News

The rise and fall of Ruby Franke: How popular YouTube parenting blogger became convicted child abuser as she will serve up to 30 years in prison


‘Momfluencer’ Ruby Franke became an internet sensation thanks to her YouTube channel 8 Passengers in which her millions of viewers watched how she and then husband, Kevin Franke, raised, and disciplined, their six children. 

But all was not as it seemed and last year, Franke, 42, pleaded guilty to four counts of child abuse after one of her young children escaped and alerted a neighbor to their suffering. 

The mother wept at Utah‘s 5th District Court, as she was told she will serve up to 30 years in prison for brutally abusing the two children in a ‘concentration camp-like setting’.

She was sentenced to between one to 15 years in prison for each count, up to 60 years in total – however the amount of time she will spend in jail will be determined by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, and state law means she can only serve a maximum of 30 years.

Here MailOnline looks at how the disgraced mommy blogger became an online hit before her empire came crashing down and she was found guilty of child abuse.

'Momfluencer' Ruby Franke became an internet sensation thanks to her YouTube channel 8 Passengers in which her millions of viewers watched how she and then husband, Kevin Franke, raised, and disciplined, their six children

‘Momfluencer’ Ruby Franke became an internet sensation thanks to her YouTube channel 8 Passengers in which her millions of viewers watched how she and then husband, Kevin Franke, raised, and disciplined, their six children

On Tuesday at Utah's 5th District Court, the mother wept as she was told she will serve up to 30 years in prison for brutally abusing the two children in a 'concentration camp-like setting'

On Tuesday at Utah’s 5th District Court, the mother wept as she was told she will serve up to 30 years in prison for brutally abusing the two children in a ‘concentration camp-like setting’

Franke first launched her infamous YouTube channel in 2015, alongside her husband Kevin Franke.

It demonstrated the couple’s parenting techniques with the backdrop being the family’s Mormon faith. 

She quickly racked up more than two million subscribers by chronicling their lives in Utah with their six children.

However, the channel vanished from the internet in January 2023, after years of people calling out Franke’s style of disciplining her kids.

One particularly controversial incident was when one of Franke’s sons said that he was sleeping on a beanbag in a hallway after being kicked out of his room for making fun of his other sibling. 

In an interview with Business Insider, Franke said sleeping on the bean bag had been the boy’s choice. 

Perhaps the most famous incident saw Franke punish her daughter, 6, for forgetting her school lunch at home and refusing to bring it to her. 

A common theme on the channel saw the mother allow children personal freedom and would regularly throw away their belongings. 

The YouTube channel vanished from the internet in January 2023, after years of people calling out Franke's style of disciplining her kids

The YouTube channel vanished from the internet in January 2023, after years of people calling out Franke’s style of disciplining her kids

She quickly racked up more than two million subscribers by chronicling their lives in Utah with their six children

She quickly racked up more than two million subscribers by chronicling their lives in Utah with their six children

Ruby Franke, (left)  who ran the now-defunct 8 Passengers channel, was arrested along with her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt (right) on August 30

Ruby Franke, (left)  who ran the now-defunct 8 Passengers channel, was arrested along with her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt (right) on August 30

Things came to a head when in 2020, allegations were thrown out and people who viewed Franke’s content on YouTube began a petition to have her investigated by Child Protective Services. 

In 2022, police were called to the Franke’s home after a neighbor alleged she had left her children unsupervised for four days. An officer said that the children refused to answer the door when he knocked. 

The YouTuber’s eldest daughter, Shari Franke, also made contact with the police around this time. 

But the truth about what was going on behind closed doors was only revealed in August 2023 when Franke’s 12-year-old child crawled out of a window in Franke’s business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt’s home, malnourished and with tape on his ankles.

He made it to a neighbor’s house and the subsequently released 911 call was harrowing.

‘I just had a 12-year-old boy show up here in my front door asking for help.

‘We know there’s been problems at this neighbor’s house. He’s emaciated. He’s got tape around his legs. He’s hungry and he’s thirsty,’ a neighbor told the operator.

The child accused ‘Jodi’ of tying him up and using cayenne pepper as well as using honey to treat the wounds caused by the tape.

He was rushed to a local hospital. Not long after, his 10-year-old sister was found in the same home, malnourished and also treated.

