Abducted boy found alive after 19 years

Jan. 11, 2013 at 2:17 PM
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LONG PRAIRIE, Minn., Jan. 11 (UPI) -- A boy who was abducted by his grandparents from a small Indiana town in 1994 has been found alive and well in Minnesota, officials said.

Lisa Harter's son was abducted when he was 5 years old amid a custody battle between Harter and the boy's paternal grandparents, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Friday.

Harter and her son's father were in the middle of a divorce, during which she found herself living in a homeless shelter, said Indiana attorney Richard Muntz, who has worked with Harter in her 19-year search.

"The father wasn't in the picture, and the grandparents got temporary custody," Muntz said.

After Harter, who has some developmental disabilities, was in her own home, remarried and working a job, she sought to regain custody, Muntz said.

"We had a number of hearings, and during the last one the judge said, 'I don't know if the mother can handle the situation, but we have to give it a try,'" Muntz said. "The judge ordered the child returned to the mother for a trial period. The grandparents went to the bank, drew $5,000 out of a home equity line and stopped for breakfast at a local restaurant."

The grandparents then skipped town with the boy and were not heard from again until last fall when a scan of the boy's Social Security number got a hot in Long Prairie, Minn., when the boy, now 24 years old, applied for a driver's license.

Indiana investigators contacted Long Prairie police, who along with the Todd County Sheriff's Office, the FBI and the Social Security Administration were able to determine that the Long Prairie man, identified as Richard Wayne Landers, was Harter's missing son.

State and federal authorities are determining whether to charge the grandparents, who have confirmed their identities and that of Landers.

Harter said she hopes to be reunited with her son.

"It's such a relief that he's been found and that he's alive and that he's healthy," she said Thursday from her home in LaGrange, Ind. "I found this out two days ago, and I'm so excited. I'm pretty happy. I know he's married and he has a child on the way. I've seen pictures of him. He looks like a man. I last saw him when he was a boy. He looks so different."

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