Mom convicted of hiding 2 teen daughters from dad

Published 9:11 am Friday, July 29, 2016

HASTINGS — A Minnesota mother was found guilty Thursday of concealing her two daughters from their father for more than two years.

Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, 50, of Elko, was convicted by a Dakota County jury on six counts of deprivation of custodial or parental rights. She was acquitted on two counts of causing minors to be runaways.

The teens were found in November at a horse ranch in western Minnesota, after they hadn’t been seen in public since April 2013. Prosecutors say Grazzini-Rucki drove the then-13- and 14-year-old girls almost 200 miles from Lakeville, where they were living, to the ranch near Herman to hide them during a bitter divorce.

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Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said it is unacceptable for any parent to hide their children from a custodial parent.

“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,” Backstrom said in a statement.

Backstrom told The Associated Press: “It is simply not OK to take the law into your own hands and violate court orders, even when you don’t agree with those orders and even when they involve your own children.”

Grazzini-Rucki’s attorney, Stephen Grigsby, said the verdict “far exceeds disappointment.” He said a decision to appeal isn’t up to him, but he believes there would be grounds for one. He said the judge had no legal basis when she allowed evidence at trial that was designed to discredit his client.

Grigsby said Grazzini-Rucki testified during the trial that the girls ran away because they were terrified of their father, and they threatened to run away again with or without her help. Grigsby said Grazzini-Rucki testified she placed them in the care of someone she trusted in order to protect them.