In a miraculous turn of events, a boy who was abducted 19 years ago in northeastern Indiana by his paternal grandparents has been found living in Minnesota under a different name, RadarOnline.com is reporting.
Indiana State Police said Richard Wayne Landers, Jr., who’s now 24, was found in Long Prairie, Minnesota, thanks in part to his Social Security identification number.
Richard, Jr. was only 5 years-old when he and his grandparents, Richard E. and Ruth A. Landers, vanished from the Indiana town of Wolcottville in July of 1994. Police say Landers’ grandparents snatched him as his parents were involved in a custody dispute. They were charged at the time with misdemeanor interference with custody, which was upgraded to a felony in 1999. But the charge was dismissed in 2008 after the case went cold. Police declined to say whether the grandparents could still face charges, citing the ongoing investigation.
Police say the grandparents lived under assumed names in Browerville, Minnesota, and raised Richard. Today he lives nearby with his wife, who’s expecting the couple’s first child.
Landers’ mother, Lisa Harter, screamed and was “jumping up and down for joy” when she learned a few days ago that her son had been found, her husband Richard Harter told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday. He said his wife is “the happiest woman on earth.”
It appears that Richard Jr’s biological father was never in the picture, and Harter said he and his wife were working with an attorney and hoped to reunite with his stepson soon.
Investigators reopened the case in September when Richard Harter turned over the boy's Social Security card to an Indiana State Police detective.
That move led to a man with the same Social Security number and date of birth living in Long Prairie, Minn., about 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis. A driver's license photo for the man appeared to resemble Landers, police said.
Indiana State Police then contacted Minnesota law enforcement agencies, which began investigating along with the FBI and the Social Security Administration.
The grandparents were found living in nearby Browerville, Minn.
Investigators declined to release the names under which Landers and his grandparents had been living, but say "by all accounts, it didn't appear he suffered from any abuse, either physical or mental."