Minnesota mother convicted of hiding daughters from father

  • David Ruki wipes away tears after giving impact statement to the court on Wednesday in Hastings, Minn. TNS PHOTO

  • Sandra Grazzini-Rucki was ordered to surrender to the court after her sentencing on Wednesday in Hastings, Minn. TNS PHOTO

Tribune News Service
Published: 9/21/2016 9:45:20 PM

HASTINGS, Minn. — A Minnesota mother will serve six years’ probation and jail time for hiding her two teenage daughters from their father for more than two years in a divorce and custody battle-turned-missing persons case.

Sandra Grazzini-Rucki’s sentence, which also includes one year of stayed prison time, comes after she was found guilty in July of six counts of deprivation of parental rights. She was also ordered to serve 34 days in jail and was immediately arrested. She must also serve 15 days in jail each year until 2022, and must report to jail each year on Nov. 18 — the anniversary of the day her daughters were found last year.

After a weeklong trial, a Dakota County jury took about five hours to find Grazzini-Rucki, 50, of Elko, guilty of six counts of deprivation of parental rights in connection with taking and concealing the girls and violating child custody orders following a bitter divorce from her husband, David Rucki.

Prosecutors alleged that Grazzini-Rucki took her daughters, Samantha and Gianna Rucki, then 14 and 13, to a western Minnesota horse ranch and left them there until they were found by police last October —
21/2 years after they went missing.

Days after the girls ran away in April 2013 in the midst of a tumultuous divorce between their parents, Grazzini-Rucki and her friend Dede Evavold drove them to a horse ranch near Herman, Minn. The ranch was run by Doug and Gina Dahlen, who were sympathetic to Grazzini-Rucki’s claims that her children were failed by the family court system. The Dahlens and Evavold also face felony charges of deprivation of parental rights for allegedly helping to hide the girls.

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 David Rucki. The girls moved back in with their father around Christmas and returned to school.


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