January 11, 2013

Minnesota man was abducted from Indiana in 1994

The Associated Press

CLARISSA, Minn. - In 2006, an 18-year-old Minnesota man legally changed his name to Michael Jeff Landers.

click image to enlarge

This photo provided by the Indiana State Police shows Richard Wayne Landers Jr., who authorities say was abducted from Indiana by his paternal grandparents in 1994 during custody proceedings.

The Associated Press

Six years later, authorities determined Landers was really the Indiana child who had been abducted by his paternal grandparents in 1994.

Richard Wayne Landers Jr. was reportedly abducted when he was 5 years old. The 24-year-old Michael Landers now lives in the small central Minnesota town of Browerville, the Todd County Sheriff's Office said Friday.

Sheriff Peter Mikkelson said the investigation is ongoing and the case will be forwarded to federal authorities for possible charges.

It's unclear what Landers knew about his history, but authorities said he had lived with his grandparents since birth.

According to court records, Landers applied for the name change himself in November 2006, just a couple of weeks after he turned 18.

The application doesn't say why he requested the change, and it wasn't immediately clear how long he had used the name Michael.

In July 1994, after a custody dispute between Landers' mother and the grandparents, the grandparents fled from Wolcottville, Ind., about 50 miles southeast of South Bend.

"I'm not sure that they (the grandparents) ever had legal custody," said John R. Russell, who spent several months investigating the disappearance with the LaGrange (Ind.) County Sheriff's Department.

The mother and stepfather were unemployed and lived in a car, Russell recalled.

"These people (the grandparents) were nice people. It was wrong for them to do it, but I can understand why," he said. "But I also didn't think the child would be in any danger at all with them."

Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Ron Galaviz said it appears Landers' father was never in the picture.

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