Missing boy found in Browerville 19 years after abduction
The Todd County Sheriff's department and Indiana State Police (ISP) announced last week that a 19-year-old abduction case from Indiana had just been broken in rural Browerville. Taken as a small boy, Richard Landers was found as an adult living under the name Michael Jeff Landers.
Richard Wayne Landers, Jr. was believed to have been abducted by his grandparents in 1994, when he was 5 years old, according to a press release from the Todd County Sheriff's Office.
"The grandparents, Richard E. Landers and Ruth A. Landers, were allegedly upset over pending court proceedings regarding the placement of their grandson," the release said.
From there, the Landers allegedly took young Richard and fled Wolcottville, Ind., for parts unknown.
The release said misdemeanor charges of Interference of Custody were filed against the grandparents, and were later upgraded to felony charges in 1999. After nine more years of not knowing the location of Richard or his grandparents, however, those charges were dropped by the LaGrange County, Ind., prosecutor's office.
A break finally came with the help of Deven Hostetler, a detective with the ISP. He happened to go to church with Richard's stepfather, Richard Harter, who had been periodically prodding law enforcement looking for answers about his son. Harter gave Hostetler his stepson's ID, and the state police managed to find someone using Richard's social security number in Minnesota, Hostetler said. He added that the officers who had handled the case hadn't necessarily neglected to run the social security number before, but as an adult, Landers was easier to find with the number.
"The man's driver's license photograph even appeared to bear a potentially similar resemblance as to how the missing boy might look today," said a release from the ISP.
From there, the ISP presented the case to the Todd County Sheriff's Office in November 2012, said Todd County Sheriff Peter Mikkelson.
"As a result of the investigation, it was determined that the young adult was in fact Richard Wayne Landers, Jr., and is now living under the name Michael Jeff Landers in rural Browerville. The grandparents are now living under the names Raymond Michael Iddings, 67, and Susan Kay Iddings, 63, in rural Browerville," the Todd County release stated.
Mikkelson declined to release information as to why Landers and his grandparents did not reveal their true identities during the 19-year period.
Mikkelson said his office was being assisted by the FBI and Social Security Administration. Todd County's release said the investigation is ongoing and will be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney General's Office once completed for "review of possible charges."
Mikkelson said he did not believe Landers was ever in any danger.
"We're relieved that it ended in a positive way," Mikkelson said. "I don't have any idea what the future is for the family ... we're relieved for everybody involved."
He said Landers lives on the same property as his grandparents, and is now married with a child on the way.
Hostetler said the Harters were eager to meet Landers.
"They're quite ecstatic that he has been located," Hostetler said. "Their only concern is hoping that they're able to meet up with him and talk with him again."