Northeastern Indiana boy abducted in 1994 found living in Minnesota

A boy from LaGrange County who was abducted by his paternal grandparents back in 1994, has been located living, married and well, in Long Prairie, Minnesota.

According to Indiana State Police Detective Jeff Boyd, on July 29, 1994 Richard Wayne Landers, Jr. was abducted by his grandparents, Richard E. and Ruth A. Landers. The elder Landers were allegedly upset over pending court proceedings regarding the placement of their grandson. The Landers allegedly took the then 5 year old boy and left from their home in the Wolcottville area to an unknown destination.

LaGrange County Sheriff Department Deputy John Russell, who is now retired, initiated an investigation and the young boy’s identifiers and pertinent information were placed into several missing children clearinghouses as he was considered a missing and endangered child. Arrest warrants were subsequently issued for both grandparents charging them Interference with Custody, a Class B Misdemeanor. In 1999, those charges were elevated to Interference with Custody, a Class C Felony. In September 2008, with neither the child nor his grandparents ever having been located, the LaGrange County Prosecutor’s Office filed a letter with the Court and the charges were dropped.

During the years following the abduction, several detectives worked with the parents of Richard W. Landers in continuing efforts to locate their missing son. In September 2012, the boy’s step-father, Richard Harter contacted Indiana State Police Detective Deven Hostetler and provided him with the young Richard’s Social Security card. After conducting some further investigation, a man in Long Prairie, Minnesota was found using that same Social Security number and date of birth as the missing boy from LaGrange County. The man’s driver’s license photograph even appeared to bear a potentially similar resemblance as to how the missing boy might look today.

Detective Hostetler contacted Boyd with this information and in October 2012, Boyd presented the information to the Long Prairie Police Department who, along with the Todd County Sheriff Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Social Security Administration conducted follow up investigations, many of which are still ongoing. As a result, it was determined that the grandparents, who are living in Browerville, Minnesota under different aliases, made statements indicating their true identities and verified that the young man that was found was indeed Richard Wayne Landers, Jr., who is now 24 years of age.

“It’s nice to put closure to this case and now the family can begin the process of re-connecting with their loved one” said LaGrange County Sheriff Terry Martin. Boyd added “this is an example of inter-agency cooperation, both here in Indiana and in Minnesota that allowed this almost 19 year case to come to a successful conclusion”.

To date, there are 24 Indiana children listed as missing with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Anyone with any information regarding any missing child is encouraged to contact their local law enforcement agency, the Indiana State Police or NCMEC.

53 comments

  • hollie

    i hope the young man realizes how much his parents tried to find him, hopefully he allows them to be part of his life!

  • ClanSmokeJaguar

    I remember this case but…thanks for letting us know that to get away with kidnapping all you have to do is remain hidden for some 14 years and the prosecutor will drop the charges (when involving custody)

    Frak this! Lock this grandparents up.

    What outrage!!

  • Gwendolyn Szabo

    I say the grandparents should still be arrested, they broke the law… But I;m glad he is alright & doing well:)

  • BigSkid

    Anybody wonder what the placement problems were that prompted the grandparents to abduct the grandson. Fox did such a lousy job of telling the whole story, they sure created a slant against the grandparents. I can think of several things that would make me do this!

    • Darlene

      That makes too much sense. I foolishly waited for the full story to unfold. I can't help feeling that the artilce vilinized the grandparents by not offering an explaination of why they took the boy and ran. Stories have three sides to them, his, hers and the truth. Once again left hanging.

    • chrystal

      none of you all know these people and you don't know what that little boy went through and you don't know why they took the little boy

    • Anonymous

      From StarTribune.com
      "Harter and her son's father were in the midst of a divorce at the time, said Indiana attorney Richard Muntz, who has worked with the mother in her 19-year search. The couple had a troubled relationship and Harter ended up in a homeless shelter, Muntz said. Child welfare services stepped in because Harter has some developmental disabilities. "The father wasn't in the picture, and the grandparents got temporary custody," Muntz said.

      In her own home, remarried and working a job, Harter sought to regain custody.

      "We had a number of hearings, and during the last one the judge said, 'I don't know if the mother can handle the situation, but we have to give it a try,'" Muntz said. "The judge ordered the child returned to the mother for a trial period. The grandparents went to the bank, drew $5,000 out of a home equity line and…" the rest is history.

