Ruby Franke, disgraced family vlogger, sentenced 4-60 years for child abuse

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Ruby Franke: Utah court sentences disgraced family vlogger to 4-60 years for child abuse
WATCH: Ruby Franke: Utah court sentences disgraced family vlogger to 4-60 years for child abuse – Feb 20, 2024

Ruby Franke, a Utah mom of six who once broadcasted her family’s life to millions of followers on YouTube, has been sentenced to prison for felony child abuse.

Franke was handed four one-to-15-year-long prison sentences by a Utah district court on Tuesday. The prison terms are to be served consecutively, meaning Franke faces a minimum of four and up to 60 years behind bars. The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole will decide exactly how long Franke is incarcerated.

Her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, received the exact same sentence shortly after Franke’s hearing. They have 30 days to appeal the rulings.

Franke and Hildebrandt both pleaded guilty to four counts each of aggravated child abuse last December.

Both women were arrested and charged with child abuse in September 2023 after Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped Hildebrandt’s home, asking for food and water. When emergency responders found him, he was injured, starved and had duct tape on his wrists and ankles covering up wounds.

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This image from video provided by the Utah State Courts shows Ruby Franke during a virtual court appearance, Friday, Sept. 8, 2023 in St. George, Utah during which she was charged with child abuse.
This image from video provided by the Utah State Courts shows Ruby Franke during a virtual court appearance, Sept. 8, 2023 in St. George, Utah. Utah State Courts via AP

Franke’s 10-year-old daughter was also found in a similar condition when police searched the home.

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.

Franke told Judge John J. Walton that she would not argue for a shorter sentence before she stood to thank local police officers, doctors and social workers for being the “angels” who saved her children from her at a time when she claims she was under the influence of Hildebrandt.

“I’ll never stop crying for hurting your tender souls,” Franke said to her children, who were not present at the sentencing hearing. “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.”

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A December statement from Franke’s law firm cast blame on Hildebrandt for the child abuse and their own client’s actions, characterizing Franke as a mother “led astray.”

“I sincerely love these children. I desire for them to heal physically and emotionally,” Hildebrandt said Tuesday in court, reminding the judge that she accepted her plea deal instead of going to trial because she did not want the children to have to relive their trauma by testifying.

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

Franke’s child abuse charges came as little surprise to critics of her social media presence. For years, the mother of six has faced backlash for her strict parenting style, which was documented on her YouTube channel, 8 Passengers.

In a 2020 vlog, Franke’s 15-year-old son disclosed in a video that his bedroom had been taken away for playing pranks on his little brother and he had been sleeping on a beanbag chair for seven months.

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In another video, Franke refused to bring her daughter a packed lunch at school because the then-six-year-old was responsible for her own lunch and had forgotten to make it.

Photo of Ruby Franke, a family vlogger who was arrested and charged with six counts of felony child abuse. Instagram/Moms of Truth

In an interview with Insider at the time, Franke said she gave her children “choices” and was teaching them about consequences.

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.

Details of abuse

A statement of facts found in both Franke and Hildebrandt’s plea deals outlined details of the abuse that Franke’s children were subjected to.

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.”

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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.

“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.”

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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.”

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.

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— with files from The Associated Press

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