Ruby Franke: No bail for parenting mum accused of child torture

Ruby Franke and Jodi Nan Hildebrandt
Ruby Franke (left) and Jodi Nan Hildebrandt (right)

A Utah mother-of-six and onetime YouTube parenting influencer who is now facing multiple child abuse charges has been denied bail in a court appearance.

Ruby Franke, 41, and her business partner Jodi Nan Hildebrandt, 54, were arrested in Ivins, Utah, on 30 August.

They each face six counts of aggravated child abuse. Neither woman entered a plea in the virtual hearing.

The two were detained after Ms Franke’s 12-year-old son sought help from a neighbour, police say.

The boy climbed out of a window of Ms Hildebrandt’s home in Ivins, south-west Utah, and went to a neighbour’s house to ask for food and water, according to investigators.

Officials say Ms Franke’s 10-year-old daughter was found in a similarly malnourished condition at the house.

Authorities say the charges stem from the alleged abuse of two children through multiple physical injuries or torture; starvation or malnutrition that jeopardises life; and causing severe emotional harm.

Each count carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000 (£8,000), Washington County officials said.

On Friday, Ms Franke and Ms Hildebrandt both wore orange striped uniforms as they made their first court appearance via video from jail.

The virtual hearing was plagued by technical problems after hundreds of viewers logged on to the call, overloading the system.

During the hearing, the judge asked Ms Franke to confirm that she could hear the proceedings and whether she had received a copy of her case file, according to CBS News, the BBC’s US partner.

She responded “yes” twice.

The judge said the next hearing for both suspects would be on 21 September.

According to jail records, Ms Franke has been removed from her holding cell and placed in a medical block at the Purgatory Correctional Facility. It is unclear why she has been relocated.

Ruby Franke and Jodi Nan Hildebrandt
Jodi Nan Hildebrandt (left) and Ruby Franke (right) appeared in YouTube videos together (Image: ConneXions YouTube Channel)


On Thursday, US media obtained the 911 call from the neighbour who called police after discovering Ms Franke’s son at his door “covered in wounds”.

“He’s emaciated, he’s got tape around his legs. He’s hungry and he’s thirsty,” says the neighbour, adding that the boy asked for police and is “very afraid”.

The neighbour is heard telling police that the duct tape on the boy’s ankles and wrists show that “he’s been detained”.

“He says he, uh, what’s happened to him is his fault,” the caller says, according to a transcript published by KSL-TV.

His sister was found after a search of the home of Ms Hildebrandt, who ran a self-improvement business, ConneXions Classroom, and had a clinical mental health counselling licence.

The two injured children were taken to hospital, and her other underage children were removed from her custody.

Ms Franke became YouTube famous in 2015 for her channel, 8 Passengers, which discussed parenting of her children.

The channel gained over two million subscribers before it was deactivated earlier this year.

The vlogger has faced a backlash in the past for her strict parenting measures described on the channel.

These included her son claiming he slept on a beanbag for several months as punishment and Ms Franke describing withholding meals as another disciplinary measure.

An online petition asking child protective services to intervene was started by critics.

The Frankes’ oldest daughter, Shari Franke, has said online that she is not in contact with her parents.

Ruby Franke
Ruby Franke (Image: Facebook)


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