LAGRANGE COUNTY — 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 five 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 (NCMEC). Anyone with any information regarding any missing child is encouraged to contact their local law enforcement agency, the Indiana State Police (www.in.gov/isp ) or NCMEC (www.missingkids.com ).