(Judge Lisa Gorcyca, Oakland County, Michigan)
The Leadership Council for Interpersonal Violence (LC) found in 2008 that family courts force 58,000 children yearly to live with their abuser. The overwhelming reason, according to Dr. Joy Silberg, President of LC, is the false label of parental alienator to a parent reporting abuse. This profile aims to expose the parental alienation industry which makes this possible.
David Rucki’s criminal history includes: a bar fight, a road rage incident, multiple incidents of stalking and repeated protective order violations.
“This letter is to validate that this family has heard David Victor Rucki,” his neighbor said, “yelling and cursing at my family, police officers, and also his own wife and children.”
A witness said, “that Rucki had spoken with him while he was at Beer, Brats and Bingo in Lakeville, Minnesota. During this conversation David told (the witness) that the Hells Angels were going to do
him a favor by harming Sandra (Rucki’s ex-wife) while she was at her cabin.”
His son told Child Protective Services (CPS) that Rucki once stuck a gun to his head. That same son, Nico, now says he's never seen his father be violent.
On a local Fox broadcast, his two oldest daughters said Rucki once sat his family- his five children and their mom- and threatened to shoot them all; days later, his daughter Samantha received a voicemail with six gun shots.
In the same broadcast, David Rucki said of the incident: “What I think I said was ‘what do you want me to do kill myself so you don’t have to deal with this.”
Though the Rucki’s initially agreed to a divorce in 2011 where his ex-wife, Sandra "Sam" Grazzini-Rucki, received physical custody of the children, approximately a year and a half later she was forcibly removed from her home, forbidden from contacting her children, deemed a parent alienator.
In 2007, Angelo Gizzi was charged with 13 domestic abuse-related crimes, including assault, sexual assault, and kidnapping.
He was convicted of lesser charges even after Hickman refused to testify because of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Gizzi was initially given only supervised visitation with the couple’s two children, however after several court professionals were assigned, the focus turned to parental alienation.
In 2009, Dr. Stephanie Stein Leite, one of the professionals assigned, said, “This case sticks out in my mind, in the last 10 years, as the clearest case of alienation that I have seen.”
Leite and others on this case all belonged to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), the subject of my profile, “Making Divorce Pay” in July 2015.
By 2015, Gizzi received sole custody: Hickman also labeled a parent alienator.
Parental alienation is when, during a divorce, one parent turns a child against the other parent.
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding parental alienation, including its very existence, but this profile intends to expose the parental alienation industry- court actors, non-profits, and the media allies that carry the water of monstrous abusers- which ignores abuse spinning it into parental alienation.
History of Parental Alienation
Parental alienation was first identified as “pathological alignment”- when a child irrationally rejected the non-custodial parent- in a 1976 paper entitled “The effects of parental divorce: Experiences of the child in early latency” by Judith Wallerstein and Joan Kelly, both with ties to AFCC.
In 1980, they coined the term parental alienation in their book Surviving the Break Up: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce.
By the early 1980s, a psychologist named Dr. Richard Gardner coined the term Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).
“Whereby vengeful mothers employ child abuse allegations as a ‘powerful weapon’ to punish the ex and ensure custody to themselves.” Said Joan Meier, a professor at George Washington University, in a 2009 paper describing PAS . “He (Gardner) further theorized that such mothers enlist the children in their ‘campaign of denigration’ and ‘vilification’ of the father, that they often ‘brainwash’ or ‘program’ the children into believing untrue claims of abuse by the father.”
Gardner claimed that PAS existed in 90% of custody cases; he’s also made numerous pro-pedophile statements.
“The determinant as to whether the experience will be traumatic is the social attitude toward these encounters,” Gardner wrote in his book, True and False Accusations of Abuse; “pedophilia has been considered the norm by the vast majority of individuals in the history of the world.”
PAS was never scientifically tested or properly peer-reviewed, but based on his anecdotal observations.
For that reason, it has never gained widespread acceptance, rejected by the Diagnostics Statistical Manual of Disorders (DSM) repeatedly, most recently in 2013.
The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York instructs that “Prosecutors should diligently question any case law or article that is cited as supporting PAS theory.”
About the only place where PAS is given credence is in family courts where there were few rules, little scrutiny, or unnecessary media attention.
“Gardner invoked alienation—and marketed it widely—as a means of refuting mothers’ claims of abuse. Then, and only then, did courts take notice.” Meier stated.
Gardner was helped in those efforts primarily by AFCC and another virulent father’s rights group, the Children’s Rights Council, which hosted seminars, published his papers, and held conferences in support of PAS.
