A Case Study in How to Prosecute Family Abduction Cases


Convicted of Deprivation of Child Custody

Most District Attorneys in the United States have never prosecuted a Parental Kidnapping or Family Abduction Case. In 2016-17, Dakota County Minnesota Prosecutor Kathryn Keena prosecuted Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, Dede Evavold, Gina Dahlen and Doug Dahlen for Felony Deprivation of Child Custody. All four were found guilty and received jail sentences. Judge Karen Asphaug also sentenced Sandra Rucki and the Dahlens to jail time in day increments over a range of years. If there is any punishment that would be more appropriate for this type of crime is this form of sentencing. It allows the local Probation Department to more closely monitor the defendant after they are released from jail and results in protecting the victims of this crime.

In Parental Kidnapping cases, after the kidnapper is released from jail, in a number of cases the convicted protective parent attempted to snatch-back the child or commit the crime again. Since the convicted parental kidnapper normally goes back to Family Court to re-start the custody litigation, it provides the best possible scenario for the protective parent de-escalating the conflict. Although we have not yet seen that with Sandra Grazzini — we have seen it with other convicted protective moms. They eventually abide by the Custody Orders and make the most of their custody time with their children.

This type of sentencing should also help to motivate a recovered adult-child kidnapped to reunify with the left-behind parent. Although no court could order a reunification — all of us in the Family Abduction Community believe that Judges, Probation Officers, Parole Officers, Child Psychiatrists, Child Psychologists should encourage the convicted protective parent to support the reunification in these cases. We’ve seen in some cases the adult-child that was kidnapped is concealed even after the protective parent was arrested and convicted. The left-behind parent is never reunified with their kidnapped child.

Eventually, we would like to see harsher Family Abduction Laws in both America and other Countries. Until that time, any prosecutor that is assigned a Family Abduction Case should review this case.

Congrats to Dakota County Prosecutor Kathryn Keena and Dakota County for their efforts and results in this case!

24 Responses to A Case Study in How to Prosecute Family Abduction Cases

  1. Pam Nelson says:

    It seems to me they all got off lite

  2. Margo/Mom says:

    I believe that both Grazzini and Evavold have been ordered by the court to have psych evals, which I consider to be a good thing. What seems to be driving this particular case, as well as some others, is an extended fantasy that the courts are in league against “protective parents,” or women generally. Many of their supporters are deeply convinced of this and wholly unresponsive to anything in the nature of facts. Divorce is generally very painful and provides one the opportunity to confront all their deepest feelings of failure. Most work through this, but many instead seek confirmation in court determinations that the other parent is dangerous/evil, whatever. When they cannot achieve this, they turn their denial on the the court system itself, declaring it corrupt. This is not to say that there are never corrupt judges, inadequate attorneys or imperfect eyes in the heads of court social workers. All just people.

    I also am glad to see that this case has reached a conclusion and continue to hope that the girls who were impacted will eventually find a means of understanding what happened to them.

    • underwatch says:

      There are some protective moms after their conviction like Sandra Grazzini and Caroline Rice that are not able to move forward. As their former custodial spouses move forward with their lives raising the teenaged children; helping their children get ready for college — these protective moms can’t seem to move forward. This is unfortunate since these children are being victimized once again as these protective moms continue to find new forums for their cause. For future parental kidnapping trials, prosecutors and judges must consider sentencing that protects all victims of this crime. The victims may also include left-behind children and other family members. Perhaps longer prison sentences are the only way to protect all of the victims.

  3. Researcher says:

    I’m really scared by the lack of knowledge of any true data in this case. David Rucki has a VERY LONG criminal file that can be found online. http://pa.courts.state.mn.us/default.aspx Mom had none previously. Dad has mental health and drug addictions. Dad has a violent and deviant history.

    No good dad leaves voicemails on his daughters cell with gun shots after he tells the family around the table that he has a bullet for each of them. Dad’s own sister lost custody of her children years ago due to her drug convictions.

    While the girls were missing David stalked and beat a stranger so badly that man was in the hospital for 5 days (also covered up by downgrading this crime by the same police/courts continuously involved in the rest of the lies). I wonder how that victim feels?

    This case was a closed divorce case. It was reopened to go after mom’s trust fund after a judge involved in other similar cases came in contact with the file. Mom’s father is in the MN Aviation Hall of Fame by-the-way. Albert James Grazzini RIP 2010

    Record child suicides in Lakeville MN and drug use by children (same police detectives involved in most). Do your detective work before you comment. A simple google search will reveal MN is one of the worst for court corruption and protection of true abusers. The stats don’t support record numbers of previously sane (background checked) parents suddenly going insane. Sandra had to undergo continual checks because of her job. Why didn’t the FAA step in if she was so problematic?

