Utah parenting YouTuber Ruby Franke told her husband, Kevin Franke, that while he was living outside their family home, life for her and their six children was “blissful,” the father’s lawyer said Monday.
Provo-based attorney Randy Kester said Kevin Franke — who has been separated from Ruby for about a year — “didn’t know anything” during that time about any alleged abuse of their children, four of which have been placed in state custody after their mother’s arrest.
Ruby Franke was arrested on Aug. 30 and charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse. As of Monday afternoon, she was being held without bail in a Washington County jail.
Kevin Franke “believes in the principles of marriage and family, and he was being told that by being separated, he was doing what was best for his kids,” Kester said, adding that Franke has continued to provide for his family financially as his wife faces multiple felony charges of child abuse.
Throughout the separation, Kevin Franke has been living alone; Kester would not specify where except to say he was living in Utah. In the past week, Kester said Franke moved back into his family’s empty home in Springville.
“We’re working hard to get the kids back with Kevin in the family home,” Kester said.
Who is Kevin Franke?
According to his personal Facebook page, Kevin Franke is originally from Ogden and went to Bonneville High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Utah State University, his master’s at the University of Washington, and a doctorate at Brigham Young University, according to his profile on the website for BYU’s Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
Until this spring, Franke was an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at BYU. A spokesperson for the university has not responded to questions regarding the circumstances surrounding his departure.
Franke’s reviews on RateMyProfessors.com range from glowing to harsh, with several posted after his wife’s arrest. A couple of the bad reviews, posted in the past two weeks, make statements such as “protect the kids” and “his kids deserve justice.” Some of the good reviews mention that his lectures were “inspired” and that he “always respected every student.”
“I would take him again because he really knows his stuff,” one reviewer said. Another said that “he is very controlling, and you can only have the same views that he has or you will be looked down on.”
Before he was a professor, Franke worked for six years as an engineering consultant for Kleinfelder, Inc. and URS Corporation, according to his CUAS profile. He has worked on several significant projects throughout the United States, including Kennecott Utah Copper tailings, California High Speed Rail, levee improvements in New Orleans and Sacramento, California, and more, the profile said.
‘A lot of healing to do’
Franke’s Facebook page says he and Ruby Franke have been married for 16 years. When asked whether Kevin Franke was seeking a reconciliation with his wife, Kester, his attorney, said he was “not at liberty” to talk about their marriage dynamic.
Kester described Kevin Franke as an “intelligent guy” who “seems to me to be very kind.”
“Everybody admires him, everybody that really knows him, not just from this case, but that has known him historically, said that he’s an incredibly thoughtful, considerate person and a good dad,” Kester said.
Kester said that he has seen posts about Franke that cast him in a bad light, but “those are outliers.”
The attorney said he could not discuss how the Franke children are doing. But he said that for the family overall, “there’s a lot of healing to do.”
Kester said Franke is not a “monster,” and that he’s a “very loving and gentle and caring father.”
“He’s never condoned, nor has he ever committed any act of violence and certainly wouldn’t condone or support any physical abuse of his kids,” Kester said.
Ruby Franke and her codefendant and business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, were arrested in Ivins on Aug. 30 on six felony counts each of aggravated child abuse, after Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped Hildebrandt’s Ivins home and asked neighbors for food and water, according to court documents. The neighbors saw the boy had duct tape on his ankles and wrists and called police.
Responding officers then found Franke’s 10-year-old daughter malnourished in Hildebrandt’s home, authorities said. The two children were taken to a hospital for medical treatment, court documents state.
The boy and girl — along with two of Franke’s other children — were placed into the custody of the Division of Children and Family Services, according to a probable cause statement.
Franke and Hildebrandt are accused in charging documents of causing or permitting serious injury to the two hospitalized children in three different ways, according to a news release from the Washington County attorney’s office: through a combination of physical injuries or torture; through starvation or malnutrition that jeopardizes life; and by causing severe emotional harm.
Those three alleged forms of abuse, for each of the two children, amounted to the six aggravated child abuse counts that Franke and Hildebrandt each face. Each count carries a sentence of between one and 15 years in prison, and a fine up to $10,000, according to the release.
Franke previously hosted a parenting advice YouTube channel called “8 Passengers,” where she video-blogged the lives of her family — including her six children, herself and her husband. The channel was launched in 2015 and had nearly 2.3 million followers before it was deleted last year.
According to police documents, Springville police responded to Franke’s home several times over the years, twice regarding her children’s welfare. The most recent response, on Sept. 18, 2022, was for a welfare check reported by Shari Franke, Ruby and Kevin’s oldest daughter. Shari, a junior at BYU, has said in social media posts that she cut ties with her parents.
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