The industry was born with devastating results: “A preliminary examination of 238 cases indicates that fathers accused of abuse (adult or child), who in turn accused the mother of alienation, won their cases 72 percent of the time. They won 69 percent of the time when child abuse was alleged and 81 percent of the time when child sexual abuse was alleged.” An article quoting a study by Meier stated.
A study from 2003, by Peter Jaffe, Claire Crooks, and Samantha Poisson entitled Common Misconceptions in Addressing Domestic Violence in Child Custody Disputes found that approximately 75% of contested custody involve abusive or violent men.
As the theory spread through the family court, a plethora of non-profit groups- mostly structured as 501 ©3, popped up to support the term: PAS Intervention, Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, the National Parental Alienation Foundation, the National Coalition against Parental Alienation, etc.- all promoting the term by lobbying family court, legislators, and the media.
The family court cliché “parental alienation is child abuse” was started by these groups.
By the 1990s, Gardner and PAS became toxic so PAS became parental alienation but as Meier noted:
“The reality is that whatever some researchers may say about the differences between PAS and PA, in practice, PA is rarely understood to be different.”
"Alienating behaviors (ABs) are the acts of the preferred parent, such as indoctrination, which bring about PA in a child. ABs are very common and probably occur in most divorces to some extent; PA, on the other hand, is relatively unusual." Said Bill Bernet, a Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychiatry Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and a proponent of parental alienation, who last tried to get it into the DSM in 2013,
Parental Alienation and TANF
The parental alienation industry received its biggest boost from the landmark welfare reform bill the Personal Responsibility and Work Act of 1996.
Welfare reform advocates believed that many single mothers were on welfare because there was no father in the picture; as such, fatherhood.gov was born to bring fathers back into their children’s lives thereby removing women from welfare.
The bill created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); TANF controlled approximately $17.35 billion in grant dollars, according to 2014 statistics.
In 2012, Anne Stevenson, a divorce litigant turned journalist, testified in front of the House Ways and Means Committee about the deleterious effects of these programs.
“These TANF benefits are not intended to reach children directly, their purpose is to reward the unfit and unwilling fathers who lost custody of them.” Stevenson told the committee. “The incentives are structured so that the state will only benefit if children are removed from loving homes, then arbitrarily placed with male offenders who previously lost custody.”
John Allen Muhammad, the beltway sniper and Joshua Komisarjevsky, one of the two murderers in the notorious Petit family home invasion in Connecticut, both receive funds through this program.
“Michigan is providing dads with legal assistance and Montrose County, Colorado Fatherhood Program match up fathers with ‘Fatherhood Coaches’ who also just happen to be attorneys who want to help them with their child support and custody problems.” Stevenson said. “Programs like the Massachusetts Department of Probation provide ‘treatment’ to thousands of untreatable, incurable and violent sociopaths targeting their victim through the courts.”
In Illinois, fatherhood.gov money is funneled through the Illinois Coalition for Responsible Fatherhood (ICRF) which is run by noted father’s rights attorney Jeffrey Leving.
“Although groups cannot use TANF money for attorneys, the literature shows that some groups like the Illinois Coalition provides fathers with legal advice and exceptional access to judges.” Stevenson said.
“Parental alienation often arises after a divorce, as one angry, vengeful parent tries to turn the children against the other parent, destroying the loving bonds the children and the target parent once enjoyed.” Leving wrote in 2007, in an article defending Alec Baldwin, after his rant against his daughter Ireland went viral.
Abusive men pervert child support funds through TANF, Stevenson stated: “Instead of helping children, welfare reform created a new dangerous breed of Welfare Kings through HHS Office of Child Support Enforcement.”
David Rucki, who received 100% of the marital assets including four homes, nine cars, and a multi-million-dollar business along with sole custody of their five children, still qualified for public assistance through this very program.
“The Father receives child support services from Dakota County for the joint children pursuant to the Title IV D of the Social Security Act,” said Judge Maria Pastoor in 2016, using this assistance as justification for ordering Sandra Grazzini-Rucki to pay $975 per month in child support in 2016.
The reason this happens is because this money is not means tested- you qualify whether you’re Warren Buffett or unemployed.
With millions of abusive men chasing TANF dollars, they needed to explain their abuse; PA/PAS became the perfect theory to justify these dollars.
On June 24, 2015, Oakland County, Michigan, Judge Lisa Gorcyca had- Liam, Roe and Natalie Tsimhoni- aged 13, 10, and 9- arrested, handcuffed, and sent to juvenile hall until they turned eighteen because each refused to have lunch with their father.
All three were straight A students universally liked by other students and teachers.
The Tsimhoni divorce had been in front of Gorcyca for five years. Initially she sided with the mother,
Maya Tsimhoni, who received physical custody following a 2011 CPS report which found physical abuse by ex-husband, Omer Tsimhoni, who was initially given supervised visitation.