    Abusers need to be held accountable and society protected. Extensive cover-ups in the name of crime facilitation… and to go after anyone’s millions in trust funds….don’t protect you reading this or these kids.

    You put yourself at risk by not being informed of who runs freely about (possibly in contact with your own children one day) courtesy of court “innocence” in MN.

    • underwatch says:

      Dear R. Let’s see should we believe 1) The Criminal Court Judge and Jury Verdict; 2) The Assistant District Attorney; 3) Veteran ABC 20/20 Reporter Elizabeth Vargas; 4) The Child Custody Evaluators and Psychologists directly involved in this case OR You.

      Please re-read your post or perhaps show it to a mental health professional. Your support for Sandra could be interpreted as either delusional or ignorant. Sandra and her supporters need to move along in the best interests of these children. These family rightfully deserve privacy right now.

      • Researcher says:

        Dear Ignorant underwatch, I believe the WHOLE taped (many day) segment of the 20/20 interview that was taped by others and was cut from the television media.

        Why would so much money be invested in the cover up of Dad’s crimes? What exactly was he trucking? How many jurors were tampered with? Who knows actually knows who? Who controls who? How much money is involved? Who received some of it?

        Dig deep underwatch (or maybe it’s actually not so deep). 24 hours of surveillance on anyone involved in these cases would be eye opening (as long as it’s the 24 hours they aren’t alerted that you’re watching). Lifetime histories are important too.

        The very same people you mention above are involved in some very, very unfortunate other cases pro (real) criminal. Lots of money goes around in these cases.

        If local laymen can find out, why can’t you?

        This is only ONE case in millions in this country. Look around at reality. Spoon fed reality is spoon fed to you for a reason. Wake up.

      • underwatch says:

        Researcher, your email sounds like the very small number or protective parent movement supporters in the other cases. After a protective parent kidnaps her or his kids and is found guilty, goes to jail or prison — the claim is that the searching parent and his or her family paid off the judges, law enforcement, psychiatrists, custody evaluators, the media etc. Do you really think Elizabeth Vargas of 20/20 received a brown paper bag with money? Do you really think the judge and jury also received these brown paper bags?

        There are some that believe the protective parent movement is a cult. I am not sure about that. There are supporters like you that do not believe that an admitted liar like Sandra Rucki shouldn’t have lost custody of her children. You probably believe that we should revert back to maternal custody versus joint custody / coparenting. At their annual conference it is said that protective parents must sometimes commit acts of civil disobedience. An attorney brags about the number of times he has been arrested. I get the feeling that like Dede Evavold, you would be willing to do or say anything for the cause.

        I would suggest that you RESEARCH Dede Evavold’s actions and what her own family thinks about her.

        Finally, it took law enforcement 944 days and a subpoena and search warrant of Dede Evavold’s house to find the teenagers in this case. If you have children or grandchildren and your former spouse kidnapped your child(ren) — can you even consider how it would feel for those 944 days.

      • Researcher says:

        They have “investigators” go around and say there is an investigation that needs to remain secret and that people need to act in certain ways so no one finds out about the investigation. If you aren’t in the know, federal investigators can do that…even to your own attorney. Scary thought, isn’t it?

        The investigators are not truly investigating or trying to help the victims but instead facilitating crime and abuse. The investigation never goes anywhere (of course) and all the data is taken by the investigators and covered up (in the perp’s favor) while the victims are tortured, called crazy, and drained of money.

        The only cases like this one this out of control have: a perp parent that’s an addict…usually involved in drugs (but sometimes they are an alcoholic instead), that has a criminal background, that also has documented violence and documented mental illness (usually sociopathy or narcissism documented from MMPI results), and they are involved in HUGE insurance fraud and/or mortgage (and other) frauds and/or money laundering.

        I know what I’m talking about. I’ve tape recorded people accidentally talking about the secret investigators. And, these cases are all the same.

        Luckily the large financial institutions have their own investigators. Of course they’d like to stop losing money, and so would their shareholders, so it comes down to finding the “hot spots” of fraud and default in the country and just simple surveillance to find out the truth and who is involved.

        So it’s a win-win for everyone to solve this odd favoritism of criminals.

        It’s definitely illegal and corrupt.

        Laymen have found out easily too.Why are you so protective of the perp? Seems odd.

