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Ruby Frank update: TikTokers crash virtual court hearing before YouTube influencer held in jail

Mother of six appeared alongside business partner Jodi Hildebrandt accused of abusing and starving her children

Oliver O'Connell
Monday 25 September 2023 13:44 BST
The disturbing details of Ruby Franke’s child abuse allegations

YouTube parenting influncer Ruby Franke and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, were supposed to appear in court in St George, Utah on Friday afternoon over child abuse charges, but the proceeding was delayed as tech issues plagued the virtual hearing.

Both women were ordered to be held without bail; their bond hearings are slated for 21 September. Ms Franke has reportedly been relocated to the medical unit of the jail, but the reasons for her move are unclear.

Over 1,000 people tuned into the hearing and after a cacophony of bizarre noises and pleas to be quiet, the court shut down public access. It transpired later the Zoom link had been shared on TikTok.

The pair were arrested on 30 August after Ms Franke’s 12-year-old son climbed out of a window and pleaded for neighbors to give him food and water, court documents showed.

After a neighbor noticed that duct tape covering the boy’s ankles and wrists, prompting the neighbor to notify law enforcement. In a chilling 911 call, the neighbor can be heard describing the boy: “He is emaciated. He’s got tape around his legs. He’s hungry and he’s thirsty.”


Utah influencer mom and business partner to appear in court today

A Utah mother of six who gave parenting advice via a once-popular YouTube channel called “8 Passengers” is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Friday on charges that she and the owner of a relationship counselling business abused and starved her two young children.

Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt were charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse after their arrests on 30 August at Ms Hildebrandt’s house in the southern Utah city of Ivins. They are scheduled to appear at a brief, virtual hearing later Friday.

Oliver O'Connell8 September 2023 17:36

Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped the house that morning and asked a neighbour to call the police, according to the 911 call released by the St George Police Department.

The boy was emaciated and had duct tape around his ankles and wrists, but wouldn’t say why, the caller reported.

“I think he’s been ... he’s been detained,” the caller said, his voice breaking up. “He’s obviously covered in wounds.”

As the dispatcher was asking questions, the boy said he didn’t know where his mom was and that his dad was not in the area. The boy said two siblings, ages 10 and 14, were still at Hildebrandt’s house.

“He says everything’s fine with them,” the caller told the dispatcher. “He says what’s happened to him is his fault.”

While waiting for police and paramedics, the caller expressed concern that Hildebrandt may come looking for the boy.

Oliver O'Connell8 September 2023 17:42

Prosecutors allege the women either caused or allowed someone to torture Franke’s son and injure her 10-year-old daughter. Both children were starved and harmed emotionally, court records said. It’s unclear why the children were at Hildebrandt’s home.

The 12- and 10-year-old were taken to the hospital, police said. They along with two other of Franke’s children were taken into the custody of child protective services.

Oliver O'Connell8 September 2023 17:50

Full story: Chilling 911 call that led to Ruby Franke’s arrest revealed

Chilling 911 call that led to Ruby Franke’s arrest revealed

The child reportedly showed up at the neighbor’s home with “duct tape” covering his ankles and wrists as the he begged for food and water

Kelly Rissman 8 September 2023 18:02

What was Ruby Franke’s parenting blog about?

Ruby Franke was known for sharing her family’s life on their video blog.

She and her husband received criticism over their parenting decisions, including banning their oldest son from his bedroom for seven months for pranking his younger brother. In one video, Ruby Franke talked about refusing to take lunch to a kindergartener who forgot it at home. Another showed her threatening to cut the head off a young girl’s stuffed toy to punish her for cutting things in the house.

In one video, Franke said she and her husband told their two youngest children that they would not be getting presents from Santa Claus because they had been selfish and weren’t responding to punishment like being kept home from school and cleaning the floorboards.

“It’s because they’re so numb, and the more numb your child is, the bigger the outcome they need to wake them up,” Franke said in a video.

The blog had 2.3 million followers before it was deleted in 2022.

Oliver O'Connell8 September 2023 18:12

Was there any outcry about the video blog?


Some critics started an online petition asking child protective services to get involved. The Franke’s oldest daughter, Sherri Franke, cut ties with her parents, she has said in social media posts. The YouTube channel, which was started in 2015, ended after seven years.

Police records from Springville, Utah — where the Franke family lived — show Sherri Franke called police on Sept. 18, 2022, to report her brothers and sisters had been left home alone for days. Police also spoke with neighbours, but were unable to contact the children. A report was made to Child and Family Services, according to the police report.

Oliver O'Connell8 September 2023 18:25

What are Franke and Hildebrandt accused of?

Ruby Franke and Hildebrandt are accused of causing or permitting serious injury to the two hospitalised children aged 10 and 12 in three different ways, according to a news release from the Washington County attorney’s office as reported in The Salt Lake City Tribune.

They are said to have harmed the children through a combination of physical injuries or torture; starvation or malnutrition that jeopardizes life; and by causing severe emotional harm.

Those three alleged forms of abuse, for each of the two children, amounted to the six aggravated child abuse counts that Ms Franke and Ms Hildebrandt each face.

Each count carries a sentence of 1-15 years in prison, and a fine up to $10,000, according to the release.

Oliver O'Connell8 September 2023 18:45

Ruby Franke appeared in court on Thursday too — what happened?

Ruby Franke made an earlier court appearance on Thursday at a shelter hearing for her four minor children to determine custody, The Daily Mail reports.

The former influencer sobbed in court and made shocking claims that one of her minor children sexually abused a sibling and molested other family members and children in the neighbourhood — though she provided no evidence to back up the allegations.

Judge Suchada Bazzelle presided over the hearing. Ms Franke’s husband, Kevin, was present with his attorney and the outlet reports that the couple’s two eldest daughters were also there with their own legal representation.

The judge said the alleged abusive child would need to be placed in a home with no other children.

The Mail reports that an attorney in the public gallery stood up and asked the judge to hear details of the molestation of another child as its mother was present.

Judge Bazzelle denied the request and said the details could be heard at another time.

The next hearing is a 15 September mediation hearing and an 18 September pre-trial hearing.

If Ms Franke is released from jail, she will need to attend the hearings in person and if not, the court will have to make accommodations for transportation.

Oliver O'Connell8 September 2023 19:05

Charging documents reveal son’s chilling escape that led to child abuse arrest

Court documents supporting six felony child abuse charges against YouTube influencer Ruby Franke have revealed how her son’s dramatic escape from the family’s home led to her arrest.

Ruby Franke court documents reveal son’s escape that led to child abuse charges

Neighbour called police after noticing duct tape around 12-year-old’s ankles and wrists, affidavit states

Kelly Rissman 8 September 2023 19:25

Ruby Franke’s neighbors feared police would pull ‘body bags’ from her home

The neighbors of recently-arrested YouTube family vlogger Ruby Franke were reportedly not surprised to see her Utah home swarmed by police. Some were just happy that the authorities weren’t pulling bodies from the house.

“Everyone is just breathing a collective sigh of relief because we thought they were going to come out of that house with body bags,” one of her neighbors told NBC News.

Mommy blogger Ruby Franke’s neighbors feared police would pull ‘body bags’ from home

Ms Franke allegedly papered over her home’s windows and would spend weeks away while her children fended for themselves

Graig Graziosi8 September 2023 19:45

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