The father of two Minnesota teenage girls, whose mother was accused of hiding them for more than two years, says his daughters are readjusting well to life at home with him and their other three siblings.
David Rucki told ABC News “20/20” that the two teens, Gianna and Samantha Rucki, got to celebrate Christmas with their family, except for their mother, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, who has not had contact with her children since their ordeal.
Gianna and Samantha Rucki were 13 and 14 years old, respectively, when they ran away from the family's Lakeville, Minnesota, home on April 19, 2013, during a divorce and custody dispute between their parents. On Nov. 18, 2015, police found Gianna and Samantha at the White Horse Ranch in Herman, Minnesota, where they had been living with owners Gina and Doug Dahlen for the past two and a half years.
Sandra Grazzini-Rucki denied she had anything to do with the teens’ disappearance. But the Dahlens claimed Grazzini-Rucki and one of her longtime supporters, Dede Evavold, had dropped the girls off at the ranch. The Dahlens said they were helping them because Samantha and Gianna had said their father was abusive. Police tracked the teens down after tracing a photo of Samantha on Evavold’s cell phone back to the ranch.
David Rucki has long denied ever abusing his ex-wife or their children. He was granted sole custody of all five of the couple’s children in November 2013, while the two teens were still missing, after a judge dismissed Grazzini-Rucki’s abuse accusations and accused her of turning the children against their father.
Samantha Rucki and the eldest, Nico Rucki, testified at their mother’s trial that their father had never physically abused them. Grazzini-Rucki was convicted this July of six counts of deprivation of parental rights.
She was sentenced to 34 additional days in jail, on top of the 133 days she had already served, and six years’ probation, with the stipulation that she would serve 15 days in jail during each of the six years, starting on the anniversary of the day her daughters were found. She was also ordered to pay a $944 fine for each daughter -- $1 for every day they were missing.
After her conviction, Grazzini-Rucki’s attorney read a statement from her outside the courthouse that said in part, “I’m paying the price for doing what any loving parent would do for their children, protecting them from harm.” Grazzini-Rucki has not seen any of her children since the trial.
David Rucki argues that the girls never needed protection, and that they weren’t in harm’s way at home.
Dede Evavold, the woman who helped Grazzini-Rucki hide her daughters, was convicted of six counts of deprivation of parental rights in September. She was sentenced to six months in jail.
Gina and Doug Dahlen, the couple who kept the girls pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of parental rights. They are scheduled to be sentenced in May. The Dahlens’ ranch, where the Rucki girls lived for over two years, is currently for sale.