      • underwatch says:

        Hi Researcher,

        1. I am not sure what your post has to do with custody evaluations performed by court appointed evaluators.

        2. You discuss “documented from MMPI results”. In these protective parents cases, both parents take the MMPI. The evaluator will also see observe each parent with their child(ren). This data becomes part of the evaluation or “investigation”.

        3. In these protective parent kidnapping cases, there is research that says that the motive is anger and revenge rather than protection of the child.

        4. In these cases the judges are faced with trying to de-escalate the situation so the parents can move along to joint custody or coparenting. As you see at school events and graduations, the majority of parents move along. But in acrimonious cases where it is evident that it would be impossible for parents to share custody, some judges have split the children (some children go with the father, others with the mother; give sole custody to the remarried father/mother and his new wife/husband; give sole custody to the father/mother who has the child(ren)s grandparents nearby) After this occurs, some protective moms will resort to civil disobedience such as a Family Abduction or possibly something worse. I think that’s one of the ideas behind the protective parent movement, when a parent is willing to do anything, even consider acts of civil disobedience to get sole custody of their child(ren).

        I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist but I would think there is favoritism of both parents during a custody evaluation. As I once heard, the courts even let even crack cocaine mothers have parental rights. That said, I would think is it short-sighted or ignorant to think that when a proclaimed protective parent does not get sole custody of her children that her former spouse must have been a perp and that the courts are corrupt. Perhaps the protective mom was more than likely narcissistic and had some mental issues that she was sadly not able to accept joint custody or coparenting and move along. Perhaps she was unable to move forward with her life and the thought of another woman raising her children, living in her former home were an insult to her.

        In any regard, I don’t think it’s healthy to conclude that all family courts are illegal and corrupt. And for one that may think this, it might be better to contribute to blogs that may support your position.

      • Researcher says:

        Underwatch, I appreciate you are desperate to appear to be neutral after all I’ve said and your obvious ignorance of this case. Have you read the file at all? Have you read dad’s other criminal activities? Have you ordered police reports? Have you searched through any county material/records/documents at all? Have you looked into the documents on his mortgage fraud and sheriff sales on his homes? Do you know any true facts or are you posting nonsense to regurgitate slander?

        Present all the facts though if you want to publically pronounce anything like this blog/article.

        You are not a psychologist. That’s apparent.

        There is just nothing legal/ethical or common sense about giving kids to someone who has such a problem/criminal history when mom had none of the same problems. Why so much money working against a good parent? Open and shut, he had too many criminal and safety issues, she didn’t. Kids go with mom.

        A book is published about this case now.

        Sadly, the judges and police involved in this case are involved in many others.

        Please don’t post unless you have all the facts and plan to post the facts. Otherwise, it’s slander and that is illegal.

        I don’t need to comment further. Your audience gets the picture.

      • underwatch says:


        The Father in the Sandra G legally has custody of his children. There is nothing preventing Sandra from going to court and asking for a custody evaluation and a change in custody. Unfortunately, she is the one that is convicted felon. That’s sad. The day she made her personal decision not to respect the judge’s court order and to kidnap her children was the day she ruined her relationship with her children.

        Thank you for your posts. It certainly gives many of us an insight into the thought process of protective parents.

        It is time for you to move along too.

    • forthelost says:

      Researcher: you’re the one making the claims. You have to prove them. If all this information exists, you’ll surely be able to provide links to it here.

      • Researcher says:

        I’m not making claims. You have to go to the courthouse (you can use any courthouse) and use the public computers in the law libraries or available at the desks to pull up the restraining orders and orders for protection (against dad) by many other people. They are not public as most of the other material is. You can also read the real data and documents and why they were issued.

        Most of the other court cases against him are online with the link I’ve given above, although you can’t read the documents.

        You only need to search by his name as defendant and you can find the financial and other lawsuits against dad…. and his criminal activity. The mortgage fraud is under his previous (and current) addresses in real estate at the county courthouses.

        I have nothing to “prove” in this case. I’m a believer is doing the right thing for (anyone’s) kids.

        I’d be in favor of a point system at divorce. Why get messy? Whoever has an addiction(s), criminal history, violence history, allegations against them by others, a history of troubled relationships or work issues, etc….gets a point. Whoever has the least amount of points is probably going to be a better influence and a safer parent. Kids spend more time with the low point parent.

        I had an excellent dad, so I was really lucky and therefore I’m a well adjusted, confident adult who has easily accomplished incredible things because I didn’t need to fight childhood demons.

