The boy had climbed through a window to escape the Ivins, Utah home of Franke’s business partner Jodi Hildebrandt. When he asked a neighbour for food and water, they noticed he had duct tape around his wrists and ankles.
When police searched Hildebrandt’s home, they discovered Franke’s 10-year-old daughter in a similar emaciated state.
Both Franke and Hildebrandt have been charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse and remain in jail without bond.
According to requests for search warrants filed Aug. 30, the day the children were discovered, Franke’s 12-year-old son told investigators that he had been tied to the ground with ropes, and cayenne pepper and honey were used to dress his wounds caused by the restraints.
(The documents were obtained by the Associated Press. Global News has not independently viewed the materials.)
When officers transported the 12-year-old to a hospital, medical personnel removed the duct tape from his extremities and found “deep lacerations from being tied up with rope.” They also noted he was “abnormally thin and weak” from being severely malnourished.
The boy told police that Hildebrandt, identified as “Jodi,” put the ropes around his ankles and wrists and used a paste of cayenne pepper and honey to treat his wounds. He also said that two of his siblings were still at Hildebrandt’s home.
Officers learned that Franke had left three of her six children in Hildebrandt’s care, the warrant states, but when police searched the home for the children, they only found Franke’s 10-year-old daughter. She was also taken to the hospital for treatment.
Police later obtained a warrant to search the home more thoroughly for signs of abuse.
“In Jodi Hildebrandt’s bathroom, I located two used medical gauze dressings near cayenne pepper and honey paste,” the warrant reads. “This observation adds to Ms. Hildebrandt’s knowledge of the abuse in the home.”
Police also found three ropes, two handcuffs, bandages, plastic wrap, a journal and some paperwork. Two other warrants allowed officers to seize laptops, cellphones, any video or audio recordings that might show any child abuse and any communications between Hildebrandt and Franke.
After Hildebrandt was arrested, she told police that Franke’s two youngest children, the 12-year-old boy and the 10-year-old girl, “should never be allowed around any other kids.”
During the initial search of the home, police spotted a locked room in the basement that was potentially a safe room. Police asked to search the locked room in the warrant requests but the later court documents don’t mention what, if anything, might have been located in the room, or if it was opened.
Eventually, Franke’s four youngest children were placed into the custody of child protective services. Her oldest two children are adults.
Hildebrandt’s lawyer, Douglas Terry, was out of the office Wednesday and not available to comment on the allegations contained in the search warrant. Franke’s lawyer, LaMar Winward, is out of the country, his office said.
Franke rose to prominence online through her YouTube channel “8 Passengers,” which documented the lives of herself, her husband Kevin and their six children: Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell and Eve. For years, the family has faced rumours of child abuse due to things the family revealed in their videos.
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.
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.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.