19 year old kidnapping case solved with help of social security card

One set of parents feel like they have “won the lottery” as their son, who was abducted by his grandparents about 19 years ago, was found after the stepfather provided the police with the boy’s social security card.

Below is an article written by ABC News reporter Kevin Dolack on the issue.

Social Security Card Helps Solve 1994 Cold Kidnapping Case

Kidnapped by his own grandparents 19 years ago when he was five, an Indiana man was found this week living in Minnesota under an assumed name. He was discovered after his now elated stepfather provided the boy’s Social Security card to police.

“I have no idea what was told to the young man over the past 18 years, but I do know that his parents now feel like they won the lottery,” Sgt. Ron Galaviz, who’s with the Indiana state police, told ABCNews.com.

On July 29, 1994, Richard Wayne Landers Jr. was abducted by his paternal grandparents, who were allegedly upset over court proceedings concerning the placement of their grandson. Landers had lived with his grandparents since birth. His parents were unemployed and lived in a car, the AP reported. Galaviz said that there was “no sense that the boy’s father was around.”

Arrest warrants were issued for Richard E. and Ruth A. Landers at the time of his disappearance, but they disappeared too and the trail went cold.

As years passed, the boy’s parents never gave up hope to find him. His case was placed into several missing children clearinghouses, and charges against the grandparents were elevated.

But with none of the three Landers found, in 2008 Indiana prosecutors filed a letter with the court for the charges against Richard and Ruth Landers to be dropped.

In September 2012, the boy’s stepfather, Richard Harter, contacted Indiana State Police Detective Deven Hostetler to pass along the boy’s Social Security card. By October, all three of the missing Landers had been found living in Minnesota by investigators.

“The information had been provided throughout.… While they were trying to find the grandparents it popped up on the grid, and got the ball moving forward,” Sgt. Galaviz told ABCNews.com. “But like DNA evidence, that technology increases incrementally, with new access to databases. Now, by using a Social Security number, it is easier to glean information.”

Richard Wayne Landers Jr., now 24, is living in Browerville, Minn., under the name Michael Jeff Landers. He is married, and he and his wife are, according to Galaviz, expecting their first child. Indiana police said that when his driver’s license photograph was found, investigators saw a resemblance to how the missing boy might look today.

Galaviz said there was no sign of any kind of abuse.

“It was as if they’d raised the boy as if he were their own child,” he said.

Richard Landers, 67, and Ruth Landers, 63, are also living in Browerville, under the names Raymond Michael Iddings and Susan Kay Iddings. Both indicated their true identities and verified that the young man was Richard Wayne Landers Jr. in statements to investigators, according to Sheriff Pete Mikkelson of the Todd County, Minn., police.

Mikkelson told ABCNews.com that the case is still under investigation in Minnesota, and once complete, it will be referred to the U.S. attorney general’s office. There are currently no charges pending against the boy’s grandparents in Indiana.

Calls placed to Lisa and Richard Harter were not returned. There are no listed numbers for Michael Jeff Landers, Raymond Michael Iddings or Susan Kay Iddings.

Galaviz said that the mother and stepfather have been in contact with their son. Though he said that he is unable to speak definitively, he said that he’s sure they’ve planned a reunion.


About Haley Behre

I graduated from Syracuse University in December 2011 with majors in newspaper journalism and women and gender studies. Using these majors, I aspire to become a journalist who writes about human rights issues. I have held internships at the Syracuse New Times, Dash Media PR Firm, Syracuse Post-Standard and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. I also had an internship at the Not For Sale Campaign Syracuse chapter, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking. I was born in Seoul, Korea on September 30, 1990 and moved to the United States before I was one year old. When I was 8, my family and I moved to Norwich, England for three years. While I was here I was immersed into a new culture and got to experience many things other children my age do not get to. Over the three years, I visited Ireland, France and the Netherlands several times, and Belgium, Wales and Sweden once. In the winter of 2010, I got an amazing opportunity to visit Kenya for a month. This was by far the single most eye-opening experience of my life thus far. The natural beauty of the landscape and its people do not compare to anything I have seen. I currently intern for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in the hopes of getting a full-time job at a newspaper or non-profit after.
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