Missing boy found 19 years after abduction

Last updated 15:11 11/01/2013

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A boy abducted 19 years ago in northeastern Indiana by his paternal grandparents has been found living in Minnesota under a different name, police said.

Richard Wayne Landers Jr was 5 years old when he and his grandparents, who were upset over custody arrangements, disappeared from the town of Wolcottville.

Indiana State Police said the now 24-year-old Landers was found in Long Prairie, Minnesota, thanks in part to his Social Security identification number.

His grandparents were living under aliases in a nearby town and confirmed his identity, investigators said. Police declined to say whether the couple would face charges, citing the ongoing investigation.

Landers' mother, Lisa Harter, screamed and was ''jumping up and down for joy'' when she learned a few days ago that her son had been found, her husband Richard Harter told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Thursday (local time).

He said his wife is ''the happiest woman on earth".

Harter said he and his wife were working with a lawyer and hoped to reunite with his stepson soon.

Police said Landers is married and expecting his first child. Harter declined further comment and referred questions about the case to his attorney, who didn't immediately return phone messages Thursday. Investigators declined to release the names under which Landers and his grandparents had been living.

Police said the boy's paternal grandparents, Richard E. and Ruth A. Landers, abducted him in July 1994 because they were ''upset over pending court proceedings'' regarding his placement.

Police spokesman Sgt. Ron Galaviz said it appears the boy's father was never in the picture. Lisa and Richard Harter had married a year earlier.

Authorities believe the grandparents took the boy from their home in Wolcottville and fled. They were charged at the time with misdemeanour interference with custody, which was bumped up to a felony in 1999.

But the charge was dismissed in 2008 after the case went cold. Investigators reopened the case in September when Richard Harter turned over the boy's Social Security card to an Indiana State Police detective.

That turned up a man with the same Social Security number and date of birth living in Long Prairie, Minnesota.

A driver's license photo for the man appeared to resemble Landers, police said. Indiana State Police then contacted Minnesota law enforcement agencies, which began investigating along with the FBI and the Social Security Administration.

The grandparents were found living under aliases in nearby Browerville, Minnesota, and verified the Minnesota man was Landers. ''By all accounts, it didn't appear he suffered from any abuse, either physical or mental,'' Galaviz said.

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- AP

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