  • Emily

    um when are the grandparents being arrested>?? they cost the parents of that child sleepless nights , pain , anxiety that cannot be appologized away they missed his whole growing up his whjole young life. they need to be in prison for the rest of there miserable lives! there are ways legally to follow up and things to do if you donta gree with decisions or you think that child is in danger.. you sure as hell dont snatch the kid up and leave your punishing your child as well not just the mom of the kid!! heartless an selfish!!!

    • Tammy

      maybe the parents didnt loose any sleep…. maybe they weren't fit to be parents…. maybe this was in the best interest of the child. Did you ever think about that???

    • Tammy

      Do the study honey the system is so slow most custody battles over a child in danger often end up dead before the court rules my very good friend has 90% scares on her body were her parents put he in boilng hot water it took her grandparents 2 years to get the courts to rule to give her to them many hospital trips for her broken ribs arms most cases for people waiting the children end up dead proven study, Nice to know so many of you people can sit and watch this while fighting the system, I know I couldnt

    • Anonymous

      I grew up in foster home placements, and there are a lot of bad things that goes on in most homes that go unreported or what have you, so it makes me wonder what prompted the foster parents to take their grandson out of the home, and consider him to be better off in their care than in the care of child servi

  • amy

    they probably mentally abused the boy by telling him lies about his parents there had to be a reason why he didnt contact them himself. That is an evil doing if it was for protection then why once he was grown or older did they not turn him over ? There is nt a way of looking at this like there in the clear they are so wrong for doing this!!!!!!!!!!!!! so wrong!!!!!!! ima parent and iknow what it feels like when you love your child and a grandparent tries to overstep there boundaries and think they are the parent. Its sick . and to know that they had my baby,.. i would go nuts i dont see how someone could ever ever do that to anyone let alone takeing there grandchild from there child. seem slike there alot of grandparents miss understanding there roles !!! if the child is being hurt u go to th eautorities if u dont like the decision that the child live wiht the mom then deal with it and go to court for your grandparent rights whcih means u will get visitation.
    you dont uproot ac hild and move away ever.. thats sickning .

    • tammy

      maybe the parents were abusing the boy letting growm men rape him for drugs maybe the parents beat him unless he preformed sexual acts so really what I see is sickinning is that you would leave a child in that situation, If you not noticed most cases of children who were killed in home by a person like u who would leave it there and wait for the sytem end up dead before the custody battel ends what i see sicking is that you as a parent would leave a child in that situation and wait for the system and pray that child makes it

  • Tom

    Does anyone know what the home life was like for this young man? What are the reasons the grandparents fled with him? That is the problem with social media, people spew out of their mouths before they know the full story.

    • Adam Humphress

      who cares, if the get away with this it just sets an example for americans. Anybody can get away with this shit, what if next time it's not grandparents but instead a kidnapper who abuses the kids its whole life or even worse sexually assaults the kid. We have rules and laws, there are other ways of protecting a kid other than abducting him and hiding for 14 years

  • Mary

    Spew This: Arrest the grandparents (and anyone else who kidnaps a child). Don't care what the circumstances are.

    • Tammy

      you really dont care even if the parents were raping maybe beating that lit boy maybe they were letting other men touch him for drugs so you feel they should be arrested any how nice to know you are a grandparent who would wait years for the system to rule in your favor and let your grandchild be rapped beatin unless your grandchild dies first as most cases turn out.

      • Dannella

        I think you're imagination has taken control of your mind. Maybe maybe maybe–judge not lest ye be judged.

  • east sider

    I am surprised that no one thought it was odd that two grand parents can just walk away from everything without a leaving a trail or being tracked through social security or investments. When it was determined that they left the state with him then it should have become an FBI matter and they have tremendous resources available. I could see how this could have happened a hundred years ago but now it just looks like bad investigating. What do you think?

    • Stormy

      I agree east sider! Furthermore, why didn't the parents provide a social security number sooner? I'm confused by that one. They say the boy's step-father Richard Harter contacted Indiana State Police and gave the detective Deven Hostetler his social security card. So, the mother never provided it? How did the step-father get it now? After all of these years?! Something isn't right with this story. I mean it's not complete. I'm interested in learning better details because I'm missing something.

