Family vlogger Ruby Franke faces 6 charges for allegedly starving, abusing kids

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

Ruby Franke, a Utah mother of six who documented her family’s life on the now-defunct YouTube channel “8 Passengers,” has been charged with six counts of child abuse, along with her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt.

The pair were arrested last week after Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped Hildebrandt’s home and asked a neighbour for food and water, police said. When emergency responders found him, he was injured, 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.

The Washington County Attorney in Utah confirmed to multiple outlets that Franke and Hildebrandt have been formally charged with felony child abuse.

“There are two juvenile victims in these cases, and each defendant is accused of causing or permitting serious physical injury to the victims in three different ways: (1) a combination of multiple physical injuries or torture, (2) starvation or malnutrition that jeopardizes life, and (3) causing severe emotional harm,” the county attorney told NBC and People.

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Franke and Hildebrandt could face 15 years in prison and a fine of up to US$10,000 for each count of child abuse, the prosecutor told NBC.

The Washington County Attorney’s Office did not immediately return Global News’ request for comment.

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. Instagram/Moms of Truth

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, NPR reports.

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According to online inmate records, Franke and Hildebrandt have remained behind bars since their arrest on Aug. 30. Both are expected to appear in count on Friday.

For followers of Franke’s social media presence, her charges come as no surprise, as the mom of six has faced criticism for years over her strict parenting style.

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Franke’s oldest daughter celebrated her arrest, posting on her Instagram story the word “Finally,” alongside a photo of police cars outside a home.

“Me and my family are so glad justice is being served. We’ve been trying to tell the police and (Child Protective Services) for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up. Kids are safe, but there’s a long road ahead,” she wrote in a follow-up post.

A neighbour who lived near the Frankes for about five years told People that the influencer’s arrest was “definitely shocking” but neighbours had noticed “some weird things” about the family recently.

For instance, in the past year, Franke “really started isolating her kids,” the neighbour said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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“We saw their presence in the neighbourhood almost daily, and then we just quit seeing the youngest two around,” the neighbour told People. “That was a big change. For most of us, it didn’t point to criminal behaviour. It was just curious. Like, what happened there?”

Local residents became more concerned when it appeared that Franke was leaving her two teenage daughters home alone for weeks on end. The neighbour said this prompted some to contact child services in recent months.

“She went down to southern Utah (to Hildebrandt’s house) with the two youngest and then left the teenage girls home alone up here in Springville, which is about four or five hours away,” the neighbour claimed. “It’s odd.”

Rumours of child abuse in the Franke household swirled for years due to some of the things the family revealed on their YouTube channel. At its peak, the 8 Passengers channel amassed about 2.5 million subscribers following the lives of Franke, her husband Kevin and their six children: Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell and Eve.

In a 2020 vlog, Chad, who was 15 at the time, 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 bean bag chair for seven months.

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

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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 mom’s “support group.” This channel has also faced backlash for its extreme parenting advice.

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