In another police report, Omer chased after his kids at the park; another report, confirmed by medical evidence, found Omer pinned his son to the wall during a visit.
Then, Omer Tsimhoni switched attorneys to Keri Middleditch, who previously worked with Gorcyca in the Oakland County District Attorney’s Office.
With Middleditch on the case, the dynamics changed.
After Middleditch alleged parental alienation, Judge Gorcyca appointed a series of court professionals including: Bill Lansat, an attorney as the guardian ad litem (GAL), Dr. Katherine Okla a psychologist for an evaluation, Jennifer Hayes, a social worker for another evaluation, and Jennifer
M. Zoltowski another social worker for another evaluation. All charged several hundred dollars per hour.
A GAL is supposed to advocate on the children’s behalf, though since the courts are already supposed to do that, their role is not entirely clear.
Despite repeated therapy and Gorcyca’s threats, the kids still refused a relationship with their father; things came to a head on the 24th. Gorcyca ordered the children to have lunch with their father; the children balked; Liam said he would not “apologize for not talking to [Omer], because I have a reason for that and that’s because he’s violent and I saw him hit my mom and I’m not going to talk to him.”
Unfazed, Gorcyca called his father “a great man who has gone through hoops for him to have a relationship with you,” continuing, “You need to do a research program on Charlie Manson and the cult that he has … You have bought yourself living in Children’s Village, going to the bathroom in public, and maybe summer school.”
Gorcyca was parroting Lansat, who said in 2014: "The children would not answer any adult; they huddled together as if they were sending messages/vibes to each other in some sort of Manson-like behavior.”
Following that rant, Gorcyca found the three children in civil contempt of court, ordered them to juvenile hall until they followed her order or turned eighteen.
Taryn Asher, of the local Fox affiliate, got her hands on the transcripts and broke the story on July 7, 2015; from there, it quickly became an international sensation.
Bowing to media pressure, Gorcyca released the kids from juvenile hall days after Asher’s report but then ordered them to a summer camp.
The media was initially friendly to Maya Tsimhoni, noting that Omer Tsimhoni left for a trip to Israel- where he’d been living until shortly before the hearing- soon after his kids were hauled off to juvenile hall.
Almost as soon as the story broke, a man named John Langlois with Dads and Moms of Michigan became Gorcyca’s chief defender.
“John Langlois from Moms and Dads of Michigan, a child advocacy non-profit, has also been watching this case very closely. He says the abuse in this case comes down to parental alienation and the court should have taken drastic actions to remove the kids long ago.” Langlois said in one story.
National parental alienation groups like Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO) and PAS Intervention also provided immediate support for Gorcyca, blasting out emails in her support to their members.
The reach of these groups can’t be found in their 990’s. The Father’s Rights Movement shows only $5,104 in assets but their Facebook page-which routinely blast out parental alienation propaganda- boasts approximately 400,000 followers.
Once the kids were released from juvenile hall, the media firestorm subsided; after summer camp
Gorcyca quietly ordered the kids to reunification therapy with Dorcy Pruter.
“Well, I have a high school education and then all of my certifications and classes afterwards.” Pruter stated in a deposition in another case of her so-called qualifications.
Reunification therapy is supposed to be a therapeutic intervention when the children find difficulty visiting with the noncustodial parent, but because she’s a high-school graduate, Pruter is not a therapist but a reunification coach- a term she created- and thus practices with little trainging.
She’s still considered an expert in the parental alienation industry; she was recently a featured speaker at the PAAO conference in April 2017. Her mentor, Dr. Craig Childress, was the other featured speaker at the conference. Childress has rebranded parental alienation pathogenic parenting.
According to Britt Brown, an activist for battered women, Dr. Childress current curriculum vitae has a gap from 1985-1998 where nothing is listed.
She said that because of Pruter’s lack of formal training, Dr. Childress often testifies in her cases as an expert on so-called pathogenic parenting.
“Then, he tells the judge the best place to get this treated is with Dorcy,” Brown said; he makes money from testifying, and she makes money from her so-called therapy.
“These children really had a lot of cult-like behavior. They were — they were doing tapping, the way they were speaking to each other.” Pruter said in a deposition of the Tsimhoni kids, “As a matter of fact, that particular judge said the alienating parent was like Charles Manson and they were her cult.”
Ironically, much like a cult, Pruter’s so-called therapy consisted of: threatening, pressuring, and repeatedly telling the Tsimhoni kids their father was not an abuser.
Upon release, Gorcyca issued an emergency motion temporarily giving Omer Tsimhoni sole custody and forbidding any contact between mom and children for a minimum of ninety days; that was extended for another ninety days.
