Washington County prosecutors requested a new court hearing in the child abuse case against Utah parenting influencer Ruby Franke and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt — nearly three months after the women last appeared together before a judge.
Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested Aug. 30 after Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped Hildebrandt’s Ivins home, located outside of St. George. A neighbor called police because the boy appeared malnourished and had duct tape on his ankles and wrists, charging documents state. Authorities later found his 10-year-old sister in a similar condition inside Hildebrandt’s home.
Franke and Hildebrandt were each charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse. They last appeared in court together for the case on Sept. 8, when 5th District Judge Eric Gentry announced that Franke and Hildebrandt would remain held without bail until their next scheduled court appearance.
[Read more: Ruby Franke case: A timeline of events]
Deputy Washington County Attorney Eric W. Clarke filed a motion Thursday that requested a “waiver” hearing on Dec. 18 at 11 a.m. The hearing will determine whether Franke and Hildebrandt will waive their preliminary hearing, where attorneys outline a case pre-trial and argue whether probable cause exists, according to Paul Cassell, a criminal law professor at the University of Utah and a former U.S. District Court judge.
“The request for a hearing for waiver hearing does not necessarily indicate a plea bargain,” Cassell said. “But that could be one of the possible options that would unfold.”
Franke last appeared in court alone on Nov. 14 for a speeding ticket, which was filed five days before her Aug. 30 arrest. The ticket was dismissed.
Franke’s husband, Kevin Franke, filed for divorce on Nov. 29. His formal petition for divorce was classified as private, according to court records, but a domestic relations injunction filed in the case that is publicly available states that neither of the parents can disparage or attempt to influence the children’s views of the other parent. Kevin Franke’s lawyer previously said the couple was separated for about a year before Ruby Franke’s August arrest.
Both Hildebrandt and Ruby Franke remain in Washington County custody.