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

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By The Associated Press
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.

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