A woman arrested in Florida on suspicion that she helped hide her teenage girls from their father agreed to extradition on Tuesday and will be brought back to Minnesota.
But police say Sandra Grazinni-Rucki still has not provided information on where the girls are.
"She doesn't know where her kids are, and she hasn't done anything wrong," her attorney, Michelle MacDonald, said Wednesday.
Samantha and Gianna Rucki were last heard from in May 2013, appearing on a local TV news report to explain why they ran away in the midst of a custody dispute. Police say that's the last time they've seen the girls, then ages 13 and 14. Since then, the sisters have had no presence on social media, made no contacts with former high school friends, and never reached out to family members, Lakeville Police Lt. Jason Polinski said Tuesday.
In August, Dakota County issued a warrant for the arrest of Grazzini-Rucki, 50, on three counts of felony deprivation of parental rights. U.S. Marshals arrested her early Sunday morning at a Florida resort club in the Orlando. Polinski said she is not cooperating with law enforcement.
The investigation has uncovered numerous photographs taken since the girls' disappearance that show Grazzini-Rucki and a boyfriend posing in different locations around the world, but none that show Samantha or Gianna, Polinski said.
"She doesn't at all seem to be concerned about where her kids are," Polinski said. "It's just not normal."
Her attorney, MacDonald, had said on Sunday she would fight extradition, but changed her mind after realizing she had legal grounds for the challenge.
When she comes back to Minnesota, MacDonald said she will argue that her client should be released without bail while the criminal charges are pending.
Polinski said police have evidence that Grazzini-Rucki is involved in hiding the girls with a passionate network of supporters who believe the country's family courts are corrupt.
"People think they're saving these girls," Polinski said. "They are violating the law. And we will prosecute these people."
The girls disappeared during a tumultuous divorce and custody dispute that began in 2011.
The two girls and their three siblings lived in their Lakeville home until September 2012, when White Bear Lake psychologist Paul Reitman interviewed the family and reviewed the case. He concluded that the mother brainwashed the children into believing their father abused them.
The children, he wrote in an evaluation, needed to "immediately begin therapy and/or deprogramming to repair the damage that's been done by the alienation."
The judge in the case, David Knutson, ordered both parents to stay away from the children. On April 19, 2013, Knutson directed that the girls be placed in the care of their aunt at the family home.
That day, police brought the girls to their Lakeville home, but they ran away about a half-hour later.
The following month, Fox 9 aired a story on the divorce case that included an interview with the girls saying they fled to get away from their abusive father.
In November 2013, Knutson gave full custody to the father, David Rucki, saying there was no evidence to support the allegations that he abused either his ex-wife or his kids. Grazzini-Rucki was granted supervised visitation, with Knutson writing that evidence supported allegations that Grazzini-Rucki was "mentally unstable" and he was "concerned that Grazzini-Rucki would abduct the children if she was allowed unsupervised parenting time with them."
MacDonald and Grazzini-Rucki have appealed Knutson's orders several times, accusing him of violating the mother's rights. All of those appeals have been rejected, with the latest coming from the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.
Polinski said Lakeville police have no credible evidence that Rucki has ever abused his children, and neither his department nor child protection has received abuse reports against him since he was granted full custody of his five children in November 2013.
Brandon Stahl • 612-673-4626