A grand jury should be convened in Dakota County to investigation potential criminal charges in the disappearance of two missing sisters from Lakeville, according to two local attorneys who have been following the case.
"There is no better investigate tool in this country than a grand jury," said attorney and radio host Ron Rosenbaum, who has discussed the case on his weekly podcast, "Holding Court".
Samantha and Gianna Rucki both disappeared on April 19, 2013, when they ran away from their home in Lakeville during a custody dispute between their parents. Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, the mother of Samantha and Gianna, is considered a "person of interest" by Lakeville police involving the disappearance of her two missing teenage daughters. Samantha and Gianna's father, David Rucki, was awarded custody of all five of his children in November 2013.
"This belongs in front of a grand jury to find these kids, to make sure they’re OK," added Rosenbaum.
Lakeville police have said three additional people are each consider a "person of interest" in this case: Grazzini-Rucki's attorney Michelle MacDonald, Michael Rhendin, who is a friend of Grazzini-Rucki, and a suspended attorney Dale Nathan. Nathan told the Star Tribune that he was a passenger in a car driven by Grazzini-Rucki on the day Samantha and Gianna went missing.
Steve Timmer, a lawyer from Edina, has written extensively about the case at his blog, Left.mn. In an interview, Timmer said "hiding a minor child to avoid the visitation or custody rights of a parent is a crime, a felony. The reason that Mr. Nathan is suspended is because he previously advised a client to break this law, and she was convicted for it."
Timmer added, "if these individuals will not cooperate voluntarily, the [Dakota County Attorney] ought to avail himself of a grand jury to bring them in, put them under oath, and direct them to tell what they know, so that these girls can be brought home, and the persons responsible for their disappearance can face the consequences of their actions."
Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom declined to comment specifically about whether a grand jury would or even should be called related to the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna. In an email, Backstrom wrote his office "spoke with a Lakeville investigator last week concerning this matter and asked that it be referred to our Office for review."
Backstrom added his office "we will make a decision as to whether sufficient evidence exists to file a charge or whether further investigation is needed before that decision can be made."
In response to a request for comment, David Rucki's attorney Lisa Elliot provided the following statement:
I am glad that the missing Rucki girls finally have the attention of the Dakota County Attorney. There are many actors involved in the girls' disappearance and prolonged absence who should be investigated and prosecuted in this case. In pursuit of their own self interests, they have manipulated these two young girls through lies and deception without regard to the harm they are causing them.
That said, I have no strong feelings one way or another whether the County Attorney should convene a grand jury to investigate those involved. That decision needs to be made by his office. However, this investigation needs to be conducted in a manner that expedites the prompt and safe return of Samantha and Gianna, first and foremost. They need to be home soon with those who love and miss them.
The Lakeville Public Safety Foundation recently announced a reward for information leading to the location of Samantha and Gianna Rucki. Anyone with information about the missing sisters should call the Lakeville police department at (952) 322-2323.
Picture source: Star Tribune