By then, the media which still covered the case flipped.
The Detroit Free Press reported: “The three Michigan children caught up in a custody dispute that made international headlines have successfully reunited with their father.”
By successfully, it was a process which nearly destroyed the children: “They have been missing school and they have advised school personnel that they are afraid to go to their father’s house. Their grades, which had been stellar under their mother’s care, have deteriorated significantly while in their father’s care.” Maya Tsimhoni’s attorney wrote in a filing in the fall 2015.
Dahlia Berkovitz, an after-care therapist appointed to the case at Pruter’s request, then even recommended the three kids be split up: one going to foster care, one to a wilderness camp, and one to continue living with their father.
Gorcyca and Berkovitz were featured speakers in a 2016 parental alienation conference in Michigan organized by Langlois.
This nightmare would have been reality, however, the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission (MJTC) brought charges against Gorcyca for violating judicial canons in this case in December 2015.
Facing the MJTC and a renewed media firestorm, Gorcyca recused herself from the case.
In the summer 2016, a new judge restored physical custody to Maya Tsimhoni; the family has reported no problems since.
My emails to all the principals- Lansat, Pruter, Omer Tsimhoni, Berkovitz, Langlois, and Middleditch, were left unreturned. Gorcyca has refused to answer any questions from any media about this case.
Brittney Wolferts, now 22, and her two younger sisters Sydney, 19, and Dani, 18, grew up in a cacophony of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of her father, Brian Wolferts.
“I felt that I was living with a ticking time bomb, because if my sisters or I did things such as eat the wrong way or close a door wrong,” Brittney Wolferts said in a blog post, “he would hurt us physically by pinching and twisting skin, thumping on the head, yanking limbs, etc.”
Brian Wolferts admitted to CPS that he’s prone to emotional disturbances and threw his ex-wife down the stairs while she was pregnant.
His ex-wife’s piano student witnessed Brian grab Dani, “by one of her arms just above the elbow. He jerked her up and held her in the air by her one arm as if she was a little rag doll. He shook her and yelled at her, ‘when someone tells you to stop, you stop!’” after Dani interrupted a piano lesson.
In a forensic examination, Brian Wolferts admitted to having at least five affairs, called himself a sex addict, and getting aroused by young girls.
In 2004, Brian Wolferts filed for divorce; Michelle Wolferts received physical custody while he received visitation.
Then, starting in May 2008, Brian Wolferts engaged in what his daughter described as “scorched earth tactics” centered on parental alienation.
“Brian engages in scorched-earth litigation tactics running up legal bills, refuses mediations, and delays final order for two years.” Britten said in her blog. “The Guardian ad Litem, assigned by the court as advocate for the girls, never talks to them. He asks for Michelle’s pleadings to be stricken. Michelle’s lawyer fails to put on evidence, preserve objections, properly cross-examine witnesses, call supporting witnesses, or raise arguments that can be used on an appeal. The court strikes Michelle’s pleadings, finding that she was not credible because she was ‘uncooperative’” .
On March 4, 2011, Brian Wolferts is awarded sole custody.
On July 17, 2014, the two younger Wolferts sisters ran away from their father, joined on the run six weeks later by their mother.
“And the reason why we were taken from our mom in the first place is because of a really big lie. And it's so weird that we were taken because of that lie after living with our mom our whole life. Our mom hasn't ever made us or tried to make us hate our dad, but some people keep trying to make us believe that,” Dani said in a You Tube video made while on the run.
With her sisters on the run, Brittney was invited on Dr. Phil.
“In the end of November (2014), I was approached by an interested producer of Dr. Phil’s with the possibility to be on his show.” Brittney said in a blog from January 2015. “I was led to believe that the show was on my side, ready to help me defend myself and my sisters from an abusive home life with our dad.”
But that’s not how it worked out. While producers initially assured her she’d never see her dad, a week prior to taping, the show’s producers pressured her to appear on stage with him.
“It became clear as we proceeded with the producers' interviews that the focus of the episode was not
Dad's abusiveness, but rather parental alienation.” Brittney said in her blog. “Dr. Phil chose to focus on the alienation lie my dad crafted for the public.”
During an important moment in the show, Dr. Phil asked Brittney for examples of her father’s abuse and she froze.
“How do I put years and years of multiple methods and incidents of domestic violence, emotional, physical, verbal abuse, and inappropriate sexual advances into one sentence?” Brittney explained on her blog, but that moment was played up on the show to suggest the abuse was fabricated.
Troy Olson is Brittney’s uncle who also appeared on the show; he said he remembered Brian Wolferts staring intensely at his daughter throughout, including when she was asked to describe the abuse.