In court, Franke (LEFT)broke down in tears as she told her ex-husband, Kevin Franke (RIGHT), who was present in the courtroom that he was the love of her life

In court, Franke (LEFT)broke down in tears as she told her ex-husband, Kevin Franke (RIGHT), who was present in the courtroom that he was the love of her life

Perhaps the most famous incident saw Franke punish her daughter, 6, for forgetting her school lunch at home and refusing to bring it to her

Perhaps the most famous incident saw Franke punish her daughter, 6, for forgetting her school lunch at home and refusing to bring it to her

Despite the instances occurring at Hildebrandt’s home, officers said that there was video evidence of her at the home around the time the abuse was occurring.

Four of Franke’s minor children were all immediately put in protective custody.

The YouTube mother was arrested alongside her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, after which multiple neighbors came forward to express their concern at Franke’s parenting. 

‘Everyone is just breathing a collective sigh of relief because we thought they were going to come out of that house with body bags,’ a neighbor told NBC News in August 2023. 

‘I remember that she took away their Christmas one year and she would say things like: “They’re not repenting correctly,” which is a Mormon term for “they’re sinning.” Just complete insanity,’ he added. 

At the time, Hildebrandt and Franke ran another YouTube channel, ConneXions, in which they claimed to be able to help followers create positive relationships. 

Hildebrandt is the founder of ConneXions, which also pushes harsh parenting. 

The pair made an appearance together in court on September 8. Following that, both were held without bail. 

Ruby's eldest child, Shari (seen in May), sat in the courtroom for the sentencing beside her brother Chad

Ruby’s eldest child, Shari (seen in May), sat in the courtroom for the sentencing beside her brother Chad

Franke, right, has shifted the blame to Hildebrandt, alleging that was inspired the child abuse

Franke, right, has shifted the blame to Hildebrandt, alleging that was inspired the child abuse

So many attempted to watch the proceedings online, it caused tech issues.

YouTuber, Tezzmosis, who provided a livestream of the hearing said in an interview with NBC that the interest likely stemmed from people seeing the truth about Franke’s life as opposed to the ‘perfect image’ she tried to project.  

‘They’ve been on [authorities’] radar for a couple of years. But being from an affluent family and having this notoriety in such a way, I think it was so hard for people to believe that something so bad could be going on beyond the surface,’ he said.

The pair pleaded guilty in December 2023 to four counts of second-degree aggravated child abuse.

When being sentenced, the criminal ‘momfluencer’ broke down while speaking in court as she apologized to her ‘little chicks’ and told the judge she was willing to serve her time.

Franke’s business partner Jodi Hildebrandt was handed down the same sentence.

Chief Deputy Washington County Attorney Ryan Shaum said in a written statement on Tuesday that Franke and Hildebrandt’s actions amounted to ‘some of the worst child abuse’ he had seen in nearly 30 years of prosecuting.

‘For over three months, the two children, ages 9 and 11-12, were held by their mother and her business partner in a concentration-camp setting.

Ruby's eldest daughter Shari, 20, posted about her mother's arrest on Instagram, sharing an image of police officers outside the home captioned 'Finally'

Ruby’s eldest daughter Shari, 20, posted about her mother’s arrest on Instagram, sharing an image of police officers outside the home captioned ‘Finally’

Hildebrandt is seen during a virtual court appearance on September 8, 2023, in St. George, Utah

Franke is seen during a virtual court appearance in St. George, Utah

Hildebrandt and Franke are seen during a virtual court appearances in Utah

Defendant Ruby Franke looks on during court Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, in St. George, Utah

Defendant Ruby Franke looks on during court Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, in St. George, Utah

Defendant Jodi Hildebrandt looks on during court Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, in St. George, Utah

Defendant Jodi Hildebrandt looks on during court Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, in St. George, Utah

‘They were regularly denied food, water, beds to sleep in, and virtually all forms of entertainment. They were also prohibited from interacting with others and were hidden in the home when people came to visit’.

He added that the children were forced to do manual labor outdoors in the extreme summer heat without shoes or socks.

In the fallout, Franke’s sister, Bonnie Hoellein, made an appearance in a YouTube video, distancing herself from the crimes and saying that she had been ‘cut off’ from the family.

Hoellein claimed that members of the family had done ‘everything legally that we could do’ in order to help the children.

Franke’s other sister, Ellie Mecham, made the same claims in an Instagram post. 

Another of her frequent critics, was her daughter Shari. ‘We’ve been trying to tell the police and CPS for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up,’ she said. 

Hildebrandt surrendered her counseling licenses shortly after the arrest while Franke’s husband formally filed for divorce. 

His lawyer said in an appearance on Good Morning America in September that the couple had been living separately for 13 months. 

‘No one’s ever made any allegations that he’s ever physically abused those kids, or anyone else,’ the lawyer said.  



Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button