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Boy abducted in '94 found in Minnesota; grandparents may be charged

January 11, 2013|By Andrew Khouri

In 1994, a boy vanished from LaGrange County, Ind., allegedly whisked away by his paternal grandparents, who worried where a court might place their grandson.

Authorities at the time issued arrest warrants for the grandparents, and descriptions of 5-year-old Richard Wayne Landers Jr. landed in missing-children databases. Charges were filed.

But in 2008, Indiana authorities dropped the charges against Landers' grandparents after failing to locate them or the now-grown boy.

Last fall, Landers reappeared -- alive, married and living in rural Browerville, Minn.

Indiana State Police announced the discovery Thursday, saying they were able to locate the now-24-year-old after his stepfather, Richard Harter, gave police Landers' Social Security card in September.

Police said they then found a man last year in Minnesota with same birth date and social Security number as Landers, and who looked similar to what the boy might look like today.

An investigation ensued, bringing in the Long Prairie Police Department, the Todd County Sheriff's Department in Minnesota, the FBI and the Social Security Administration. Landers’ grandparents, Richard and Ruth Landers, were found living nearby in Browerville, Minn., and confirmed to authorities that the man was indeed the missing boy, police said.

"They said, ‘Yeah, we are who you think we are and he is who you think he is,'" Indiana State Police Sgt. Ron Galaviz told the Los Angeles Times.

They had been living under aliases.

Galaviz also told The Times that he believed Landers and his wife are expecting their first child and that he seems well-adjusted.

Landers was living under the name Michael Jeff Landers, the Todd County Sheriff’s Department said.

Sheriff Peter J. Mikkelson said that once the investigation is complete, he will forward the case to the U.S. attorney general’s office for possible charges.

Mikkelson wouldn't comment on whether Landers knew his back story before investigators showed up. As for Landers' future, Mikkelson told the Los Angeles Times: "It’s up to him whether he wants to make contact with his parents. That's entirely up to to him."


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