At one point, Olson remembered, Dr. Phil remarked that courts rarely get these kinds of cases wrong.
The Wolferts girls were found on January 3, 2016; Dorcy Pruter was appointed for reunification therapy.
A guardian-ad-litem said this of Pruter’s so-called therapy: “She (Sydney) said she was extremely traumatized. They thought she was really scared because of parental alienation but I did not feel that way at all.”
In March 2016, the judge, Brent Barholomew, refused to allow the two girls, then teenagers, to speak on their own behalf, “It is not in the best interest of the parties' minor children to testify as to their custody preference,” ordering them back to their father.
Michelle was initially charged with parental kidnapping before those charges were dismissed; she has not been allowed to see her two youngest daughters since 2016.
Brittney has no relationship with her father or any of his relatives, who have shunned her, Olson told me.
Dr. Phil had a conflict of interest which he didn’t disclose to Brittney, Olson, or his audience. He is the national spokesperson for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) which is funded by the Fatherhood Initiative.
CASA are volunteer GALs.
An email and voicemail to Jerry Sharrell, public affairs officer for the Dr. Phil Show, were left unreturned. An email to Brian Wolferts attorney, Ron Wilkinson, was also left unreturned; in the email, I asked for an interview with his client.
All three Wolferts sisters are now of age and they've announced publicly they'll have nothing more to do with their father.
The Propaganda Campaign Against Sandra Grazzini-Rucki
Though Sandra Grazzini-Rucki’s twenty plus year (1991-2011) marriage to David Rucki was defined by domestic violence, the divorce appeared to be going well.
“You take the kids but you have to give me your half of the (trucking) business,” Sandra remembers David telling her.
The divorce was structured so that David received most of their assets- three of their four homes, all their boats, cars, and all the equity in their multi-million-dollar business- while Sandra received their family home and physical custody of the children.
David was ordered to pay approximately $13,000/month in child support and alimony though he never made any of these payments.
On May 12, 2011, after only a few months of negotiations, Judge Timothy Wermeger signed a divorce decree purportedly finalizing the divorce.
One month later- enough time for the financial terms to be finalized- David Rucki challenged the divorce, claiming he thought they were signing a “fake divorce”- whatever that means- arguing fraud.
While he agreed to the divorce decree in May 2011 without a lawyer, he also hired Lisa Elliott, who he employs to this day.
Rucki and Elliott didn’t respond to messages for comment.
Soon after, Judge David Knutson had himself assigned to the case: unusual and improper since cases are supposed to be assigned randomly with judges rotated in and out.
Judge Knutson then issued nearly 4,000 orders- almost exclusively regulating Sandra’s life; parental alienation became the focus of the rest of the case.
On January 12, 2012, the GAL Knutson appointed, Julie Friedrich, a non-practicing attorney, first accused Sandra of parental alienation when she put it into her written report; the report was entered into the record without the benefit of cross-examination-lawless hearsay in any other court, but perfectly legal in Knutson’s family courtroom.
Friedrich did not respond to my email to provide her qualifications to make this judgment; a separate voicemail to Knutson’s chamber was also left unreturned.
On August 28, 2012, Judge Knutson ordered Sandra Grazzini-Rucki to see Dr. Paul Reitman- appointed days earlier to “diagnose parental alienation”.
She saw Dr. Reitman the next day for approximately a half hour.
“Therapeutic foster care and immediately begin therapy,” Dr. Reitman said in his letter to Knutson, “and/or deprogramming to try to repair the damage that’s been done by alienation… Their mother seems to be out of touch and suffering from a personality disorder.”
All this he concluded after a half hour interview.
Lisa Elliott quickly filed an emergency motion leading to a so-called “telephonic conference” on September 5, 2012, where the judge, the guardian ad litem, and the two attorneys, all spoke back and forth extemporaneously for about an hour without being sworn in or taking formal testimony.
David Rucki, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, and even Paul Reitman didn’t participate in the telephonic conference.
On September 7, 2012, Judge David Knutson ordered Sandra Grazzini-Rucki removed from her home, without telling her kids, and do it in three hours or face jail.
Sandra Grazzini-Rucki has been effectively homeless since, staying on people’s couches.
By court order, David Rucki’s sister, Tammy Love, moved into the home to care of the kids: Neither parent now had custody.
The kids, having come home to find their mother gone, ran to a police station, and were sent to live with their maternal aunt- Nancy Olson and her husband Jay- despite Knutson’s order.
Judge Knutson appointed James Gilbertson to do therapy to treat the purported parental alienation on September 7, at Reitman’s recommendation; Reitman left the case the same day.
Gilbertson and Reitman did not respond to emails for comment.
