Ruby Franke, who doled out parenting advice online to millions of followers, and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, were arrested last week in southern Utah on six felony counts of aggravated child abuse.
Each count carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Both women are being held without bail before their initial court appearance on Friday.
Since the arrests, family members have taken to social media — with Franke’s estranged oldest daughter responding “finally” and three women identifying themselves as Franke’s sisters saying the arrests “needed to happen.”
Franke rose to fame through the now-defunct “8 Passengers” YouTube channel, which she ran with her husband, Kevin, chronicling their six children’s lives. Before the channel was deleted last year, it boasted nearly 2.3 million followers. It’s unclear why the channel was removed.
Hildebrandt owns a counseling service, ConneXions Classroom, which helps clients to “facilitate personal growth through impeccable honesty, rigorous personal responsibility and vulnerable humility,” according to an online mission statement.
Franke and Hildebrandt frequently collaborated on parenting and relationship videos, calling themselves “Moms of Truth.”
On Aug. 30, Franke’s 12-year-old son, identified as R.F. in the probable cause statement, climbed out of the window of Hildebrandt’s home in Ivins and knocked on a neighbor’s door asking for food and water. According to the affidavit, the neighbor called police after they saw the boy had open wounds and duct tape on his wrists and ankles.
Police investigated and found Hildebrandt’s 10-year-old daughter at the home. Both children were taken to a hospital because they appeared severely malnourished. The boy was placed on a medical hold because of “his deep lacerations from being tied up with rope.”
Police say both children were believed to be in the care of Hildebrandt. In a statement, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said a search of her home produced evidence consistent with the wounds found on the 12-year-old.
“The condition of the juvenile was so severe, they were seen by Santa Clara-Ivins EMS and transported to a local area hospital,” the statement said.
Court documents say Franke, who lives in Springville, was observed on a YouTube video filmed in Hildebrandt’s home two days before the arrests, which shows she was aware of the abuse and neglect. At the time of the arrests, four of Franke’s other children had been taken into custody by the Utah Division of Child and Family Services.
Franke and Hildebrandt are being held without bail ahead of their arraignment, scheduled for Friday afternoon in St. George District Court.
Franke’s husband, Kevin, through a short statement from his attorney, says his focus “is simply to keep his children together under his fatherly care.” Page Six reported. Kevin Franke was seen at the family’s Springville home on Saturday, according to the Daily Mail.
Following the arrest, Franke’s oldest daughter, Shari, posted to her Instagram story a picture of police officers with the caption, “Finally.” In a subsequent post, she said she was glad “justice is being served.”
“We’ve been trying to tell the police and CPS for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up,” Shari wrote, according to a screenshot of her Instagram story and a report by People. “Kids are safe, but there’s a long road ahead. Please keep them in your prayers and also respect their privacy.”
In April, Shari Franke — now a junior at Brigham Young University — revealed on a podcast that she cut ties with her family last year after they joined ConneXions.
Three women claiming to be Ruby Franke’s sisters posted on Instagram that they had done everything possible to “try and make sure the kids were safe.”
“Ruby was arrested which needed to happen. Jodi was arrested which needed to happen. The kids are now safe, which is the number one priority,” the three wrote.
Critics are digging up archived clips of “8 Passengers,” which they claim show Ruby Franke’s mistreatment of her children. In a 2020 video, one of the sons said he was forced to sleep on a beanbag for several months as punishment for a prank he played on a sibling. In another video, Franke said she refused to bring food to her then-6-year-old daughter at school, who had forgotten to bring her lunch from home.
In 2012, Hildebrandt was disciplined by state regulators for discussing a patient with leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and BYU without their permission.
Hildebrandt was working as a counselor for “pornography addiction” when she provided therapy for a married couple beginning in 2008. According to documents, she repeatedly discussed the couple with Latter-day Saint clergy and the BYU Honor Code Office. She was placed on probation for 18 months.