Utah Mother of Six Arrested on Child Abuse Charges
Ruby Franke, a Utah mother of six and self-proclaimed parenting expert who gained fame through her now-defunct YouTube channel “8 Passengers,” has been arrested on child abuse charges. Franke, 41, and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, 54, were originally arrested on two counts of aggravated child abuse. However, the charges have been upgraded to six felony counts of aggravated child abuse. The arrest took place at Hildebrandt’s home in Irvins, Utah, which is approximately 300 miles south of Salt Lake City. The Frankes reside in Springville, Utah, which is approximately four hours north of Irvins.
The Santa Clara-Irvins Public Safety Department received a call on August 30 about a juvenile in need of help, which turned out to be one of Franke’s 12-year-old sons. The boy had escaped from Hildebrandt’s home by climbing out of a window and sought help from a neighbor. When he arrived, he had duct tape around his ankles and wrists and was emaciated and malnourished. The neighbor called 911, and while waiting for paramedics and police to arrive, provided food and water to the boy.
Upon investigation, another child, a 10-year-old girl, was found in a similar condition at Hildebrandt’s home. This girl was also determined to be Franke’s child. The two children were taken to a hospital, while two of Franke’s other children were placed in the custody of the Department of Child and Family Services.
Franke and Hildebrandt made a virtual court appearance on September 8. The hearing was delayed for nearly an hour as over 1,300 people, mostly TikTokers, attempted to log in and watch the proceedings. The women appeared via video from jail wearing orange jumpsuits and did not enter a plea. The charging documents allege that Franke and Hildebrandt caused or permitted serious injury to the children through physical injuries, torture, starvation, malnutrition, and severe emotional harm. The judge ordered that they remain in custody without bail. Their next hearing is scheduled for September 21.
The 911 Call:
The St. George Police Department released the 911 call made by the neighbor who found the 12-year-old boy seeking help. The neighbor was visibly emotional during the call and described the boy’s emaciated and hungry condition. The neighbor said the boy asked him to call the police and appeared to be very afraid. The emergency responders who arrived at the scene described the boy’s wounds as sores all over his body.
Ruby Franke gained a following on social media with her strict and no-nonsense parenting approach. However, she faced backlash for various controversial statements she made. In one TikTok video, she claimed that her children were starving because she would only feed them breakfast after they completed their chores. In another video, she shared how she refused to take her kindergartner lunch after the child forgot it at home, in an effort to teach her a lesson. Franke and her husband, Kevin, also told their two youngest children that they wouldn’t receive Christmas presents due to their selfish behavior. Franke’s YouTube channel, “8 Passengers,” was removed by YouTube following her arrest.
Jodi Hildebrandt, Franke’s business partner, is listed as the founder of ConneXions Classroom, which offers counseling services. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in educational psychology, although the source of her degrees is not specified. Franke eventually joined Hildebrandt as co-host of a parenting advice podcast. However, clips have resurfaced online showing the co-hosts making xenophobic remarks, downplaying eating disorders, and blaming rape victims.
Kevin Franke, Ruby’s husband, was not arrested and is not currently under investigation. His whereabouts on the day of his wife’s arrest remain unknown. However, Kevin has faced criticism in the past. In 2020, he and Ruby forced their oldest son to sleep in a beanbag for nearly seven months as a form of punishment. This punishment was the result of the son playing a prank on his younger brother. Kevin’s lawyer has stated that he played no role in the abuse that led to his wife’s arrest and that he is focused on doing what is best for his children.
The Estranged Daughter:
Shari, Ruby Franke’s eldest daughter, has been estranged from her mother for some time. Shari celebrated her mother’s arrest on her Instagram Story, expressing relief that justice was being served. She also posted a photo of police officers outside the family home with the caption “finally.”
Franke’s sisters, Ellie Mecham, Bonnie Hoellein, and Julie Deru, issued a joint statement on social media following Ruby and Hildebrandt’s arrest. In the statement, they revealed that they had been aware of the abuse and had tried to ensure the safety of the children. They expressed gratitude that Ruby and Jodi were finally held accountable for their actions and assured the public that the children are now safe.
The case of Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt has shed light on a dark chapter of child abuse. As the legal proceedings continue, the children involved are receiving the necessary care and support. The hope is that justice will be served, and these children will be able to heal from the trauma they have endured. The case also serves as a reminder of the dangers of parental negligence and the importance of providing a safe and nurturing environment for children.