“Unless you have a video tape,” Samantha quoted Dr. Gilbertson as saying, “That was always their excuse--- you don’t have a videotape. I’d be like ‘yes, when my mom is getting beaten to death, I’m going to videotape this whole thing.’”
Gilbertson was one of nearly ten experts brought into the case, including two guardian ad-litem, two parenting coordinators, and multiple reunification therapists.
When these experts failed to cure the purported parental alienation, they blamed Sandra.
“After it became clear that Petitioner (Sandra) was not supportive of the reunification efforts,” Knutson said in his custody decision, “Moxie (one of the reunification therapists) reported that the case was not appropriate for reunification therapy at their office.”
Moxie declined to comment due to confidentiality.
This is typical of the parental alienation industry: either admit there’s no abuse and you’re an alienator or you’re uncooperative.
Laura Miles became GAL in the Rucki case in 2013; she lobbies for the non-profit, Minnesota Fathers and Family Network, in her spare time; Miles didn’t respond to my email for an explanation.
On April 19, 2013, the children were hustled to the local police station.
“I was taken to the police dept. on Friday, April 19th. I was told there was some kind of meeting. When I went into the room, it was Tammy, Nancy, Jay and an officer. They had Gilbertson on a speaker phone. He stated that we were all going to Tammy’s. She had 100 percent custody and Gilbertson said, and I quote, ‘this was the plan from the beginning’”. Samantha said later in a letter.
The five Rucki children were then forced, with police escorts, to live with Tammy Love, with the two oldest girls, Samantha and Gianna, transported first.
Minutes after the police escort left their home, the girls ran, called their mother frantically saying that they were running with or without her help.
Sandra Grazzini-Rucki picked them up approximately a half hour later at a park nearby, drove them to her friend, Dede Evavold, who recommended they be hidden at the White Horse Ranch, a ranch for abused children run by Doug and Gina Dahlen in Herman, Minnesota.
“I’m in fear for my life, to live or to even be in the Ireland place home with Tammy Love. She has physical, emotionally, verberelly (sic) abuse. I have told every one of my fears and begged them not to put me with her, but they will not listen.” Samantha Rucki wrote in a letter sent to Judge Knutson days after running away.
“My mom has not alienated us from our father in any way. The court, Gilbertson and Friedrich have lied and told us many things that weren’t true about our mother,” Samantha said in the same letter, echoing how the Wolferts sisters felt about court actors.
Their letters were ignored; the court order remained in place and if they were found they’d be forced to live with their father and his family.
The local Fox station then remarkably interviewed Samantha and Gianna in June 2013, with both still on the run.
Even so, Samantha and Gianna were given approximately one minute of screen time while “parental alienation” was discussed for approximately five minutes of a nine-minute broadcast.
One so-called expert interviewed, Laura Thomas, an attorney said, “Mom presents the child with a toy right before the father is schedule to come (for parenting time)” as an example of parental alienation.
Thomas refused to clarify when I reached her by email.
The Father’s Rights Movement posted a You Tube of the broadcast on their Facebook page as an example of parental alienation.
On September 11, 2013, with the girls still missing, Judge Knutson held a custody hearing. On the second day, after a break, Sandra’s attorney, Michelle MacDonald, returned handcuffed to a wheelchair with her pen, paper, computer, client, and notes removed.
Knutson also approved a motion in limine- filed at 10PM the previous evening- which stopped all the evidence of abuse from being allowed into evidence.
Sheriff’s Deputies claimed she had to be restrained because she was non-cooperative when they tried to issue a citation for taking a photo during the break, a charge MacDonald denied.
Judge Knutson told MacDonald to continue in this state or face default; in November 2013, he issued an order giving David Rucki sole custody, all marital assets, eliminating his alimony, and even saddling the homeless Sandra Grazzini-Rucki with child support.
Sandra Grazzini-Rucki’s purported parental alienation was a central reason for his decision.
This episode was covered by the local Fox, but the story was ignored by all other media until April 19, 2015.
That’s when Brandon Stahl of the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article on the two-year anniversary of the girls’ disappearance where Sandra’s advocate Dale Nathan told him Sandra took the kids the day they disappeared: something assumed but not confirmed until then.
Stahl told me this was his first article on the case but declined to respond to all follow up emails.
After Stahls’ article, it was a media feeding frenzy, with constant updates on the search, and endless speculation about how the girls were taken, including a baseless narrative that an underground network was hiding them.
The circumstances in family court which created this situation were glossed over and David Rucki’s criminal and violent record was ignored entirely.
Almost immediately, a blogger named Michael Brodkorb became obsessed with the case.
