- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

HASTINGS, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota woman chose Wednesday to serve time in prison after being found guilty of hiding her two teenage daughters from their father for more than two years.

Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, 50, of Stillwater chose to serve up to eight months in prison instead of six years of probation and staggered jail time. With time off for good behavior, Grazzini-Rucki likely will be released from the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee after five months, the Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/2djQ8QF ) reported.

Judge Karen Asphaug initially sentenced Grazzini-Rucki to 34 days in jail this year along with an additional 15 days in each subsequent year until 2022. She was to report each year on Nov. 18, the anniversary of the day her daughters were found last year.

Grazzini-Rucki’s ex-husband, David Rucki, urged the judge to give Grazzini-Rucki “the highest sentence permitted.”

“Sandy no longer understands what it means to be a parent and therefore I don’t think she understands what she’s taken from me or, more importantly, my children,” Rucki said.

But after the hearing, Grazzini-Rucki chose instead to execute her entire sentence at once. While an additional court hearing will have to be held, Grazzini-Rucki is allowed to make the request under law, Dakota County Attorney James C. Backstrom said. She was immediately taken into custody after Wednesday’s hearing.

Grazzini-Rucki chose prison to get the sentence over with rather than stretch it out over six years, said her attorney, Stephen Grigsby.

Grazzini-Rucki also was fined $944 for each of her daughters, which represents $1 for each day her two daughters were missing. She also was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to the Minnesota Crime Victims’ Reparations Board for family reunification efforts in the case as well as any future counseling expenses for her daughters.

In July a jury convicted Grazzini-Rucki on six counts of deprivation of custodial or parental rights. She was acquitted on two counts of causing minors to be runaways. She could only be sentenced on two of those counts - for depriving the girls’ father and aunt of their custodial or parental rights.

The teens were found at a horse ranch in western Minnesota. Prosecutors say Grazzini-Rucki drove the then-13- and 14-year-old girls almost 200 miles (320 kilometers) from Lakeville, where they were living, to the ranch near Herman to hide them during a bitter divorce.

The girls moved back in with their father late last year.

The owners of the White Horse Ranch, Doug and Gina Dahlen, are facing felony charges in the case. They’ve said they took the girls to restaurants, garage sales, church and shopping trips and didn’t try to hide them. The Dahlens said the teens had access to computers and cellphones and could have gone home.

Before the girls disappeared in April 2013, they repeatedly accused their father of abuse. But a court-appointed psychologist concluded Grazzini-Rucki had brainwashed them and a judge granted full custody to the girls’ father after finding there was no credible evidence of abuse.


Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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