A Utah woman who gave online parenting advice via a once-popular YouTube channel has been arrested on suspicion of aggravated child abuse after her malnourished son escaped out a window and ran to a nearby house for help, authorities said.
Ruby Franke, whose now-defunct channel “8 Passengers” followed her family, was arrested Wednesday night in the southern Utah city of Ivins. She was taken into custody at the home of Jodi Hildebrandt, who owns a counseling business that she says teaches people to improve their lives by being honest, responsible and humble.
Franke has recently appeared in YouTube videos with Hildebrandt that were posted online by Hildebrandt’s counseling business, ConneXions Classroom.
Franke’s 12-year-old son climbed out of a window in Hildebrandt’s residence in Ivins and ran to a neighbor’s house Wednesday morning and asked for food and water, according to an affidavit filed by an officer with the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department.
The neighbor saw duct tape on the boy’s ankles and wrists and called law enforcement, the affidavit said. The boy was taken to a hospital, where he was put on a medical hold “due to his deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment,” arrest records state.
Franke’s 10-year-old daughter was later found malnourished in Hildebrandt’s house and was also taken to the hospital, officers said. Two other of Franke’s children were in the custody of child protection services, the affidavit said.
The Franke family was criticized online for its “8 Passengers” video blog showing parenting decisions including banning their oldest son from his bedroom for seven months for pranking his younger brother, and also sending him to a wilderness therapy camp for undisclosed reasons. In other videos, Ruby Franke talked about refusing to take lunch to a kindergartener who forgot it at home, threatening to cut the head off a young girl’s stuffed toy to punish her for cutting things in the house and saying that she and her husband told their two youngest children that they would not be getting presents from Santa Claus one year because they had been selfish.
Some critics started an online petition asking child protective services to get involved. The oldest daughter cut ties with her parents, she has said in social media posts.
The YouTube channel, which started in 2015, ended after seven years.
Both Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested Wednesday night on suspicion of two felony counts of aggravated child abuse, though formal charges have not been filed, according to authorities.
Franke requested an attorney and did not speak with officers, the affidavit said. That attorney had not publicly been identified Thursday.
A voicemail left at a phone listing for Ruby Franke’s husband seeking comment on the arrest was referred to his attorney, Randy S. Kester. Kester said he was representing Kevin Franke’s interests in keeping his children together and in his care, and that he could not comment on Ruby Franke’s arrest.
A voicemail left with Hildebrandt’s counseling business seeking comment on Thursday was not returned.
A judge on Thursday granted the detective’s request that Ruby Franke be denied bail. The detective cited “the severity of the injuries of her two kids located in the home,” and told the judge the Department of Child and Family Services had taken four of Franke’s children into custody and the officer had yet to speak to two of them.
While the children were found at Hildebrandt’s house, Franke had been seen on a YouTube video filmed at Hildebrandt’s house and posted two days earlier, indicating that Franke was present at the residence and had knowledge of the abuse, malnourishment and neglect, arrest records said.
Hildebrandt was also denied bail, court records said.