Brodkorb is a former Republican operative whose affair with the Minnesota Senate Majority Leader forced him out of the Minnesota Republican Party.
Though he previously wrote only about state politics, since covering the case starting in May 2015, Brodkorb has written about little else.
In dozens of blog posts, he painted David as the hero, Sandra the villain, and the system as functioning fine: “I also have to pay compliments to the Lakeville Police Dept. and the United States Marshal Services. This story and how these girls were found is how it should have happened.” Brodkorb once said on a radio show.
Lakeville PD did almost nothing to find the Rucki girls until after Stahl’s article, and the US Marshals once showed up with the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team to arrest Sandra, claiming she was a fugitive, even though it came out later the arrest warrant was sealed, meaning she couldn’t be a fugitive.
He’s said little about the court process which led to the girls’ disappearance and nothing about David Rucki’s criminal and violent record.
He said: “I have no faith in your skills and ethics as a journalist,” when I emailed him, but refused to answer any of the ten questions I asked for this profile.
In May 2016, his relationship ended with the Minneapolis Star Tribune and he started Missing in Minnesota, a blog dedicated to the story.
In his hundreds of blog posts on the case, he’s never exposed any government corruption- not in the judicial, executive, or legislative branch; his focus is negative articles against Sandra, her attorney Michelle MacDonald, Dede Evavold, the Dahlen’s and occasionally me.
Stahl also does the bidding of the police and courts. In August 2015, he was leaked Sandra Grazzini-Rucki’s sealed arrest warrant- the same one the US Marshals would later serve- which he used to write a front-page story; the girls hadn’t even been found yet themselves at this point.
That he received this warrant illegally was not revealed and the story.
He was also leaked a sealed search warrant for the Dahlen’s home, authorities found the girls while executing this warrant on November 17, 2015; Stahl portrayed it as a heroic triumph with a victimized father on the brink of being reunited with his children.
The whole way he was given a front row seat to what he described as a heroic chase by police of missing girls, who’d been taken by their mother, who the authorities suggested was crazy, and that’s what he reported.
He once mentioned in passing that Michelle MacDonald conducted part of the trial handcuffed but ignored the court corruption and David Rucki’s violent record even though most of it is publicly available.
But his propaganda pales in comparison to what 20/20 did.
Michelle MacDonald only agreed to work with 20/20 because as she told me, the producer, Sean Dooley, indicated to her that it would be Sandra’s story, a la the promise made to Brittney Wolferts.
20/20 never kept that promise when they aired Footprints in the Snow in April 2016.
“I’m asking for any of the documentation you assured us existed and we can find none of it.” The show’s host, Elizabeth Vargas said, “Are there police reports of PHYSICAL abuse during the marriage?”
There are no police reports from during their marriage but Sandra- in one right after the marriage ended- explained why: ““He (David Rucki) has pushed and shoved her but she has declined to call the police because of fear of what he would do when he came back from jail.”
Sandra said yes to Vargas.
“All I heard is police report,” she told me, believing she misheard the question- but 20/20 used that narrow definition to make the case that evidence to corroborate her allegations doesn’t exist.
“We reached out to the Lakeville Police and they have no record of Sandra contacting them about abuse during their marriage.” Vargas said later.
But then after Michelle MacDonald briefly explained Sandra’s defense- Sandra would argue that she hid her daughters to protect them harm-, Vargas said, “That's why evidence of David being violent is so critical.”
The bar fight, the road rage incident, repeated violations of restraining orders: 20/20 mentioned none of it.
Then, minutes later in the broadcast.
"In more than 20 boxes we didn't find a single piece of paper or photo to prove that any physical abuse happened,” Vargas states confidently even though all the previously mentioned physical violence was in the boxes.
The broadcast painted David Rucki as a victimized parent desperate to find his daughters while suggesting Sandra Grazzini-Rucki- who was interviewed in prison- was a crazy criminal who couldn’t back up her claims.
Sandra Grazzini-Rucki was given a $1,000,000 cash bond by Knutson upon being arrested in October 2015, even though her crime carries an assumed probation. The bond was eventually reduced to $500,000.
The producers of the show, Sean Dooley and Beth Mullens, along with the host, Elizabeth Vargas, did not respond to my ten questions for this profile.
Though David Rucki is a multi-millionaire, the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center (JWRC) paid for several family vacations after his daughters were found.
Jacob Wetterling was eleven years old when he was abducted and murdered in Minnesota in 1989; Brodkorb has compared the Rucki case to the Wetterling case.
“As a policy, we do not talk publically about specific individuals or cases. With that said, it is not the policy or practice of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center to pay (anyone's) bills.” Said Chris Stauffer of the JWRC.
