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Who Is Ruby Franke? All About the Family Vlogger Turned Convicted Child Abuser

Ruby Franke once gave parenting advice to millions, but the horrific abuse she subjected onto her own children would come to light in 2023 after her 12-year-old son escaped and sought help from a neighbor.

By Jill Sederstrom
Ruby Franke

Disgraced family vlogger Ruby Franke once gave millions of followers parenting tips through her YouTube channel, 8Passengers, but now, the mom of six sits behind bars after being convicted of extreme child abuse. 

The horrific abuse — which ranged from holding her son’s head underwater while she covered his mouth and nose to forcing her two youngest children to stand in the heat for hours and denying them food — came to light in 2023 after her 12-year-old son climbed out of the window of a home owned by Franke’s business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, and begged a neighbor for help.

The neighbor “observed duct tape on the boy’s ankles and wrists, severe wounds, and malnourishment” and quickly contacted law enforcement, according to a summary of the case from Washington County. 

Together, Hildebrandt and Franke hosted the ConneXions podcast and provided controversial parenting advice under their “Moms of Truth” social media page. Both women were arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty after authorities determined that the abuse was motivated by “religious extremism.” 

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Here’s everything to know about Franke’s family-centered beginnings to her swift public downfall: 

Ruby Franke’s YouTube Channel 8Passengers

In 2015, Franke launched the YouTube channel 8Passengers, where she shared videos of the devout Mormon family life she shared with husband Kevin Franke and their six children. The now-defunct channel eventually amassed 2.5 million subscribers, according to Business Insider, but in May of 2020 the couple sparked controversy after their 15-year-old son Chad revealed in one video that he had been sleeping on a bean bag chair for 7 months as part of a punishment for pranking his younger brother. 

"My bedroom was taken away for seven months," Chad remarked in the video, according to the news outlet. "I was sleeping on a beanbag since October."

In another video, Franke shared that she let her 6-year-old daughter Eve go hungry at school as punishment for forgetting to bring her packed lunch. Although the teacher asked Franke to bring it to the school, Franke refused, insisting that going hungry was a “natural outcome” of forgetting the meal. 

“And hopefully nobody gives her food and nobody steps in and gives her lunch,” she said in a video as she documented the incident. 

In response to the criticism, advertisers began to pull their support for the channel and a Change.com petition began circulating demanding that the Utah Division of Child and Family Services investigate the family, according to The Wrap.

How are Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt connected?

Franke ultimately stopped posting videos to the channel and joined forces instead with Hildebrandt, a Utah therapist and life coach who ran a teaching program called Connexions.

“The core teachings of Connexions is that for a person to achieve true ‘connection’ with another human being, they must not be in ‘distortion,’” Hildebrandt explained on her website

To be in distortion, under Hildebrandt’s program, a person could be addicted, “living in shame and denial,” know they are “not enough,” or  be codependent on another person. Hildebrandt — who wrote on her site that her license had been suspended by the Utah Clinical Mental Health Counselor Licensing Board — promised to help people overcome their issues and “live in Truth.”

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Hildebrandt, who often focused on treating “porn addiction,” was placed on probation after talking about a client’s issues with Morman church elders without his permission. 

Together with Franke, Hildebrandt ran a Connextions YouTube channel that promised to be a “support group” for moms to help them through their own battles with “distortion,” according to The Cut. 

What did Jodi and Ruby do? 

The pair were arrested after Franke’s 12-year-old son, who had been staying at Hildebrandt’s home, escaped through a window on Aug. 30, 2023 and ran to a neighbor for help, asking for food and water, according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com.

“The neighbor observed duct tape on the boy’s ankles and wrists, severe wounds, and malnourishment,” Washington County authorities said.

The neighbor would later describe in a witness statement, obtained by Oxygen.com, that underneath the duct tape the boy had “deep wounds” on his ankles which were wrapped with Saran wrap. 

After the neighbor called 911, law enforcement officers learned other children could still be in Hildebrandt’s home, and rushed to the house where they found Franke’s malnourished 9-year-old daughter “petrified and hiding in a closet,” authorities said. 

That same day both Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested on child abuse charges. 

An investigation would reveal both children, referred to in court documents simply as “R” and “E,” had suffered horrific abuse while living in what authorities described as a “work-camp like setting.” 

“The children were regularly denied food, water, beds to sleep in, and virtually all forms of entertainment,” authorities said.

They were prohibited from interacting with others, beaten and forced to perform extensive manual labor, whether it was repeatedly carrying loaded boxes up the stairs, “sitting” against a wall without a chair for hours or working outside in the extreme heat without shoes. 

