HASTINGS, Minnesota, September 23, 2016- Sandra Grazzini-Rucki has been sentenced to six years’ probation and an extra one hundred and eight days in jail for her role in her two daughters’ running away.
Grazzini-Rucki was to serve thirty days immediately and fifteen days each of the next six years on the anniversary of the date authorities found her two daughters, November 17. However, Grazzini-Rucki chose to serve the sentence all at once, a total of as long as 233 days, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Judge Asphaug handed down the sentence even though the prosecutor, Kathryn Keena, asked for only the probation and no jail time. Keena said she was fulfilling a promise made to Grazzini-Rucki’s daughter, Samantha, one of the two daughters who ran away.
Judge Asphaug imposed the unusual sentence after disallowing nearly all of the evidence Grazzini-Rucki intended to use in support of her affirmative defense. Grazzini-Rucki argued that she hid her daughters to protect them from an unsafe environment.
The criminal record of Grazzini-Rucki’s ex-husband, David Rucki including a bar fight, road rage incident, numerous incidents of stalking and numerous violations of orders for protection, were all disallowed.
Child Protection reports, including one made by Nico Rucki in which he claimed his father held a gun to his head, were also disallowed.
Judge Asphaug’s chambers directed all calls to Beau Berentson, public affairs officer for the Minnesota courts, who did not respond to an email for comment.
David Rucki made a victim impact statement which included the following statement:
“She is not the same woman I married twenty-five years ago. Sandy, that woman, is gone. She doesn’t realize how blessed she is. She cannot comprehend the pain and trauma on her children. We need to free Sandra from her distorted reality. How Sandy thought alienation of the family was a good plan? Nico was forced by Sandy to write false statement on Facebook. They were not the truth they were his mother’s words.”
Rucki thanked several people including the Lakeville Police Department, his sister Tammi and Brandon Stahl of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The Lakeville Police Department has declined all comments on the case directing all questions to the Dakota County Prosecutor’s Office which did not respond to several CDN emails for comment. An email to David Rucki’s attorney, Lisa Elliott, was also left unreturned.
Stahl wrote an explosive story on the case in April 2015 when Dale Nathan first revealed that he was in the care of Grazzini-Rucki on April 19, 2013. Nathan would repeat this story several times including on ABC’s 20/20. Stahl wrote the story on the two-year anniversary of the girls’ disappearance. Curiously, however, Stahl confirmed to CDN that this was the first story he’d written on the case.
CDN learned that a third party approached Stahl in January of 2015 asking that he write about Sandra Grazzini-Rucki but Stahl declined saying the presence of Nathan posed a problem since he was a disbarred lawyer at the time. Stahl declined to comment when CDN asked why Nathan’s presence was no longer an issue.
Stahl has also declined to provide details of David Rucki’s voluminous criminal and violent history. Stahl also declined to write about Samantha Rucki’s June 30, 2016 police interview when CDN provided it to him.
In that interview Samantha Rucki said she was pressured into recanting by her father, running away was her idea, and she reiterated her father was an abuser .
She recanted when called as a witness saying she ran away to get away from the divorce but Judge Asphaug refused to allow her June 30 interview into evidence at Sandra Grazzini-Rucki’s trial.
After his initial response, Stahl has declined to respond to several CDN emails for comment.
Emails to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and to the office of Minnesota Democratic Governor Mark Dayton were also left unreturned.
Sandra Grazzini-Rucki declined to make a statement in court but her attorney, Michelle MacDonald read a prepared statement on her behalf outside the court house to the media.
“For the last five years I have had to endure the loss of my children,” Grazzini-Rucki said. “I have had to witness from afar the repeated abuse of them go unheard and ignored. They came forward repeatedly to the Lakeville Police Department, Judge David Knutson, and Child Protective Services. Psychologists Reitman and Gilbertson and Guardians ad Litem Julie Friedrich and Laura Miles also knew the truth of the abuse my children suffered, but each time their pleas fell on deaf ears.
“Now, I am paying the price for doing what any parent would do. Protect them from harm.”
Samantha and Gianna Rucki ran away from home on April 19, 2013. That day they were mandated to go live with their paternal aunt over their objections, despite both saying she abused them.
“We fought back, begging them not to put us in the care of Tammy that we were afraid for our lives, and told them that Tammy and my father had abused us. But they didn’t care,” Gianna Rucki said in a letter written and sent to the family court Judge David Knutson shortly after disappearing.
“I’m in fear for my life, to live or to even be in the Ireland place home with Tammy Love. She has physical, emotionally, verberelly (sic) abuse. I have told every one of my fears and begged them not to put me with her, but they will not listen. I’m so afraid,” Samantha Rucki wrote in a letter from April 2013.
Judge Knutson, who received those letters, ignored them and kept his mandate in place.
The girls were found on the White Horse Ranch on November 17, 2015. Doug and Gina Dahlen, who own the ranch, are still scheduled to go on trial for their role in the girls’ disappearance.