The woman who helped Sandra Grazzini-Rucki hide her two teenage daughters from their father for more than two years was convicted Thursday in connection with their disappearance in Dakota County District Court.
After an hour of deliberation, the jury found Deirdre “Dede” Evavold, 52, of St. Cloud, guilty of six counts of felony deprivation of custodial/parental rights. She is being held without bail pending her sentencing on Nov. 10 in the Hastings courthouse.
Days after Samantha and Gianna Rucki ran away in April 2013 in the midst of a tumultuous divorce between their parents, Grazzini-Rucki and Evavold brought the girls to a horse ranch near Herman, Minn., where the sisters lived undetected for 2½ years.
In October 2015, a search of Evavold’s St. Cloud home uncovered two pictures on her iPhone, according to court records. The first was a street sign at an intersection near the ranch, the second of Samantha hugging a donkey.
Police determined that the photos were taken in April and June 2013 at the White Horse Ranch only a short time after the girls ran away from their Lakeville home. The sisters were at the ranch when Lakeville police, U.S. marshals and Grant County deputies arrived Nov. 18.
Ranch owners Doug and Gina Dahlen, who were sympathetic to Grazzini-Rucki’s claims that the family court system had failed her children, also face felony charges of deprivation of parental rights.
Their jury trials are scheduled to begin next year.
Police used Gina Dahlen’s Facebook page to confirm that the photos found on Evavold’s phone were taken at the White Horse Ranch, according to the criminal charges. Evavold is a critic of the family courts and has been associated with a group of like-minded people in the state, which appears to be how she met the Dahlens.
Police found other evidence suggesting Evavold was involved in hiding the girls, according to the charges. Her iPhone had voice memos made on April 21, 2013, of the girls explaining why they ran away. At a search of another home, police found e-mails sent by Evavold with letters signed by the girls two days after they ran away.
In July, a jury found Grazzini-Rucki guilty of six counts of felony deprivation of parental rights. Grazzini-Rucki chose to serve eight months in prison rather than six years of probation.
The girls moved back in with their father, David Rucki, around Christmas and returned to school.
Rucki said last week they are still readjusting to being back home.