Behind the scenes footage from the 2016 taping of ABC’s “Footprints in the Snow” suggests that ABC 20/20 suppressed evidence of abuse in the Grazzini-Rucki case, and slanted the story, in order to portray mother, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, and friend, Dede Evavold, as “vigilante parents” and “family court critics” who participated in a child-kidnapping network operating in a “hidden world”. In pushing this false story, ABC 20/20 covered up domestic abuse, and encouraged viewers to disregard cries for help from children who courageously spoke up to disclose the physical and mental abuse they endured at the hands of a violent father.
The video “ABC’s 20/20 Producer Sean Dooley interviews Dede Evavold for Footprints in the Snow April 2016 Broadcast” shows raw footage of producer Sean Dooley interviewing Dede Evavold. Dede is a friend of Sandra Grazzini-Rucki who became involved in the Grazzini-Rucki case by helping Sandra’s teen daughters S.R. and G.R. find a place to stay after they ran away when the family court failed to protect them from their abusive father, David Rucki. The behind the scenes footage offers Dede’s side of the story, in her own words. Comparing this raw footage to the finished product, it is clear “Footprints” is highly editorialized by ABC 20/20 and its portrayal of Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and “supporters” does not accurately reflect their story or experiences.
During the interview, ABC producer Sean Dooley admits that he is aware of allegations that runaway sisters, S.R. and G.R., were being abused by their father and if returned to his care they could potentially be abused again. This is a side of the Grazzini-Rucki case never presented in “Footprints”. When asking Dede about the role of the Dahlens (who sheltered the girls on a therapeutic horse ranch), Dooley says, (24:11),”You knew they were safe.. what I guess I’m ..the point I’m trying to get at is you know is this a situation where you felt like what was most important was to ensure that these two teenage girls were in a safe environment and so what you knew about the Dahlens, you felt comfortable saying you knew that they were safe. So that they weren’t going to be with their father, they weren’t going to be put back into a situation where they were potentially at risk of being abused…”
The importance of this remark is that it shows that Dooley clearly understood Dede’s reasons for getting involved after S.R. and G.R. ran away were to protect the children from abuse – yet when “Footprints” aired, ABC 20/20 pushed a completely false narrative and mischaracterized Sandra and “supporters” as radical “activists”.
Sean Dooley wrote a response to journalist Michael Volpe stating ABC stands by their report, and did not suppress information about abuse. Read the response here: ABC Response – Footprints
During the interview, Dede repeatedly asks Dooley to “dig deeper” and investigate how the failures of the court to keep the Rucki children safe from abuse caused teen sisters S.R. and G.R. to run away in April 2013.
Dede says, “There shouldn’t have to be a time where children have to runaway because they are fearful. If the system was in place, and it was set up on how it’s supposed to function, they (S.R. and G.R.) would have never had to run. And you hear a lot that the family courts are broken.. they are not broken, they are well designed, there’s a well-designed operation..the court system really functions on conflict for profit.”
Dede remains calm throughout the interview, stating everything she has done was to protect S.R. and G.R. from being further harmed. While the sisters remained in hiding, Dede says, she worked to find a solution to keep the girls safe, and return them home. Dede said several times during the interview that she was not fearful. – It is obvious that Dede placed concern for S.R. and G.R. above her own situation, even when she was facing jail for efforts to protect them. Dede said she was hopeful that when “Footprints” aired that the allegations of abuse would be revealed and that someone, finally, would help the Rucki children.
Just the opposite happened – Dooley and ABC 20/20 not only suppressed information about abuse in the Grazzini-Rucki case but sympathized with Rucki, who is portrayed in “Footprints” as a victim of an “epic divorce”. Rucki’s lengthy criminal record, and propensity towards violence is also suppressed.
Although Dooley was informed of, and provided with evidence, of abuse in the Grazzini-Rucki case, ” the Rucki children were labeled as “brainwashed” and victims of “parental alienation”. ABC 20/20 encouraged viewers not to listen to, or believe, the children’s allegations of abuse or cries for help.
Both S.R. and G.R. have been very vocal in stating they are not “brainwashed” and were not coached by their mother, and that the abuse did, in fact, happen.
As noted in social service records from November 2015, recorded after the sisters were discovered living on the Dahlen’s ranch, S.R. says,”They were told by so many people that they were brainwashed and needed to be de-programmed. She never felt they were brainwashed.”
As for G.R., the social worker says, “Her dad would stalk the house when they were with mom. He showed anger like ‘I’m gonna kill you’. She got no hugs growing up. One time after a hockey game her dad rubbed her inner thigh. Dad shoved her mom often…She still feels fear of her dad, she does not know what he is like today… She does not feel her mother played a role in her thoughts or feelings about her dad.” https://www.scribd.com/doc/316692570/SamiRucki
It should be noted that this Dakota County social worker believed that S.R. and G.R. were victims of abuse, and needed to be protected from Rucki. The social worker advocated in court for the girls during the November 2015 hearing, advising they be placed in foster care and that Rucki only be allowed supervised visits. (Nov 2015) Social Worker Recommended – Protective Care for Rucki Girls, Supervised Visits With Father Due to Safety Concerns/
S.R. and G.R. were also appointed a lawyer, who fought to keep the girls in foster care for safety reasons. ABC 20/20 failed to mention any of this in “Footprints”.
Juvenile Court judge, Michael Mayer, disagreed and placed S.R. and G.R. back into the custody of Rucki. S.R. and G.R. were escorted from the courtroom by a guard who transported them to California to participate in a reunification therapy program. 20/20 portrays the program as successful, citing the girls didn’t run away. However, social service records note that the girls promised the social worker they would not run if sent to California. – It wasn’t the program that prevented S.R. and G.R. from attempting to run away, it was a promise made to a social worker, the only person in the system that believed them and tried to help. EPC Hearing Transcript Nov 30, 2015
At the time S.R. and G.R. were placed back into his custody, Rucki was on probation for a road rage incident where he followed a motorist, and ambushed him in a parking lot, beating the victim until he was bloodied and bruised. ABC 20/20 fails to mention this in “Footprints”; even as this behavior shows Rucki’s propensity towards violence.druckipolicereports
Despite overwhelming evidence of his abuse, reporter Elizabeth Vargas remains a strong supporter of David Rucki. During “Footprints”, Vargas says it is quote “total vindication” that Dakota County family court judge, David L. Knutson, denied any abuse had occurred then awarded sole custody to Rucki. At the time of the 2012 custody order, Rucki was on probation for a violation of a protective order against Sandra. Vargas goes on to say that “David works to mend his fractured relationship with them..” ignoring records that reveal all five of the Rucki children had disclosed that Rucki had physically and mentally abused them, and had threatened their lives. The response of the family court was NOT to protect the children, but, instead order them into “deprogramming” and “reunification therapy” to force them to recant abuse allegations, and accept a relationship with Rucki. Court records document the visible fear the children felt towards their father, including one of the children becoming physically ill and having to leave the room after being forced into a session with Rucki.
S.R. and G.R. have consistently stated they ran away for one reason, and one reason only – and that is because they were being abused by their father, and feared for their lives because the court was working to place them into his custody. The system, at every level, failed to protect them.
Consider this note from the social worker who interviewed S.R. in November 2015, “The police told them not to call unless someone was being killed…”
When ABC, a major news organization, sympathizes with a violent abuser, and uses its broadcast as a smear campaign against the victims it sends a dangerous message … Does someone really need to be killed before the cries for help from an abused child are taken seriously?
Source: More Unedited 20/20 Footage