Charged with hiding two teenagers from their father for 2½ years, Doug and Gina Dahlen say they were doing the opposite: Taking the girls to restaurants, garage sales, church and shopping trips in Fargo.
Gianna and Samantha Rucki were treated as missing persons after they ran away from their Lakeville home in April 2013. After police found the girls at the Dahlens’ western Minnesota ranch in November, the Dahlens were charged with felony deprivation of parental rights. In a motion to dismiss the case, filed last week in Dakota County, the Dahlens claimed that both girls were “in the public eye and involved in the community.”
“No effort to keep them secret or undiscovered occurred,” the motion said. “Even government personnel and social services came to the ranch and no effort was made to hide, restrain or conceal them.” The Dahlens and their attorneys declined to comment for this story.
The girls ran away in the midst of their parents’ bitter divorce. According to charges, their mother Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, and her friend, Dede Evavold, drove the girls to the Dahlens’ White Horse Ranch, near Herman. Both Grazzini-Rucki and Evavold also face felony charges.
Evavold had asked Gina Dahlen if she could take on the sisters “for a few days, until they found a permanent place,” according to the motion.
The Dahlens agreed. From that point, the girls had full access to computers and cellphones and could have gone home, the Dahlens said. But they said the sisters were afraid of their father, David Rucki, whom they accused of abuse.
When the Dahlens talked to the girls about going back, “the girls would begin to cry and begged the Dahlens to not take them back and threatened to run away,” the motion said.
Their father denies ever abusing his daughters, and a family court judge found no evidence that he had.
In an interview Tuesday, David Rucki said the Dahlens had no right to keep them. “Who are the Dahlens to make this judgment call?” he said. “They don’t know me. They don’t know my family. For them to be judge and jury over my family is ridiculous.”
The 16- and 17-year-old girls moved back in with their father around Christmas and have gone back to school. Rucki said he has no concern that the girls will run away again, though there have been challenges as the family has worked to reunite. Rucki said the Dahlens tried to instill “a racist, very judgmental” belief system in the girls.
In their court filing, the Dahlens said that they allowed the girls to stay after “consultation with others, including church leaders.” Yet no one reported them missing.
Rucki called that unconscionable. “There’s something wrong up there,” he said. “If that community and church looked the other way, then shame on that community.”