      • underwatch says:

        Interesting that a you want a point system. Some might argue that a point system already exists. Sandra was incarcerated and convicted for felony deprivation of custody so the current system ended with the same result. That said, I do not think Sandra tested well in the clinical evaluation portion of the custody evaluation. Your unwillingness not to accept that the current system only failed in not preventing the teenagers from getting abducted. Researcher, I do not think it helps you to move forward from this case by continuing to try and defend Sandra G. It’s time for you to move along.

        One final question for you. Kelly Rutherford, Madonna and Maya Tsimhoni have moved forward with their custody disputes with their former spouses. What is so different about the cases of Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and Caroline Rice that they can’t also move forward? … “in the best interests of their children”.

      • Pam Nelson says:

        well She is no saint either
        alot about her not. in punlic records too. Mom didnt bother to do her research on who she dropped her kods off with these people are truely abusive and sick. I personally know from experience. Christians ? No Way

      • forthelost says:

        You’re not making any claims? Really? You’re not saying these documents exist? You’re not saying dad has some sort of criminal past/present I can find out? So they’re not public yet I can somehow find them at a courthouse?

        You can’t even provide the actual links to the cases?

  4. Margo/Mom says:

    Researcher–I don’t know if we have met anywhere else under a different alias, but I have encountered a handful of folks who follow such cases and are dedicated to their unwavering belief that family courts are inherently corrupt, court social workers stupid (or paid off) and that mothers (while believed by these folks to be forever superior to fathers) are routinely given short-shrift by the courts. Actual data tends to dispute this, but such folks are seldom swayed by data.

    I just want to point out that Michelle McDonald, Grazzini’s family court attorney, and the (co)author of the book you cite, has recently been sanctioned by the Lawyer’s Board and her license suspended. This is the result of her behavior specific to the Grazzini case (causing unwarranted delays, disrupting court proceedings, filing false claims with reckless disregard) and one other, as well as election violations in a recent run for state Supreme Court. Her co-author/ghost writer is a blogger who is known as a recent champion of protective parents–even going to bat for one alcoholic mom who appeared in court inebriated. These things are facts.

    I would imagine that one of the two is the source for your claim regarding David Rucki’s unfitness as a parent. Apparently Ms. Rucki made a good many reports regarding his behavior, inclusive of things like checking the mailbox for his mail at the curb and asking a neighbor to ask for the return of a tool left at the house (where he previously lived). Things like that are why investigators have to sift through records in order to see what they actually mean–as opposed to simply counting the number of police reports someone has. End of the day, there seems to be a preponderance of evidence in this case that these kids should be with their dad who is capable of providing some stability and protected from their mom who has demonstrated rather reckless disregard over time for their well-being.

    • Researcher says:

      I don’t know if we’ve met? I usually stay out of the fray of these types of things. I never experienced court corruption in my childhood and really have a hard time wrapping my head around what’s going on. I grew up around government and politics with ONLY good men immediately eliminating problems from my life, not creating them.

      It’s been eye opening and has certainly shaken me to the bone.

      • Margo/Mom says:

        Frankly, “what’s going on,” is a bunch of pretty sketchy folks coming together behind a woman whose apparent mental state prevents her from being an adequate parent to her children or from participating in a rational plan for co-parenting. Dede Evavold’s family wrote to the court in her defense requesting a psych evaluation as they believe that her actions stemmed from a mental impairment. Michelle McDonald’s extreme and dramatic actions have earned her a license suspension (and since you seem to enjoy research, somewhere on the web you can find a you-tube of a DUI arrest some time back in which she refused to exit her car for a field sobriety test and was ultimately forcibly removed and lost the case in court–just an interesting aside). The Dahlen’s are frequently referred to as “operating a horse ranch for abused children.” The reality is that neither the ranch nor the Dahlen’s have any licensing (or training) to qualify them for that purpose. According to their website this life purpose came to Gina in a dream featuring a white horse–which they then purchased. The ownership of the ranch itself is legally entangled, owing to half-ownership by Mr. Dahlen’s previous wife. He was court-ordered some years back to either sell the property and divide the proceeds or to buy-out his ex-wife’s share. He did neither.

        This is all just to point out that these folks are the ones you choose to regard as heroes in this very sad case–believing instead that all of the other professionals who had to make decisions regarding the lives of these children are bowing to some (unnamed) source of corruption.

      • Researcher says:

        You are definitely missing a whole lot of information.

  5. Pam Nelson says:

    That was a perfect summary. Also it is questionable about their (Dahlens Christian values,and Love of children..
    hogwash!) As for Abusive? Absolutely YES

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