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Official: Boy’s mother lived in car
LONG PRAIRIE, Minn. — A 24-year-old man discovered living in Minnesota under an assumed name was abducted by his paternal grandparents nearly two decades ago when his unemployed mother was living in a car in Indiana, authorities said Friday.
The grandparents could face federal charges in the case, a Minnesota sheriff said.
Richard Wayne Landers Jr. now lives in the small northern Minnesota town of Long Prairie under the name Michael Jeff Landers, the Todd County Sheriff's Office said Friday. Indiana State Police announced that Landers had been found on Thursday.
Landers had lived with his grandparents since birth. But in July 1994, after a dispute between Landers‘ mother and the grandparents over his custody, the grandparents took him from their home in Wolcottville, about 50 miles southeast of South Bend, and fled.
“I’m not sure that they (the grandparents) ever had legal custody,” said John R. Russell, who spent several months investigating Landers‘ disappearance in 1994 when he was a road deputy for the LaGrange County Sheriff's Department.
The then-5-year-old boy’s 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.”
No home listing could be found for Michael Landers. Messages left with his wife were not immediately returned.
Minnesota officials say the grandparents — now living in the nearby town of Browerville, Minn., under the assumed names Raymond Michael Iddings and Susan Kay Iddings — verified Landers‘ identity. They were known as Richard E. and Ruth A. Landers at the time of the abduction.
A woman who answered a phone number associated with the Iddingses said she has told the truth to the officials who need to know, and declined a request for an interview.
The grandparents were charged at the time of the abduction with misdemeanor interference with custody, which was bumped up to a felony in 1999. But the charge was dismissed in 2008 after the case went cold.
That turned up a man with the same Social Security number and date of birth living in Long Prairie, about 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis. 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.
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