Share This Page

Grandparents believed responsible for boy's abduction 19 years ago in Minn.

| Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 8:04 p.m.

LONG PRAIRIE, Minn. — A 24-year-old man discovered living in Minnesota under an assumed name was abducted by his paternal grandparents nearly two decades ago when his unemployed mother was living in a car in Indiana, authorities said Friday.

The grandparents could be charged, a Minnesota sheriff said.

Richard Wayne Landers Jr., who was found on Thursday, is living in the small northern Minnesota town of Long Prairie under the name Michael Jeff Landers, the Todd County Sheriff's Office said.

Landers had lived with his grandparents since birth. In July 1994, Landers' mother and his grandparents argued over his custody, and the grandparents took him from their home in Wolcottville, about 50 miles southeast of South Bend, Ind., and fled.

“I'm not sure that (the grandparents) ever had legal custody,” said John R. Russell, who spent several months investigating Landers' disappearance in 1994 when he was a deputy.

The then-5-year-old boy's mother and stepfather were unemployed and lived in a car, Russell recalled. The grandparents “were nice people; it was wrong for them to do it, but I can understand why,” he said.

Landers' stepfather, Richard Harter, did not respond to phone calls Friday from an Associated Press reporter. A phone number for Landers' mother, Lisa Harter, could not be located.

No home listing could be found for Michael Landers. Messages left with his wife were not immediately returned.

Minnesota officials said the grandparents live under assumed names in Browerville, Minn.

Investigators reopened the case in September, when Richard Harter turned over the boy's Social Security card to an Indiana State Police detective.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.