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

Ruby Franke’s Diary

Franke recounted some of the abuse herself in a diary that referred to her children as “spawns of Satan.” 

“I will not feed a demon,” she wrote in July 2023, according to The Cut, while discussing the punishment of her son. 

Franke went on to describe shaving her son’s head and holding him under the water of a pool while she covered his nose and mouth to punish him for not performing the required wall sits. 

“Big day for evil,” she wrote. 

She also described cutting off her daughter’s hair and throwing “dog wash” on her, according to Business Insider.

"These selfish, selfish children who desire only to take, lie, and attack have zero understanding of god's love for them," Franke wrote the next day. 

Investigators concluded the abuse was the result of “religious extremism.”

“The women appeared to fully believe that the abuse they inflicted was necessary to teach the children how to properly repent for imagined ‘sins’ and to cast the evil spirits out of their bodies,” authorities from Washington County wrote. 

The Franke Family Speaks Out

Franke’s oldest daughter, Shari Franke, celebrated her mother’s arrest on social media.

“We’ve been trying to tell the police and CPS for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up,”she wrote on her Instagram story, according to NBC News.

A year before the arrest, Shari called 911 to ask police to check on the children to make sure they had food and were safe after a neighbor reached out to her with concerns that Franke was leaving her children home alone for long stretches of time.

The Springville Police Department said it went to investigate but no one ever came to the door. 

Franke’s three sisters Ellie Mecham, Julie Griffiths Deru and Bonnie Hoellein — who are all social media influencers themselves — also issued a joint statement on social media saying Frankie’s arrest “needed to happen.”

“For the last 3 years we have kept quiet on the subject of our sister Ruby Franke for the sake of her children,” they wrote, according to People. “Behind the public scene we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe.” 

The children’s father, Kevin, had not been living in the home at the time of the arrests and was separated from his wife for more than a year to work on his own purported “addictions,” The Salt Lake Tribune reported. He told Ivins police he had no contact with his children during that time and was unaware of the abuse.

“We’ve had zero communications regarding the kids,” Franke told investigators. “I’ve had no reason to believe or think there was anything going on.”

Kevin later filed for divorce and is currently suing Hildebrandt for emotional distress and negligence, according to KUTV. 

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Jodi Hildebrandt’s Niece Accuses Aunt of Abuse

Franke’s family members weren’t the only ones to speak out after the arrests. Hildebrandt’s niece, Jessi Hildebrandt, who uses they/them pronouns, gave an interview with KUTV chronicling their own alleged abuse at the hands of their aunt.

Jessi alleged that while staying with their aunt, they experienced “severe emotional, spiritual, and psychological abuse” and was duct taped, tied up, and blindfolded. 

“I experienced being told I shouldn't be around other people, that I was dangerous to be around, people were afraid of me to the point that I was afraid of myself, I was physically, I was forced to sleep outside in the snow, I was, like I said, isolated for up to 12 hours a day,” they alleged. “If someone spoke to me directly, if I wasn’t wearing duct tape on my mouth I had to just stare at them and not respond.”

According to Jessi, they weren’t allowed to use tampons or go to the bathroom alone.

“She wanted to make my life so uncomfortable that it would force sin out, that it would force me to confess, so this continuously got worse and worse and progressively more intense,” they contended.

Was Ruby Franke Convicted? 

Just months after both women were arrested, Franke pleaded guilty to four counts of child abuse in December of 2023. 

While entering the final guilty plea, according to KUTV, Franke told the court she was making the plea “with my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and my children.”

Hildebrandt followed suit just days later, per NBC News, entering her own guilty plea to four counts of child abuse. 

The women were sentenced to anywhere from 4 to 30 years behind bars in February. 

Franke’s attorneys with Winward Law placed the blame on Hilderbrandt, writing in a statement obtained by The Salt Lake City Tribune that the life coach had “systematically isolated” Franke and subjected her to a “distorted sense of mortality.” 

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

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In her own statement to the court, Franke said she had adopted a “dark delusion.”

“My distorted version of reality went largely unchecked, as I would isolate from anyone who challenged me,” she said, adding that she began to believe the world was an “evil place.” 

She also apologized to her children for “hurting your tender souls.”

“To my babies; my six little chicks — you are a part of me. I was the mama duck who was consistently waddling you to safety. I can see now that over the past four years, I was in a deep undercurrent that led us to danger,” she said. “I would never have led you to darkness knowingly — I was so disoriented that I believed dark was light and right was wrong. I would do anything in this world for you.”

Hildebrandt also offered a statement saying the reason she had decided to plead guilty was to protect the children from having to testify during a trial. 

“I sincerely love these children,” she said. “I desire for them to heal physically and emotionally.”

Both women remain behind bars.

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