Sandra Grazzini-Rucki was eventually convicted criminally for her role in her daughters’ disappearance in a show trial where David Rucki’s criminal record, history of violating restraining orders, and all CPS reports were not allowed into evidence.
Dr. Rebecca Bailey
Dr. Baily was initially brought into the Rucki case as a reunification therapist after the girls were found in November 2015 because they made it clear they’d run again if forced to live with their father.
Dr. Bailey became well-known after treating Jaycee Duggard.
Dr. Bailey also has a longstanding relationship with AFCC, conducting seven training sessions at AFCC conferences since 2009, according to her resume; and she’s affiliated with PAAO.
She graduated from Wright Institute in Berkeley, Ca. with a degree in clinical psychology in 1993; she began as a psychologist at the Redwood Family and Child Center starting in 1995, according to her resume, though she didn’t get her license until 2002.
Dr. Bailey did not respond to my email or phone call for comment.
Bailey and Michelle Anderson
Michelle Anderson’s ex-husband had physical custody of their children until, within a month in early 2016, he tried to commit suicide and drove drunk with his children in the car.
After that, Michelle Anderson lobbied and received physical custody of their children.
That’s when her ex-husband, employing a new strategy, accused her of parental alienation.
Though his suicide attempt and DUI were a matter of public record, the court entertained his theories and Dr. Bailey was brought in for reunification therapy.
According to her then fifteen-year-old son, Dr. Bailey said the only way for him to leave the therapy was to admit that his father loves him and his mother was trying to alienate him- called threat therapy.
This technique is rooted in Gardner: “‘I don’t believe you. I’m going to beat you for saying it. Don’t you ever talk that way again about your father.’” Gardner said was the proper response when a child alleges abuse.
He only left the program after complying with these instructions. Dr. Bailey has since insisted that Michelle Anderson see a psychiatrist of Dr. Bailey’s choosing before being allowed to see her children.
Anderson refused and hasn’t seen her children in more than a year; she’s been so financially devastated by the process she can’t afford a cell phone.
Bailey and Geoff Cole:
Approximately five years ago, Geoff Cole’s daughter ran away from her mother’s home, responding to her mother’s erratic behavior.
She returned only after authorities threatened to jail Geoff if she stayed hidden.
Cole said he agreed to Bailey’s reunification therapy because he was told it would be a week, but without his consent, his daughter, then 15, spent approximately a year at Bailey’s ranch.
He said his ex-wife paid Dr. Bailey approximately $200,000 and they’re now business partners.
After the therapy ended, his ex-wife chose when he could see his daughter.
After one session, overseen by Bailey, his daughter looked at Bailey and asked what they’d do next.
“Let’s ask the boss,” Bailey responded, referring to his ex-wife.
Cole said he wasn’t surprised that parental alienation is most often used against the woman: “That’s because the man usually has the money.”
Bailey and Jamie Gay
Jaime’s oldest daughter, then 12, came home from a visit to their father in February 2014 with a shocking accusation; her father had allegedly molested her.
Days later, she took her daughter to the police who took her statement but when the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office refused to prosecute, the alleged molestation became a family court matter.
Though they’d been divorced since 2006, with Jamie receiving physical custody, her ex-husband, now facing allegations of child molestation, first accused his ex-wife of parental alienation in response.
A laundry list of court professionals was assigned to the case, and in April 2016 Dr. Rebecca Bailey was assigned as the reunification therapist.
“When I asked her if my daughter told her of abuse as a mandated reporter would you report it, she said ‘no’”. Gay remembers Bailey’s position on allegations of abuse. “Then, she immediately asked if I was recording it.”
Dr. Bailey quoted an initial $45,000 for the reunification program but Jaime Gay doesn’t know how much it costed because her ex-husband paid all the bills.
Gay was initially not allowed to see any of her three children for ninety days after Bailey was put on the case and she has had sporadic contact with her children since.
In the same Fox broadcast on the Rucki case, Dr. Reitman made this ironic statement: “What is the alternative; to say it’s over; you never have to see your father or mother again at ten years’ old, thirteen, (or) fourteen? We’re going to let you have that decision and let you end that relationship.”
It’s ironic since Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, by court order, has not been allowed to see any of her children since early 2013. It’s more than three years for Angela Hickman, and everyone featured in this piece has gone through long periods not allowed to see their children.
If the goal of the parental alienation industry was fostering healthy relationships with both parents, they’ve failed miserably; if, on the other hand, the goal was to line the pockets of thousands of unqualified individuals who couldn’t make money legitimately, they’ve succeeded.
“Family court is not broken,” Sandra Grazzini-Rucki told me, “It’s working exactly as it’s designed.”
See the local Fox broadcast on the Ruck case below.