After over two years of very public appeals and investigation, the family of two Lakeville sisters found on a horse ranch in Minnesota now hopes for a private reconciliation.
The Rucki family is now in the process of being reunited with Samantha and Gianni Rucki, who went missing in the spring of 2013 after running away from home, while more details are emerging about how they were found.
The Pioneer Press reports that their father, David Rucki, expressed relief that his daughters were found on Wednesday, with his attorney saying on Thursday: "I talked to Dave this morning and he said that it's the first time in 2½ years that he actually had a good night's sleep.
"He knew where all five of his kids were."
According to the newspaper, the girls, now 17 and 16, went through physical and mental health exams on Thursday and are in the temporary care of the Dakota County Social Services, with their return to their family dependent on what the exams show.
Nonetheless police said the girls, who ran away when they were 14 and 13 years old, appeared in good health when they were found at the White Horse Ranch near Herman in Grant County.
The family issued a statement Friday to Star Tribune reporters Michael Brodkorb and Brandon Stahl, who were thanked for their reporting on their case, which said: "We are ecstatic to have Samantha and Gianni Rucki back home safe."
They added that since "this is a very emotional time for all involved, we ask that you respect the privacy of the family," and said they won't conduct any media interviews until they determine they are on "a path to healing."
The St. Cloud key to finding the sisters
The sisters ran away from Lakeville during a custody battle in 2013, with police investigating their disappearance saying earlier this year they believe an "underground network" helped them hide.
Among those alleged to be involved is the girls' mother, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, was arrested in Florida last month on charges that she helped her daughters disappear and evade their father, who had custody of them.
She had accused her husband of abusing Samantha and Gianna, but he denied those claims and said Grazzini-Rucki brainwashed their daughters.
According to the St. Cloud Times, the key to finding the girls may have lain in St. Cloud, where police searched the home of a woman believed to have been in contact with the girls' mother after they were reported missing.
This woman is said to have emailed Grazzini-Rucki's attorney two days after the girls disappeared. Police also tracked activity on the mother's Facebook account, which they traced to the St. Cloud woman's IP address.
A search of her home on Oct. 21 saw computers, cellphones and electronic storage devices seized, the information on which led them to the farm near Herman where the girls were found.
The Star Tribune reports that the "underground network" involved in the girls' disappearance are said to include critics of the family courts system, noting that the St. Cloud woman is a supporter of the "Protective Parent" movement.
The newspaper has also been speaking to people in Elbow Lake who know Doug and Gina Dahlen, who run the nonprofit ranch where the girls were found, and they speak highly of the couple.
"They would be the last people I would suspect of having any nefarious doings," Kari Hagstrom, Elbow Lake resident and manager of the Valley Equestrian News website, adding: "I imagine they were trying to help someone out and not cause more harm."