Police found her elementary-school age children wandering alone
Just months before her two daughters disappeared, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki instructed her five children, then ages 9-16, to run from home and avoid the police, says her son, now 19.
The Lakeville mother is suspected in the 2013 disappearance of her two daughters, Samantha and Gianna, now 16 and 17.
After months of hiding from police herself, Grazzini-Rucki was arrested by U.S. Marshals in an upscale Florida resort, extradited to Minnesota by bus and is jailed in Dakota County on three felony counts of depravation of parental rights. Her bail has been set at $1 million.
Police believe Grazzini-Rucki is hiding her daughters from their father through an underground network of people who believe family court to be corrupt.
The girls were last seen publicly in a May 2013 Fox-9 news interview with then-reporter Trish Van Pilsum. They said their custodial father, David Rucki abused them.
David Rucki denies any abuse, and police said there is no evidence to support the allegations.
Nico Rucki said he was 16 on Sept. 6, 2012, when Grazzini-Rucki pulled him out of classes at Lakeville North High School and told him she expected she would lose full custody the next day.
“She told me she was losing custody, and I had to run and I couldn’t trust anybody,” Nico Rucki said. “She told me to run … and, like, don’t come back home, because if I came back home the police would get me.”
That night at their closed-up Lakeville home, Nico Rucki said Grazzini-Rucki warned all her children they would not be safe if she lost custody.
From behind the front door windows Grazzini-Rucki had painted opaque and blinds she always pulled closed, she instructed them all to leave home without telling them where to go, he said.
“She told the rest of the kids and me to run,” Nico Rucki said.
The next day, Sept. 7, 2012, Grazzini-Rucki did lose custody and was instructed by the courts to move out of the house.
A Lakeville police report of the same date states David Rucki’s sister, Tammy Love, had been granted temporary custody of the children and had earlier visited the youngest children at Eastview Elementary School and told them of the ruling.
She said she wanted their routine to stay the same and let them ride the bus home, according to the report.
The children reportedly got off the school bus and immediately ran away.
They were found over an hour later pacing a sidewalk in front of a house more than two miles away from their home, across busy County Road 50.
A 911 caller stated the young children “ran off from an aunt who was granted custody,” according to the police report, and told police they called their mother’s boyfriend “Michael” to tell him what had happened.
Michael Rhedin, a former Elko police officer, was dating Grazzini-Rucki at the time.
The report says the Ruckis’ then 10-year-old daughter told police Michael told her to go to Kwik Trip and “wait while he found someone to go there and pick them up.”
She told police she just wanted “to go to Kwik Trip and see their mom,” but the report said police told them that was not going to happen because Love had temporary custody of them.
Police say as they were driving the children home, the girl told them Love had been abusive toward her in the past but could not recall any specific time or incident of any abuse.
The report said both children indicated that if they go back home, they are “just going to run away,” and said they did not feel safe with Love.
Nico Rucki said his mother used “scare tactics” to separate the children from their father, David Rucki.
“She basically told us that he was, the best way to put it is, the devil,” Nico Rucki said. “If we went with him, we’d die. We would never come back, we would be forever, like, damned.”
He said at first he believed her, but when he started questioning his mother’s claims of abuse, Grazzini-Rucki turned the other children away from him as well, and he felt like he was being made out to “be the bad guy.”
One of the last times he saw his sister Samantha Rucki before she disappeared in 2013, Nico Rucki said she called him a “traitor.”
He said by the time the girls left, they were barely in contact with each other.
“I saw Sammi at school here and there,” Nico Rucki said. “She avoided me all she could because I was talking to my dad at the time.”
Nico Rucki said Grazzini-Rucki told the children Dave Rucki was “always staring through the windows,” was going to go after them and “destroy their lives.”
He said Grazzini-Rucki made the children “victims” and “put fear into their minds.”
“It was always the conversation with the kids that my dad was a bad guy and we shouldn’t go back to him,” Nico Rucki said.
Love did not return multiple phone messages seeking comment.
According to the police report, the day Love was to move in and care for the children the home needed repair and was lacking some of the basics found in most homes.
The refrigerator and microwave were not working, and there was no wired or cell telephone service. Police reported the home’s cable television and Internet services had also been disconnected.
The painted windows, locked doors and closed blinds created an environment that Nico Rucki described as creating an atmosphere of being “in danger” and “not safe.”
He said he would challenge Grazzini-Rucki’s claims about their father, but the rest of the children “did whatever she said.”
He said Grazzini-Rucki gave the children no instructions about where to go or what to do once they left their home.
“She just said run,” Nico Rucki said. “She didn’t say go anywhere, she just said run. That’s how the conversation went down: Do not go home. Go anywhere but home.”
Samantha and Gianna Rucki also did not come home after school that day, but instead went to the Lakeville police.
Nico Rucki said he was at a friend’s home and police picked him up and brought him to his house, where he helped his aunt clean and repair the house.
The police report said the rest of the children, including Samantha and Gianna, spent the weekend with another aunt and uncle.
Seven months later, Samantha and Gianna would run away from the home again without their shoes or coats, and according to suspended attorney Dale Nathan, dive into a car waiting nearby and driven by Grazzini-Rucki.
Court documents state discarded wrappings of a cellphone were found left behind. Police called Grazzini-Rucki’s cell phone the night of April 19, 2013, but got no answer.
Nico Rucki said he is concerned about the girls and is fearful there is a chance they may not be alive.
“I don’t know where they are,” he said. ”I don’t know who they’ve been talking to (or) who they’ve been staying with, because you can’t live on your own. You can’t live out on the streets without being noticed.”
He said he wants his sisters to come home, and described how hard it is to hear of sightings or online social media posts that have raised false hopes, and noted how stressful the ordeal has been for David Rucki.
“I can see it’s been tough on him,” Nico Rucki said. “Emotion, sad emotion when we bring up the girls, he gets emotional. … You can see he’s been through the ringer a lot.”
He denied any abuse by his father to himself or any of his siblings, and said the two youngest children are doing well in school, happy and safe with their father.
“They’re doing better than they were with my mom,” Nico Rucki said. “They’re happier than I’ve ever seen them before. I mean, they’re a part of the family, they’re willing to go do family things. They’re being kids again.”
Nico Rucki encouraged the girls, if they can hear his words, to come back and find out for themselves how things are, not just believe what they have been told.
“I want to see them come home, and I want all this to end,” Nico Rucki said. “It’s crazy that this is all happening. It shouldn’t be like this.”