Two, sisters who disappeared from their Lakeville, Minnesota, home in 2013 were found safe and sound on a horse ranch on Wednesday afternoon.
Samantha and Gianna Rucki, ages 16 and 17 respectively, vanished in the midst of a bitter custody dispute between their parents, Fox 9 reports.
Before they vanished, the girls claimed their father, David Rucki, was physically and emotionally abusing them. He, however, insisted that was a lie, alleging that the girls’ mother, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, had turned his daughters against him in a case of parental alienation.
The girls ended up running away from their father in April of 2013 and they haven’t been seen since – until Wednesday, when U.S. marshals discovered them on the farm in Herman, Minnesota, according to The Star Tribune.
The marshals had gone to the farm looking for evidence that might lead them to the Samantha and Gianna. Instead, they found the sisters themselves.
Authorities have long suspected that the girls’ mother helped them run away, though she has denied knowing their whereabouts. Sandra Grazzini-Rucki was arrested last month in Florida on charges of felony deprivation of parental rights. She was extradited to Minnesota shortly afterwards and is currently in Dakota County jail, KARE11 reports.
A jury granted David Rucki full custody of his daughters in November 2013 after determining that there were no credible signs of abuse. His daughters will be reunited with him soon.
“The sisters will return to Dakota County where the unification process can begin,” Lakeville police said in a statement. “Both the Dakota County Attorney’s Office and the Lakeville Police Department ask for respect and privacy of the Rucki family during the reunification period.”
A lawyer for Grazzini-Rucki said that she’s thrilled the girls have been found. “I am in disbelief,” attorney Michelle MacDonald told The Star Tribune about Wednesday’s events. “I hope [the girls] are reunited with their mother and brothers and sister, and even their father.”
Authorities suspect that the girls hid with the help of an underground network of critics of the family court system, who believe courts do not adequately shield children from abusive parents. Authorities found the girls after searching the home of a woman, Dede Evavold, who is allegedly a supporter of the “Protective Parent” movement, the Star-Tribune reports.
Grazzini-Rucki has not yet entered a plea to the charges against her.