CHICAGO, March 2, 2017 – The last two defendants charged for their role in the Rucki girls’ disappearance have pled guilty but only after their attorneys argued witness tampering and 5th amendment rights violations.
Doug and Gina Dahlen pled guilty in January 2017 for their role in hiding Samantha and Gianna Rucki for approximately two and a half years; they will be sentenced in April.
Their mother, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, argued that she hid her daughters due to her ex-husband’s, David Rucki’s, violent and abusive nature; David Rucki argued he wasn’t violent and that she had alienated his children against him.
The two Rucki children stayed with the Dahlen’s who run the White Horse Ranch, a residence for abused children; the two girls stayed voluntarily and then begged authorities that they not be sent to live with their father when they were found at the ranch in November 2015.
Before pleading guilty, their attorneys argued that Gina Dahlen had her 5th amendment rights violated.
“On July 20, 2016, Mrs. Dahlen was compelled to provide testimony in a companion case State of Minnesota Vs. Sandra Sue Grazzini-Rucki.” The motion filed in December 2016 stated. “During the state’s examination of the defendant in these companion case, the state developed compelled testimony to support an amended complaint that adds four counts to the original two counts.”
Gina Dahlen was forced to testify at the trial of Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and Dede Evavold despite facing her own trial and her constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Dahlen was given “use immunity”, which rather than full immunity, still allows the state to charge a defendant but forbids the state from using any of their testimony in the upcoming trial.
But in this case, Dahlen’s team argued that her testimony led directly to the addition of four charges on the eve of her trial.
“A prosecutor’s use of a defendant’s compelled statement in ‘formulating a criminal complaint against the defendant’ violates defendant’s privilege against self-incrimination,” the motion argued.
Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, in a similar vein, had two charges added on the eve of her trial.
An email to the Dakota County Prosecutor, James Backstrom, for an explanation of the additional charges was left unreturned; an email to the Dakota County Prosecutor’s public affairs officer, Monica Jensen, was also left unreturned.
In an unusual move, Judge Karen Asphaug placed herself exclusively on all four cases- Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, Dede Evavold, and Gina and Doug Dahlen.
It was Asphaug who compelled the testimony after a request from the prosecutor and who allowed for the additional charges afterwards.
A voicemail left with Judge Asphaug’s law clerk, Megan Loyas, was also left unreturned.
In a separate motion, Doug Dahlen’s attorney also argued that David Rucki, the girls’ father, had engaged in witness tampering, in threatening Samantha Rucki to recant her prior allegations that he was abusive.
In the motion, Dahlen’s attorney argued that Samantha Rucki’s position that her father was abusive and she was frightened for her life in his care had only evolved after she was forced to live with him.
“The impression the Dahlen’s had of the girls, that they endured psychological and emotional abuse, had witnessed physical abuse against their mother, and would be subjected to physical or sexual abuse if returned to their father, has been corroborated by interviews conducted by child protective services (CPS) and two letters the girls had written during the initial custody case.
“During an interview with CPS in November 2015, SVR told them her father was ‘rough’ with her and ‘shook’ her. SVR said her father rubbed her inner thigh in a sexual manner. She told them he made comments on her ‘boobs’ and how large they were. SVR reported that she witnessed her father chasing after her mother with a broken organ leg, and that he was physically abusive toward her.” The motion stated.
“Conversely, once the girls were in their father’s custody in June of 2016 SVR told the police a different story. SVR told police investigators that her father and aunt made her come in to recant,” the motion stated of the evolution.
According to that police interview, when the police detective, Kelli Coughlin, asked Samantha Rucki if she was there voluntarily, she made it clear she was not: “They (her father and his sister) basically said I have to (go to the interview) and I have to be here and I have to recant everything I said and it’s going and that’s the way it’s gonna be- and they made me feel guilty about it and I started to cry.”
“They (her father and his sister) basically said I have to (go to the interview) and I have to be here and I have to recant everything I said and it’s going and that’s the way it’s gonna be- and they made me feel guilty about it and I started to cry.”
When David Rucki testified at his ex-wife’s trial, he testified that Samantha was sent to Dr. Rebecca Bailey for “reunification therapy” on three occasions before finally “breaking” according to his testimony after a visit to her grandparents.
Dr. Bailey, who became famous in the Jaycee Duggard case, did not respond to an email for comment on this case.
The Lakeville Police Department, where the interview was conducted, has previously forwarded any questions about this case to the Dakota County Prosecutor’s office, which has repeatedly refused to answer questions, including for this story.
David Rucki has a long and documented history of violence including: a bar fight, a road rage incident, incidents of stalking, and even an incident where he allegedly threatened to hire the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang to rough up his ex-wife.
Almost none of this was allowed into the trials of Evavold and Grazzini-Rucki by Judge Karen Asphaug even though both argued they hid the two girls because they feared for their safety in his custody.
Repeated attempts for an explanation to the court and the prosecutor’s office by CDN have been left unanswered.
An email to Beau Berentson, the public affairs officer for the Minnesota courts, about these latest revelations was also left unreturned.
An email to David Rucki’s attorney, Lisa Elliott, was also left unreturned.