The jury trial of a Lakeville mother accused of hiding her two teenage daughters from their father for more than two years begins Monday in Dakota County District Court in Hastings.
Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, now charged with eight felony counts of deprivation of parental rights, was allegedly involved in the April 2013 disappearance of her daughters, Samantha and Gianna Rucki, then 14 and 13. The girls ran away in the midst of a bitter divorce between their parents after their mother accused their father, David Rucki, of being abusive.
Several days after the teens ran away from their Lakeville home, their mother and a friend took the girls to a western Minnesota horse ranch and left them there until they were found by police 2 ½ years later, authorities said.
The trial promises to bring closure to a missing persons case that attracted national attention for years.
According to the charges, Grazzini-Rucki and her friend Dede Evavold drove the girls to a horse ranch near Herman, Minn., run by Doug and Gina Dahlen, who were sympathetic to Grazzini-Rucki’s claims that her children were failed by the family court system. Evavold and the Dahlens also face felony charges.
Before they disappeared, the sisters, now 18 and 16, repeatedly accused their father of abuse, but a court-appointed psychologist concluded that Grazzini-Rucki had brainwashed them, and a judge granted full custody to the father.
Days before her trial was set to begin, the county attorney’s office filed two additional felony charges of deprivation of parental rights against Grazzini-Rucki. The attorney’s office said an amended criminal complaint was filed Tuesday after one of the daughters made a recent statement to Lakeville police.
According to the amended criminal complaint, Samantha Rucki was interviewed by police June 30 and said that her father never abused her and she never saw him abuse any of her siblings.
“As to the event of April 19, 2013, it was her idea to run away and … she asked [Grazzini-Rucki] to come get her,” according to the complaint.
Grazzini-Rucki picked up the girls, who stayed in St. Cloud for a few nights with Evavold, then were dropped off at the Dahlen ranch.
“[Grazzini-Rucki] stated that she would be back in a couple of days to pick up [the girls],” according to the amended complaint. “[Grazzini-Rucki] did not return to pick up the girls, and she never called them during the time they stayed at the Dahlen residence.”
Should Grazzini-Rucki be convicted, the county is seeking an aggravated sentence against her, saying she caused the girls’ father “particular cruelty” for depriving him of the girls for two years.
David Rucki has “suffered extreme emotional pain beyond what is normal for this crime,” Assistant County Attorney Kathryn Keena wrote in a notice to the court.
The girls moved back in with their father around Christmas and went back to school. Rucki said the family is “healing,” and his oldest daughter recently graduated from high school.
“It’s as normal as possible,” Rucki said last week. “They are teenage girls again.”