A mother accused of being involved in the disappearance of her two Lakeville daughters was arrested early Sunday morning in Florida. The girls, who have been missing since 2013, still have not been found, police said.
Authorities now hope to extradite Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, 50, who has been missing since August after she was charged with three felony counts of deprivation of parental rights.
Lakeville police stepped up their efforts to find the girls following an April 2015 Star Tribune story, which police Lt. Jason Polinski said provided new information to build a case for an arrest warrant.
“Law enforcement has inside information and is moving forward on finding the girls,” Polinski said in an interview Sunday.
Grazzini-Rucki’s attorney, Michelle MacDonald, said her client went willingly with U.S. marshals when they found her staying at a friend’s home in Kissimme, south of Orlando. MacDonald, who said in August that her client would surrender to police, said Sunday that her client will fight extradition, because she does not feel she would get a fair trial.
MacDonald said Grazzini-Rucki was not involved in the girls’ disappearance and does not know where they are. But she said that even if she did, she would not help police find them, fearing they would be abused.
“She does not want them to be found,” MacDonald said. “She believes that wherever they are, they are caring for themselves.”
Samantha and Gianna were 14 and 13 when they ran from their home without their shoes and coats on a 30-degree day. About three weeks after the girls disappeared, they appeared on a Twin Cities TV news show and said they fled because they were afraid of their father. That was the last time they were seen in public. The girls are now 17 and 15.
Their disappearance came amid a bitter divorce and custody battle that began in 2011 between their mother and their father, David Rucki.
Grazzini-Rucki has accused her ex-husband of abusing her and their children; Rucki said his ex-wife brainwashed the children to make up the allegations. In September 2013, a judge granted custody to Rucki and visitation to Grazzini-Rucki.
In April, police described Grazzini-Rucki as a “person of interest” in the case. But Polinski said that nearly all of their leads were exhausted until the Star Tribune reported the statements of a self-described witness to the girls’ flight. Dale Nathan, a longtime critic of family courts and a suspended attorney, said that after Samantha and Gianna ran away, their mother picked them up in her car, and the four drove around for two to three hours before he was dropped off.
MacDonald denied Nathan’s story. Grazzini-Rucki told the Star Tribune in April that she didn’t help her daughters run away and said that she was prohibited by a judge from speaking with police. A judge’s order contradicts that claim.
David Rucki said he’s hopeful that with his ex-wife’s arrest his daughters will be found.
“Unfortunately I haven’t heard anything on the girls,” he said “That’s all that matters.”