YouTuber Ruby Franke Is Going to Prison for Child Abuse

Utah mother of 6 pleads guilty to 4 counts
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 18, 2023 5:20 PM CST
Family YouTuber Pleads Guilty to Child Abuse
This image from video provided by the Utah State Courts shows Ruby Franke during a virtual court appearance, Sept. 8 in St. George, Utah.   (Utah State Courts via AP)

A Utah mother of six who gave parenting advice on YouTube pleaded guilty Monday to four counts of aggravated child abuse and will go to prison for trying to convince her two youngest children that they were evil, possessed, and needed to be punished to repent. Ruby Franke stood and closed her eyes and took a deep breath before pleading guilty to each of the first three charges individually, the AP reports. On the fourth, she fought back some emotion before saying: "With my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and my children, guilty." Franke pleaded not guilty to two other charges and was returned to custody after the hearing.

In the plea agreement, Franke admits that she tortured her son from May 22 through Aug. 30 by forcing him into hours of physical tasks, summer work outdoors without adequate water and "repeated and serious sunburns" that blistered. He was denied food or given very plain meals, and he was isolated from other people without access to books, notebooks, or electronics. After he tried to run away in July, his hands and feet were regularly bound, sometimes with handcuffs. Franke also admitted to kicking her son while wearing boots, holding his head under water and smothering his mouth and nose with her hands, according to the plea agreement. "He was also told that everything that was being done to him were acts of love," the agreement states.

Franke acknowledged similarly abusing her 9-year-old daughter by forcing her to work outside, run on dirt roads barefoot, and go without food and water. "She was also repeatedly told she was evil and possessed, the punishments were necessary for her to be obedient and repent, and these things were being done to her in order to help her," the plea agreement said. The girl "was convinced" what her mother said was true, the agreement said. Franke and co-defendant Jodi Hildebrandt were arrested on Aug. 30 after Franke's emaciated 12-year-old son escaped from Hildebrandt's house and asked a neighbor to call police, according to a 911 call released by the St. George Police Department.

story continues below

Franke's four youngest children were taken into state custody. Franke and Hildebrandt were each charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse. Judge John J. Walton accepted the plea agreement and scheduled sentencing for Feb. 20. The agreement leaves the sentencing up to the judge. Under Utah law, each child abuse charge carries a sentence of one to 15 years in prison. Franke's attorney told the judge there would be no argument about prison being the appropriate sentence, or about the four sentences running consecutively. The 8 Passengers YouTube channel of Franke and her husband, Kevin, was taken offline earlier this year. He has filed for divorce. (More Utah stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.