Michael Landers was getting ready for another dreary day when the doorbell rang. It was odd. 24-year-old Landers wasn’t expecting anyone at his Minnesota home. And it was too early for a visit from a door-to-door salesman. If it was a salesman, he was going to get an earful from Landers! Frustrated by the distraction, Landers thumped over to the door ready to tell the person off.
When he opened it, his anger immediately transformed into fear. It was the police. Why were they knocking on his door? Had he done something wrong? Thoughts buzzed through Landers’s mind, but nothing could have prepared him for the inconvenient truth the police were going to tell him.
The interruption could not have come at a worse time. It was January 2013 and Landers was married to the love of his life. And she was pregnant with their first child! His wife, Bobbie, shared numerous pictures of the ultrasounds on Facebook.
“Mike had a girl’s name picked out since he was younger,” Bobbie wrote, who already had two other children from a different man. “He wants a lil’ tomgirl and, having two boys, I can’t really see myself having a girly girl. Can’t wait until we find out!”
But the visit from the police would be such a monumental incident it would even surpass the impending baby in drama.
Landers had no idea but police were looking for him for years. They had been on the hunt for him for more than two decades. And now they had finally found him.
As the police spoke to him on that cold day, they told him he wasn’t Michael at all. His real name was Richard Wayne Landers Jr., and he had been abducted and legally missing for 19 years.
Then he learned that the people he knew as Raymond and Susan Iddings were Richard and Ruth Landers, his paternal grandparents. And in 1994, they had fled and kidnapped their 5-year-old grandson. Police could not find them, until now.
When Landers’s real mother, Lisa Harter, tried to get custody back, his grandparents abducted him and stole him away from her. She had merely wanted to be with her son, and his paternal grandparents refused to let her.
Harter hired a lawyer, Richard Muntz, who said that the grandparents withdrew $5,000, took the boy to breakfast, and never returned. In 1994, they were charged with interference with custody. But in 1999, their chargers were upgraded to a felony.
Because the grandparents did such a good job hiding, the charges were thrown out.
Harter remarried but never forgot about her long-lost son. Eventually, an Indiana State Trooper heard about the case at church and decided to open back up the case.
They found a man using the same social security number as the long-lost boy. He was living in Long Prairie, Minnesota. He was married and had a baby on the way.
Police knocked on Landers’s door and told him he wasn’t who he thought he was. But history shows that his grandparents were not evil. They had abducted the boy because his parents were jobless and lived in a car.
Should they be charged for protecting the boy from his parents?