BROWERVILLE, Minn. - An Indiana mother whose former in-laws allegedly abducted her son nearly 20 years ago was not homeless at the time, the woman's lawyer said, refuting claims that the grandparents needed to step in because she was unable to care for the boy.
Authorities searched for the then-5-year-old Richard Wayne Landers Jr. for years, but the case went cold. They eventually found him living with his paternal grandparents in the small central Minnesota town of Browerville. He had changed his name in 2006 to Michael Jeff Landers.
Lisa Harter and the boy's father, Richard Wayne Landers Sr., did live in a car for three days at one point, but at the time of the boy's disappearance in 1994, Harter had moved into an apartment, attorney Richard Muntz told The Associated Press late Friday.
Muntz said that when Harter and Landers Sr. divorced, Harter - who has mild developmental disabilities- temporarily moved into a group home that wasn't equipped for children. The grandparents obtained custody and filed for guardianship, he said. After Harter moved into an apartment and gained custody of her son on weekends, she filed a petition to expand her custody rights when she remarried.
"The judge gave her custody on a trial basis, and before she could get him, that's when they left," Muntz told the AP.
Todd County Sheriff Peter Mikkelson has said the investigation was ongoing and the case will be forwarded to federal authorities for possible charges, perhaps related to non-custodial kidnapping.
Michael Landers seems to have understood his circumstances and lived willingly with his grandparents.
Neither he nor his wife immediately responded to telephone or Facebook messages. But postings from each of their Facebook accounts appeared Friday night and Saturday on the Facebook page of KARE-TV in Minneapolis, suggesting that the grandparents did what was necessary.