LAGRANGE COUNTY — A man now living in Long Prairie, Minn., was recently told he has family in Indiana. He was also told he was abducted when he was a child by his paternal grandparents.
Richard Wayne Landers Jr. was abducted by his grandparents, Richard E. and Ruth A. Landers, on July 29, 1994. He was recently found “living, married and well” in Long Prairie, Minn., according to the Indiana State Police.
Sgt. Ron Galaviz, public information officer with the Indiana State Police, Fort Wayne District, said although Landers has been told by police in Long Prairie about the investigation, he has not yet been able to meet with his biological parents, who still live in LaGrange County.
Because Landers is an adult, he has the option of staying in Minnesota if he wants. Galaviz said he did not know as of Thursday evening whether Richard Landers, who is also expecting a first child, had any plans yet to meet his family in Indiana.
“I can't even imagine, I mean, put yourself in his shoes for a second,” Galaviz said. “So now all of a sudden you have this bomb dropped on you: You have a biological mother in Indiana, who's been looking for you, and that has to be a lot to wrap your head around in a very short period of time.”
Galaviz said he was told the grandparents were upset about the court proceedings regarding the placement of their grandson, but he didn't have more information about what brought the family to these court proceedings in the first place.
They took the boy, then 5 years old, from the Wolcottville area and were not found until now.
“And ... I have no idea what he was being told in the course of those 18 years,” Galaviz added.
In September 2012, Richard Landers' stepfather, Richard Harter, contacted the Indiana State Police to provide them with Landers' social security card. After conducting an investigation, a man in Long Prairie, Minn., was found using the same social security number and date of birth as Landers.
Galaviz said he is not sure what brought Harter to provide officers with Landers' social security card.
“The important thing is that what he did was the catalyst that led police to find (Richard Landers),” he said.
It was determined Richard Landers' grandparents are currently living in Browerville, Minn., under aliases, following investigations from the Long Prairie Police Department, Todd County Sheriff's Department, FBI and Social Security Administration. The grandparents confirmed that the man living in Long Prairie is indeed Richard Landers, now 24 years old.
“It's nice to put closure to this case and now the family can begin the process of reconnecting with their loved one,” said LaGrange County Sheriff Terry Martin in a press release.
Initially, the LaGrange County Sheriff's Department started an investigation, placing Richard Landers' pertinent information into several missing child clearinghouses, because they considered him a missing and endangered child.
Arrest warrants were also issued for both grandparents, charging them with interference with custody, a Class B Misdemeanor. In 1999 the charges were elevated to a Class C Felony. In 2008, with neither the child nor the grandparents being located, the charges were dropped.
Because the Todd County Sheriff's Department is still working on the investigation, along with agencies in Indiana and federal agencies, their investigation has not yet been forwarded to the County Attorney's office, said Sheriff Peter Mikkelson. Because of the ongoing investigation it is not clear whether charges will be filed against the grandparents.