened in a small town near our college.” Morenci is just 20 miles from Adrian College, and a mere 40 from Toledo. Adding to the eeriness is the fact that that the Skelton boys would be about the same age as Heffner, Stratton, and Milligan today. “Their age and gender are the same, but the way their lives unfolded are so far apart.”
Heffner, Stratton, and Milligan traveled all across Northwestern Ohio and Southeast Michigan while investigating the boys’ disappearance and interviewed people ranging from law enforcement to the Skeltons’ family, to members of the Morenci community. All this they did in hopes of digging up one more scrap of evidence that might help the pieces finally fit together.
Eschewing a more traditional documentary format, the filmmakers chose to incorporate Heffner, Stratton, and Milligan into the narrative. The three students and their investigative process are very much a part of the story being told in Without Wax. Heffner explains this choice by emphasizing that “we became very connected to the case and to the story itself.” They hope their “reflections and thoughts throughout the process of making the film,” as well as the parallelism between Heffner, Stratton, and Milligan and the Skelton boys adds to the impact and effectiveness of the film.
Hoping for the truth.
Ultimately, Without Wax swirls around two salient attributes— one is an inspiration, one, a goal. Heffner, Stratton, and Milligan were inspired to tell this story by the proximity and mundanity of the evil. The Skelton boys’ disappearance wasn’t an act of extravagant villainy, it wasn’t a gigantic conspiracy, it wasn’t even an enormous story. It was the choice of one deeply troubled man, and it took place a half hour car ride from their university.
“The case made us realize for the first time that horrible people and events can happen right next door to us,” said Dansby. Their goal is equally personal: They want to do what they can to help the Skelton family find a measure of peace in the midst of a true human tragedy.
Heffner says it best: “Our hope is that if someone views this piece, they can maybe come forward with some information to give the family some closure.”
Without Wax: A Story of True Evil will premiere at Adrian, Michigan’s Croswell Opera House at 7:30pm on Tuesday, December 3.
Free, but donations accepted.
Croswell Opera House, 129 E. Maumee St. Adrian, MI.