Abuse detailed in Ruby Franke plea echoes treatment teen accused Jodi Hildebrandt of in 2010

The teen told police in 2010 that their aunt, Jodi Hildebrandt, forced them to sleep outside, didn’t enroll them in school and acted like the teen was “evil.”

(Utah 5th District Court) Jodi Hildebrandt appears in 5th District Court in St. George, Friday, Sept. 8., 2023. Hildebrandt faces six felony counts of aggravated child abuse.

Utah parenting influencer Ruby Franke signed a plea agreement Dec. 18 detailing her version of how she — with, prosecutors say, her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt — abused Franke’s two youngest children this summer.

The abusive tactics outlined in the document in some ways mirror the treatment a teen accused Hildebrandt of in 2010, while the teen was living with Hildebrandt, American Fork police documents show. Hildebrandt was not charged with a crime in connection with the teen’s allegations.

Ruby Franke’s plea

Franke and Hildebrandt were each initially charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse after Franke’s 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter were removed from Hildebrandt’s Ivins home on Aug. 30 and treated at a hospital for suspected malnourishment. The two women have remained in Washington County custody ever since.

Two of the six counts originally filed against Franke were dismissed under her plea agreement, which also stipulated that Franke would testify against Hildebrandt — and in return, Washington County prosecutors would “remain neutral” for future hearings before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.

In the agreement, Franke admitted she “intentionally or knowingly” helped inflict “serious physical injuries” on her two youngest children from May 22 through Aug. 30, 2023. Her daughter was 9 years old when the abuse began and her son was 11, according to the filing.

The document outlined escalating abuse against the two children, specifically toward Franke’s son — including that Franke forced her son’s head underwater, cut off his oxygen by smothering him with her hands and kicked him while wearing boots.

The two children were also isolated from others, forced to do physical tasks, forced to remain outside and were denied food and water, according to the plea agreement. They were also told they were “evil and possessed” and that their punishments were “necessary” for them to “repent,” the filing states.

The agreement did not specify what actions prosecutors suspect Hildebrandt took against the children — just that Franke and “another adult” abused Franke’s children. Hildebrandt is Franke’s codefendant in the case.

2010 abuse allegations

About 13 years ago, on March 9, 2010, a teen went to American Fork police seeking a “safe house” because of how their aunt, Jodi Hildebrandt, was treating them, police records state.

The teen, whose identity is redacted in police documents, told police their parents had sent them to live with Hildebrandt because the parents had been “having problems” with the child, and the aunt was a licensed clinical mental health counselor.

The teen told police their aunt was “mean” and “very strict.” The child then explained Hildebrandt forced them to sleep outside in a sleeping bag and did not allow them to speak because Hildebrandt said they had “told lies before.”

At one point, Hildebrandt put duct tape over the teen’s mouth so they would not talk, the teen said.

The teen told authorities they had also been wearing the same clothes for three weeks and they were not enrolled in school — because that was “one of Jodi’s methods of counseling.” When asked, the teen said Hildebrandt did not physically abuse them.

After the teen’s report, officers tried to contact Hildebrandt several times, but were unable to reach her. They then spoke with the teen’s parents, according to police documents.

The teen’s father told investigators the teen was “defiant.” He said the child was not enrolled in school because the parents were trying to get the teen into a “wilderness program.” He believed the teen contacted police as a “ploy” to “get out of it,” according to police records.

The teen’s father also told authorities the teen had only slept outside once, and that the point was to show them what it was like to sleep outside. Police were still unable to speak with Hildebrandt, so they took the teen to a nearby short-term shelter for adolescents, documents state. The investigation was closed the next day.

Hildebrandt ‘acts like I am evil,’ teen said

Weeks later, on March 23, 2010, Hildebrandt reported to authorities that the teen had run away, according to American Fork police records. At the time, Hildebrandt told officers she believed the teen had left because they did not want to be placed in a “program for troubled youth,” documents state.

As to where the child could be, Hildebrandt said the teen “does not know anyone other than the people who know Jodi,” police wrote.

The teen’s mother told authorities it was the third time the teen had run away, according to police documents. Police later found the teen had sent messages to friends through social media the first time they ran away, with one message saying, “DUDE, save me, I’m trapped!”

Authorities found the teen over a month later on April 28, 2010, at The Road Home, a shelter for unhoused people in Salt Lake City. Two officers spoke with the teen, who was “visibly upset” and seemed to be “looking around as if with the intent to run,” police wrote in the filing.

Officers then brought the teen back to the American Fork Police Department, and the teen’s grandparents planned to meet them there, documents state. While waiting, the teen told officers that they had run away from their aunt because Hildebrandt had tried to make them confess their sins, and that Hildebrandt had tried to break them down, according to the documents.

The teen said if their parents put them back in Hildebrandt’s care, they would run away again.

“‘Jodi is some kind of therapist and thinks she has all the answers,’” the teen said, according to an officer’s report, “‘but Jodi insults me all the time in front of others, and acts like I am evil by not letting me talk to kids or others.’”

Hildebrandt expected in court

Hildebrandt is scheduled to appear in court for her ongoing child abuse case on Wednesday.

In a statement released prior to Franke’s plea, attorneys representing Franke argued Hildebrandt took advantage of Franke and “systematically isolated” her from her family, which resulted in Franke “being subjected to a distorted sense of morality, shaped by Ms. Hildebrandt’s influence,” according to Fox 13.

“Initially, Ms. Franke believed that Jodi Hildebrandt had the insight to offer a path to continual improvement,” the statement reads. “Ms. Hildebrandt took advantage of this quest and twisted it into something heinous.”

Attorneys for Hildebrandt did not immediately respond to a request for comment.