Ruby Franke business partner Jodi Hildebrandt pleads guilty to child abuse

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Ruby Franke’s business partner Jodi Hildebrandt pleads guilty to child abuse
WATCH ABOVE: Ruby Franke's business partner Jodi Hildebrandt pleads guilty to child abuse – Dec 28, 2023

NOTE: The following article contains details that some might find disturbing. Please read at your own discretion.

Jodi Hildebrandt, the business partner of former family vlogger Ruby Franke, has pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse for torturing Franke’s children. Last week, Franke also pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse, a second-degree felony.

Both women were initially charged with six counts of child abuse, but each accepted a plea deal that knocked off two of those charges.

Click to play video: 'Disgraced family vlogger Ruby Franke pleads guilty to child abuse'
Disgraced family vlogger Ruby Franke pleads guilty to child abuse

A copy of the plea agreement obtained by KUTV shows that Hildebrandt faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to US$10,000 for each count. Hildebrandt signed the agreement on Dec. 23.

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The plea deal also includes a statement of facts regarding the crimes, which Hildebrandt signed off on. A similar statement of facts appeared in Franke’s plea agreement, CBS reports.

Hildebrandt “intentionally or knowingly inflicted and allowed another adult to inflict serious physical injuries upon two children living in her residence,” according to the deal. The children are referred to as EF, age nine, and RF, who was abused from age 11 to 12. The abuse involved “physical torture” and “severe emotional harm.”

Franke and Hildebrandt were charged with child abuse in early September after Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped Hildebrandt’s home, asking for food and water. When emergency responders found him, he was injured and emaciated and had duct tape on his wrists and ankles.

Franke’s 10-year-old daughter was also found in a similar condition when police searched the home, and she required hospitalization alongside her brother.

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In total, four of Franke’s children were removed from her care and taken in by the Department of Child and Family Services. Her other two children are adults.

Screen grab of an Instagram video featuring Ruby Franke (R) and Jodi Hildebrandt (L), who were both arrested on Aug. 30 on suspicion of aggravated child abuse. Jodi Hildebrandt pleaded guilty to four counts of child abuse in a plea deal signed Dec. 23, 2023. Instagram/Moms of Truth

Details of the plea agreement

The plea deal outlines how RF was “forced to do physical tasks for hours and days at a time,” including wall-sits, carrying heavy boxes up and down stairs and working outside without shoes in the summer heat.

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“He was forced to stand in the direct sunlight for several days,” the court document reads, resulting in “repeated and serious sunburns with blistered and sloughing skin.”

RF was also denied water for the several days he was forced to stay outside and “was punished when he secretly consumed water.”

When RF was caught trying to run away from home, he was punished by having his hands and feet regularly bound. His wrists and ankles were bound by handcuffs, and, at times, “ropes were used to tie the two sets of handcuffs together.”

The bindings would cut through RF’s skin, causing injuries that “were treated with homeopathic remedies and covered with duct tape.” The handcuffs would then be placed over top of the duct tape.

RF was also denied adequate food — and when he was given food, the meal would be very plain while others in the home ate “regular and more flavorful meals.” RF was denied all forms of entertainment and was isolated from others.

The adults in the home “regularly sought to indoctrinate RF and convince him that: (1) he was evil and possessed, (2) he needed to willingly be obedient to avoid punishments, and (3) the punishments were necessary to repent.”

The boy was told that all of this torture was being done to him as “acts of love.”

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EF was subjected to similar torture and emotional harm, though she was not bound. EF was “isolated and forced to do the physical tasks, remain outside, and denied food and water.”

She also was told the punishments were necessary and “was convinced that she was evil and needed to go through these things in order to repent.”

EF was forced to work outside without shoes and made to “run barefoot on dirt roads for an extended period of time,” causing repeated injuries and sunburns. She was also “either physically forced or coerced” to jump into a cactus multiple times.

Background on Jodi Hildebrandt and Ruby Franke

Franke rose to fame by documenting her family’s life on the now-defunct YouTube channel “8 Passengers.” After facing years of criticism from viewers — including allegations of child abuse — regarding her strict parenting style, the 8 Passengers channel was shuttered.

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In 2022, Franke announced she was forming a new channel with Hildebrandt called ConneXions, described as a moms’ “support group.” This channel has also faced backlash for its extreme parenting advice.

Hildebrandt, a therapist, counselled Mormon couples and families in Utah for years before her partnership with Franke. Former patients of Hildebrandt spoke out about her relationship advice that “destroyed” lives to NBC News, which included separating spouses, pathologizing patients’ behaviour and encouraging people to cut off those who didn’t live according to her teachings.

After Franke pleaded guilty to child abuse, her law firm cast blame on Hildebrandt, characterizing Franke as a mother “led astray.”

“Over an extended period, Ms. Hildebrandt systematically isolated Ruby Franke from her extended family, older children, and her husband, Kevin Franke,” Winward Law wrote. “This prolonged isolation resulted in Ms. Franke being subjected to a distorted sense of morality.”

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