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Family YouTuber Arrested on Child Abuse Charges

Viewers have long raised a flag on Utah's Ruby Franke, who offers controversial parenting advice
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2023 11:21 AM CDT

A Utah mom of six who became popular on her now-defunct YouTube channel for offering parenting advice has been arrested. The AP reports that 41-year-old Ruby Franke was taken into custody on Wednesday on suspicion of aggravated child abuse at the Ivins home of Jodi Hildebrandt, 54, her business partner, who was also detained for the same. Per an affidavit filed by an officer with the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department, the two women were arrested after Franke's 12-year-old son escaped out of a window in Hildebrandt's home and made his way to the home of a neighbor, requesting food and water. The neighbor called the cops after spotting duct tape on the child's wrists and ankles. The boy was taken to a local hospital and was said to be "emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities," per a release from authorities cited by NBC News.

Officials say a later search of Hildebrandt's home turned up Franke's 10-year-old daughter, who was also hospitalized for malnourishment, and two other Franke children, who were handed over to child protective services. Court records show both women have been denied bail. Franke, along with her husband, Kevin, and their six kids became YouTube stars in 2015 via their 8 Passengers YouTube channel, on which Franke dispensed parenting advice. However, viewers eventually started putting up red flags on the Frankes. In 2020, for example, their then-15-year-old son said in a video he'd had to sleep on a beanbag for seven months for pranking his younger brother, per the New York Post. There were also clips of Franke noting how she'd deny her kids food for discipline, per Insider.

The 8 Passengers channel, which had almost 2.3 million subscribers, was taken down from YouTube earlier this year, though it's not clear why. Franke has also appeared in videos on Hildebrandt's ConneXions YouTube channel, where they offer parenting and relationship advice. After the women's Wednesday arrest, Franke's estranged oldest daughter, Shari, 20, who Insider notes is a student at Brigham Young University, shared a photo on her Instagram story showing a police vehicle outside of a home, with a one-word caption: "Finally." Franke's three sisters, also said to be estranged from her, issued their own joint statement.

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"For the last 3 years we have kept quiet on the subject of our sister Ruby Franke for the sake of her children," they wrote on Instagram after Wednesday's arrests. "Behind the public scene we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe." They then added: "Ruby was arrested which needed to happen. Jodi was arrested which needed to happen. The kids are now safe, which is the number one priority." Meanwhile, Kevin Franke's attorney told the New York Post on Thursday that his client's "urgent focus is simply to keep his children together under his fatherly care." (More Utah stories.)

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