Jury deliberations have begun in the trial of a Lakeville mother accused of hiding her two teenage daughters from their father for more than two years.

The Dakota County jury received the case Wednesday afternoon after closing arguments wrapped up in the trial of Sandra Grazzini-Rucki.

Rucki, 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.

In her opening statements last week, Assistant Dakota County Attorney Kathryn Keena told the jury in the Hastings courtroom that, after dropping them off at the ranch, Grazzini-Rucki didn’t see them again. She allegedly promised to see them in a few days, but instead left them there for more than two years while the girls’ father frantically searched for them, Keena said.

Stephen Grigsby, Grazzini-Rucki’s attorney, told the jury during his opening statements that his client was only saving the girls from an abusive father and a disruptive home life.

“This was to protect them from harm,” he told the jury.

The April night the girls ran away, Samantha called and told her mother their plans.

“They begged their mother not to put them back in that situation,” Grigsby said. “And she didn’t.”

During the trial, jurors heard from the couple who housed the girls at the ranch, David Rucki and Samantha Rucki, whose testimony marked the first time either of the girls talked firsthand about the ordeal.

“The last time I saw my mother,” Samantha said Thursday, “was a long, long time ago.”


Twitter: @KarenAnelZamora