Authorities said Landers had lived with his grandparents since birth. But there was a dispute between Landers' mother and the grandparents over his custody, and the grandparents took him from their home in Wolcottville, about 50 miles southwest 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.
"I know they were in the courts. They were starting to let him be with her (his mother) for a little bit at a time. Then they said they should give them a couple of weeks together, and just before the two weeks, they disappeared," Russell said.
The grandparents were charged at the time 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.
Investigators reopened the case in September when Richard Harter turned over the boy's Social Security card to an Indiana State Police detective.
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.
"By all accounts, it didn't appear he suffered from any abuse, either physical or mental," Galaviz said.
Associated Press writers Amy Forliti and Doug Glass in Minneapolis and Charles Wilson in Indianapolis contributed to this report.