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What to Know About YouTuber Ruby Franke’s Child Abuse Case

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YouTuber Ruby Franke used to run a popular vlog channel called “8 Passengers,” sharing snipPets of life with her husband Kevin and their six kids—Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell, and Eve— to an audience of over two million people.

But the family’s story took a dark turn in August 2023, when Franke was arrested on child abuse charges after her son was found malnourished with duct tape on open wounds. Franke, along with her Business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, are currently being held in custody without bail, and their sentencing hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 20. 

When Franke was arrested in August, her oldest daughter Shari uploaded an Instagram story. “Me and my family are so glad justice is being served,” she said. “We’ve been trying to tell the police and CPS for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up. The kids are safe, but there’s a long road ahead.”

Here’s everything you need to know about the case.

What are the charges against Franke and Hildebrandt? Will they face prison time?

Both Franke and Hildebrandt were charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse after they were formally charged in September. They both pleaded guilty to four counts. Hildebrandt had two of her counts dismissed as a part of her plea deal, the AP reports, while Franke pleaded not guilty to two counts. They have both agreed to serve time in prison as a term in the plea deal, the length of which will be decided by a judge in tomorrow’s sentencing. Aggravated child abuse charges can come with a sentencing of 15 years each.

What kind of content did Franke share on Youtube?

The videos on Franke’s YouTube channel “8 Passengers” centered around her parenting style. The channel was started in 2015 but has since been deleted. A spokesperson for YouTube told TIME in an emailed statement: “We can confirm that we have terminated two channels linked to Ruby Franke in accordance with our creator responsibility guidelines. Additionally, Ruby Franke will no longer be able to use, own, or create any other YouTube channels, in accordance with the repeat infringer policy in our Terms of Service.”

Some of the most concerning content came were videos on how she chose to discipline her children. In 2020, the Division of Child and Family Services in Utah was called on the Franke family after Ruby uploaded a video in which her son Chad said that he had been sleeping on a beaNBAg for seven months, and viewers created a Change.org Petition to urge CPS to open an investigation. However, Insider reports that after the DCFS visited the home, the investigation was closed because “the claims were unsupported.”

Her audience also took issue with her parenting style when her six-year-old daughter forgot to bring her lunch to school, and Ruby refused to bring it to her. In a since-deleted video uploaded to YouTube, Franke said she told the teacher: “Eve is responsible for making her own lunches in the morning, so the natural outcome is she is just going to be hungry. And hopefully, nobody gives her food, and nobody steps in and gives her lunch."

Who is Jodi Hildebrandt? How did she work together with Franke?

In June 2022, Franke announced that she would be forming a YouTube channel with Hildebrandt. Hildebrandt ran ConneXions, a Mormon life coaching service which she started in 2007 but officially registered as a Business in April 2018, according to NBC News. An investigation by NBC News found that Hildebrandt’s counseling caused more harm than good for her patients, and concerns began to grow as people likened ConneXions to a cult. According to former patients who spoke to NBC News, Hildebrandt “methodically separated spouses, pathologized patients’ behaviors as evidence of various addictions, and encouraged people to cut off others who weren’t living in accordance with her teachings.”

She and Ruby were known to share harmful parenting advice on the ConneXions YouTube page, with Franke listed as a “certified mental fitness trainer." In one video, Insider writes that the two told their audience that children who refuse to abide by their principles do not love unconditionally, also noted that Franke gave “multiple reasons children shouldn't be listened to and said they didn't deserve privacy.” The publication also added that the two would make ableist, homophobic, transphobic, and racist comments in their videos.

How was the abuse discovered?

On Aug. 31, news broke that Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested on charges of child abuse after one of Franke’s children escaped the house with clear signs of abuse. According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by NBC News, Franke’s 12-year-old son jumped out of a window in the home and ran to a neighbor’s house for help. 

A local news outlet, Fox 13, reported that the home in question was owned by Hildebrandt. According to the AP, Hildebrandt’s plea agreement says that she knew that children were being abused in the house she owned and allowed it to continue. The publication also writes that she forced Franke’s youngest daughter, who was nine at the time, to jump into a cactus multiple times and forced her to run barefoot on dirt roads. Hildebrandt also admitted to helping Franke torture her youngest son, the AP writes.

They reported that Franke filmed a video in the house a few days prior and cited arresting documents as saying this adds to “Ms. Franke...being present in the home and having knowledge of the abuse, malnourishment and neglect.”

The neighbor then called the police. The Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department provided TIME with a press release that stated, “Information was obtained by police that other juveniles in similar condition may be in a nearby home. Officers arrived at the home and searched the residence, locating another juvenile in a similar physical condition of malnourishment.” The children were transported to a nearby hospital, and four minor children were taken into the care of the Utah Department of Child and Family Services, the press release said.

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