Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Breaking News

January 11, 2013

Abducted boy found after 19 years

Police say a LaGrange County boy abducted by his paternal grandparents in 1994 has been found in Long Prairie, Minn.

Richard Wayne Landers Jr. was located “living, married and well,” Indiana State Police reported Thursday. ISP spokesman Sgt. Ron Galaviz said an attorney is working with Landers’ mother, Lisa Harter, to reconnect her with her son.

ISP Detective Jeff Boyd said that on July 29, 1994, Landers was abducted by his grandparents, Richard E. and Ruth A. Landers. The elder Landers were reportedly upset over pending court proceedings regarding the placement of their grandson.

According to police, the Landers took the then-5-year-old boy and left from their home in the Wolcottville area.

Arrest warrants were issued for both grandparents, who were charged with interference with custody, a Class B Misdemeanor. In 1999, those charges were elevated to Class C Felony interference.

Police said that in September 2008, with neither the child nor his grandparents ever having been located, LaGrange County prosecutors dropped the charges.

Years of searching

In the years after the abduction, several detectives worked with the parents of Richard W. Landers in continuing efforts to locate their missing son.

In September of last year, the boy’s stepfather, Richard Harter, contacted State Police Detective Deven Hostetler and provided him with the young Richard’s Social Security card. Police said that upon further investigation, a man in Long Prairie, Minn., was found using that same Social Security number and date of birth as the missing LaGrange County boy. Police said 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. Long Prairie police, 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.

Police said the grandparents, who were living in Browerville, Minn., under aliases, indicated their true identities and verified that the young man who was found was indeed Richard Wayne Landers Jr., now 24 years old.

“He was actually raised under an alias,” Galaviz said Thursday afternoon of the younger Landers.

The Goshen News reached Richard Harter at his home in LaGrange Thursday afternoon. He declined comment and referred questions to his attorney, Richard K. Muntz. The News was unable to reach Muntz or the LaGrange County prosecutor Thursday.

LaGrange County Sheriff Terry Martin expressed relief with the latest development in a nearly two-decades-old missing person case.

“It’s nice to put closure to this case and now the family can begin the process of re-connecting with their loved one,” Martin said.

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