Parenting advice YouTuber and influencer Ruby Franke jailed for child abuse

US News

A former YouTuber who gave parenting advice online has been jailed for up to 30 years after she admitted to physically and emotionally abusing her children.

Ruby Franke, a mother of six from Utah who gave parenting tips via a once-popular video blog called “8 Passengers”, convinced her two youngest children that they were evil, possessed and needed to be punished to repent.

The 42-year-old and her business partner, mental health counsellor Jodi Hildebrandt, pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse.

In her plea deal, Franke admitted to kicking her son while wearing boots, holding his head underwater and closing off his mouth and nose with her hands.

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She and Hildebrandt admitted they also forced the boy into hours of physical labour in the summer heat without much food or water – causing dehydration and blistering sunburns.

According to emergency call records, Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped through a window of Hildebrandt’s house in the southern Utah city of Ivins in August and asked a neighbour to call the police.

This image from video shows Ruby Franke during a hearing Monday, Dec. 18, 2023, in St. George, Utah. Franke, a Utah mother of six who gave parenting advice via a once-popular YouTube channel called "8 Passengers" has pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse for abusing and starving two of her children. (Ron Chaffin/St. George News via AP, Pool)
Ruby Franke during a court hearing in December. Pic: AP

He was thin, covered in wounds and had duct tape around his ankles and wrists.

According to a search warrant, he told officers that Hildebrandt had used cayenne pepper and honey to dress his cuts.

The two women were arrested at Hildebrandt’s home and were each charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse.

Franke pleaded guilty to four of her six charges and not guilty to two at a hearing in December, in a plea deal that was accepted by the court.

At her sentencing hearing, Franke told her children, who had not turned up to see their mother jailed: “I’ll never stop crying for hurting your tender souls.

“My willingness to sacrifice all for you was masterfully manipulated into something very ugly. I took from you all that was soft and safe and good.”

Jodi Hildebrandt attends a hearing Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023, in St. George, Utah. Hildebrandt, a Utah mental health counselor who had been arrested alongside parenting advice blogger Ruby Franke, pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse for her role in physically and emotionally abusing Franke's children. (Sheldon Demke/St. George News via AP, Pool)
Franke’s business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, during a court hearing in December. Pic: AP

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Hildebrandt also pleaded guilty to four counts, and two counts were dismissed as part of her plea deal. She was also jailed for up to 30 years.

Each charge for both women carries a prison sentence of one to 15 years, which will run consecutively. But, according to NBC News, Utah law says that the maximum aggregate sentence for consecutive terms is 30 years.

Hildebrandt admitted to coercing Franke’s youngest daughter, who was nine at the time, to jump into a cactus multiple times and run barefoot on dirt roads until her feet blistered.

The boy and girl were taken to the hospital after the arrests and placed in state custody along with two more of their siblings.

Housing developments are shown in Ivins, Utah, on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. A Utah woman who gave online parenting advice via a once popular YouTube channel has been arrested on suspicion of aggravated child abuse after her malnourished son escaped out a window and ran to a nearby house for help, authorities said. Ruby Franke, whose now defunct channel ...8 Passengers... followed her family, was arrested Wednesday night, Aug. 30, 2023, in the southern Utah city of Ivins. (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Ivins, Utah. Pic: AP

Franke and her husband, Kevin Franke, launched “8 Passengers” on YouTube in 2015 and amassed a large following as they documented their experiences raising six children.

The YouTube channel has since ended and Kevin Franke has filed for divorce.

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