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Crime News Family Crimes

Parenting Vlogger Ruby Franke Held Without Bail on Child Abuse Charges

Both Ruby Franke and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, who were each charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse, appeared virtually from jail for the court appearance.

By Gina Salamone
Five Tips On How To Report Child Abuse

At Ruby Franke's first court appearance since being accused of starving and emotionally harming two of her six kids, a judge ruled Friday that the parenting influencer must remain behind bars on child abuse charges.

Both Franke and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, who were each charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse, appeared virtually from jail in their striped uniforms, the Associated Press reported. They did not enter pleas.

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The pair were arrested at Hildebrandt’s home in the Utah city of Ivins on August 30 after authorities received a call at around 10:50 a.m. that day about "a juvenile asking for help," the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department said in a press release.

"The calling party stated the juvenile appeared to be emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities," the release stated. "The juvenile was asking for food and water. The condition of the juvenile was so severe that they were seen by Santa Clara-Ivins EMS and transported to a local area hospital."

Ruby Franke Left and Jodi Hildebrandt right are seen on a virtual court appearance

Police were informed that kids experiencing similar issues might be in a home nearby.

"Officers arrived at the home and searched the residence, locating another juvenile in a similar physical condition of malnourishment," the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department said. "That juvenile was also transported by EMS to the hospital for treatment."

After authorities searched the home, "evidence was located consistent with the markings found on the juvenile," the public safety department stated.

It was Franke’s 12-year-old son who fled Hildebrandt’s house to ask a neighbor to call authorities, the AP reported, citing a 911 call released by the St. George Police Department. The neighbor told police that the child had duct tape around his wrists and ankles and that he was emaciated. 

“I think he’s been ... he’s been detained,” the neighbor said. “He’s obviously covered in wounds.”

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The boy reportedly said during the call that he didn’t know where his mother was at the time and that his father wasn't in the area at that moment, adding that his 10- and 14-year-old siblings were still at Hildebrandt’s home.

"He says what’s happened to him is his fault," the person who phoned police said on the call.

Court records state that both Franke, 41, and Hildebrandt, 54, starved and emotionally harmed Franke's 12-year-old son and her 10-year-old daughter. 

Franke and her husband Kevin, who built up millions of followers since 2015 on her since-deleted YouTube Channel “8 Passengers," would share videos documenting their family life. A link that formerly led to the channel now reads, "This account has been terminated for a violation of YouTube's Terms of Service."

The pair previously faced criticism when one of their sons, 15 at the time, said that he was forced to sleep on a beanbag chair for seven months while being shut out from his room as a punishment, according to Insider

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They also faced scrutiny after Franke said in one of her videos that she and Kevin told their two youngest kids that they wouldn't get Christmas presents one year because they were not responding to other punishments like cleaning floorboards and not being permitted to go to school.

The AP reported that Shari Franke, the couple's oldest daughter, no longer associates with her parents. Police records show that Shari contacted authorities on September 18, 2022 to report that her siblings had been left at home on their own for days, according to the AP. 

Franke had been appearing in the video series, "ConneXions Classroom," with Hildebrandt until YouTube shut that down after charges were filed against the women. Hildebrandt — a therapist whose license was suspended in 2012 after she revealed one patient’s porn addiction to the Mormon Church, according to the Salt Lake Tribune — founded the life-coaching business, ConneXions.

The judge ordered both Franke and Hildebrandt to stay in jail without bail and set their next hearings for September 21. Their lawyers have said they would ask for bail hearings.

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