So, who will pay for the father’s legal bills, pain and agony, and loss of a connection with his daughters? Dads really pay a huge price in this utopia known as Minnesota.

Lakeville mom found guilty of helping hide teen daughters from their father
By Karen Zamora, Minneapolis Star Tribune Today at 1:31 p.m.

A Lakeville mother was found guilty Thursday of hiding her two teenage daughters from their father for more than two years.

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A Dakota County jury took about five hours to find Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, 50, guilty of six counts of deprivation of parental rights in connection with taking and concealing the girls and violating a child custody order, the county attorney’s office announced. She was acquitted on two counts related to causing minors to be runaways.
The verdict caps a yearslong custody and missing persons case that has attracted national attention.

“The almost two and a half years that these children were hidden led to significant trauma to her daughters and caused significant adverse impacts to the rest of her family,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said in a news release. “We are pleased with the jury’s decision in this matter.”

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 2½ years later.

Assistant Dakota County Attorney Kathryn Keena told the jury in the Hastings courtroom last week that, after dropping the girls 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.

‘As normal as possible’

Days after the girls ran away in the midst of a bitter 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. (Evavold’s jury trial will being on Sept. 26. The Dahlens also face felony charges.)

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 the father.

In his opening statements, Stephen Grigsby told jurors that his client, Grazzini-Rucki, was only saving the girls from an abusive father and a disruptive home life.

“This was to protect them from harm,” he said.

Grigsby told the jury that David Rucki, the girls’ father, was a “difficult” man and “terrorized” his family. During the custody dispute, the girls and their siblings were placed in the care of their two aunts.

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.”

Jurors later heard from the oldest daughter, whose testimony marked the first time either of the girls talked firsthand about the ordeal. Judge Karen Asphaug allowed her to be in a room away from the jury and gallery to lessen the trauma.

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

Contrary to statements she made before running away, Samantha had said her father never hit her, and she never saw him hit any of her four siblings.

The girls moved back in with their father around Christmas and went back to school. Rucki said several weeks ago that the family is “healing,” and Samantha recently graduated from high school.

“It’s as normal as possible,” Rucki said. “They are teenage girls again.”

Following the verdict, Grazzini-Rucki was arrested and bail was set at $100,000 without conditions. Her sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 21.

Grigsby said the trial was “far worse than a grueling time,” for her.

“This is among the single worst experiences you can get,” Grisby said. “It’s like a diagnosis of cancer.”

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