  • Tammy Hopkins

    wow beat down the grandparents this goes to show people are so quick to judge and for real dont care what the circumstances are so easy said unless its your loved one and the shoe is on your foot!!! There was a custidy battle over what? NONE of you know maybe the parents were rapeing that boy, beating him, burning him with cig, letting other men touch him for money or drugs…..This is a cruel world it happens all the time!! So what you think Mary they should still be arrested??? They should have left that little boy whom could not drfrnd himself stay in a home and get beat or raped for years till court system fianally did something, is that what you would do to your grand child leave it in a home like that and pray that he dont die before the VERY SLOW COURT SYSTEM ruels in your favor, NO ONE KNOWS WHAT HAPPENED IN THAT HOME AND IF IT WAS REALLY BAD YOU ALL A BOLD LIER TO SAY YOU WOULD LEAVE YOUR GRANDCHILD IN A HOME WITH HARM WAITING ON THE COURT SYSTEM, SO STOP JUDGEING OTHERS TILL YOU GET THE FULL BLOWN STORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • ur phriend

      wow, do you know if any this was happening? if so, you are just as bad. if not then you shouldnt be saying anything without proof
      i'm happy the family can at least come together if they chose

  • mrmiller304

    I don't understand why the stepfather didn't turn over the social security number years ago. This whole case is pretty screwy. Part of me wishes we had all the facts and the rest of me says it's really none of my business.

  • pam

    I know tha twhere is reasons i could do this .Grandkids are very special and if not being taken care of i would take mine.

    • sparkyavonlady

      But its when you take hiim, run away, and never come back is when it becomes an issue of obcession over love

  • WTH

    Charges being dropped may mean that the court realized there was a da** good reason they took the child and the court was trying to cover up its mistake! I think we will never know the true details and the poor grandparents are gonna get fried in the media, which has become so out of control with its propogandist bull its not funny! Lets all keep that in mind shall we!

  • MeatPlow

    I want to know how it's possible to get away with a crime for 20 years! Either the grandparents are ex CIA or the legal system completely and utterly blows.
    Sure gramps may be justified in stealing children, but really, he isn't.

  • Mary Miller

    Apparently the boy was raised all right by his grandparents – I'm glad the charges were dropped. They didn't uproot their whole lives to grab the boy and run for any minor reason. The article doesn't give details, but something bad was obviously going on in his home. And why did his family wait 18 years to provide a SS#? Although the FBI undoubtedly had access to that information all long, it makes me wonder if maybe the authorities (who had all the unmentioned details) were conducting the investigation very slowly, to give him time to grow up before they found him, so he wouldn't have to be returned to his parents.

  • Dorothy Harvey

    It is amazing to me that everyone has an opinion they are willing to state,but, seem to have the knowledge, the BASIS KNOWLEDGE, to SPELL CORRECTLY or proper use of punctuation!!

  • guest

    Am I correct in assuming that this abduction stemmed from a custody dispute between the child's biological parents. The grandparents who stole the kid were his paternal grandparents and the info that helped lead to the young man's whereabouts was provided by the step-father.

    • dawn

      from what i could find the child's real father was never involved with him so i am guessing it was a custody battle with the paternal grandparents witch leads me to believe they were loosing so they took him and i think they should go to jail for that

  • John

    Where's the boy's biological father – the son of the paternal grandparents? Was the so-called "step-father" in the picture back in '94 when the boy was abducted? Too many missing details.

  • US_DOJ_Gov

    FOX 59 . . . Your article is I N C O M P L E T E.

    Copious information MISSING.

    What was the reason the grandparent's were upset with the court & child's home life?

  • guest

    The charges were dropped after a certain amount of years because the case went cold. This is a good thing because now they can reinstate charges using the law as it is read, today!

  • Guest

    The abducted boy is now a 24 year old MAN who knew who he was the entire time. If he wanted to see his mom, as an adult he would have. Need more info then what this article is providing. Actually the are using the word "Abduction" wrong any way. The grandparents had custody of the boy, that's why they were only charged with a misdemeanor in the first place.

    • dawn

      the grandparents were losing the custody case and took matters into their own hands and should not get away with it , they had no right to do this what would happen if every parent or grandparent decided they would only use the courts if it favored them children would go missing with every divorce

  • dawn

    from what it looks like to me the grandparents just were upset because of custody issues and from other stories i read their son this child's father had never anything to with the child so before you all jump to the conclusion that his mother was bad maybe you should consider why the father wasn't involved and who wast he custody battle with because if not the father then it must have been the grandparents and they were loosing so they abducted this child and should be charged they had no right to do that to him or his mother and the mother should sue the living crap out of them for the years of pain and heart break that they decided to give her …not only did they steal his childhood from his mother they stole his wedding and if he believes them now then her first grand child how would these people feel if the wife of their grandson disappeared with the child she is caring because she found out her husbands family are crazy child abductors!

  • Theo Adams

    The only question now is how long will it take to reforge the bonds with his real parents? His lived with a foster family so long that going back may take a while. I sure hope his parents have the patience for it.

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