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Former parenting YouTuber Ruby Franke pleads guilty to child abuse

The parenting advice influencer has reached a plea deal over the six counts of child abuse

Amelia Neath,Andrea Cavallier
Tuesday 19 December 2023 13:20 GMT
Police bodycam captures moment neighbours learn Ruby Franke allegedly kept her children in a 'safe'

Former family vlogger Ruby Franke pleaded guilty to multiple counts of aggravated child abuse brought against her earlier this year for abusing and starving two of her children.

Ms Franke, 41, a mother of six, who gave parenting advice via a once-popular YouTube channel called “8 Passengers”, wore a gray and white striped jail uniform as she stood before a judge in the Washington County, Utah courtroom on Monday.

She pleaded guilty to each of the first three charges individually, with two others having been dismissed, and on the fourth said: “With my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and my children, guilty.”

Judge John J. Walton accepted the plea agreement and scheduled her sentencing for 20 February. The agreement leaves the sentencing up to the judge and does not rule out prison time, her attorney, LaMar Winward, acknowledged.

The former vlogger, alongside her business partner Jodi Hildebrant, was arrested on 30 August when authorities found one of Ms Franke’s children allegedly malnourished and with open wounds, later finding another one of her children also malnourished.

Each count carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000, the Washington County Attorney’s Office told NBC News back in September.

Ms Hildrebrant has also been given the same child abuse charges but has yet to enter a plea.

Ruby Franke was arrested on 30 August after her son escaped to beg for food (Utah Fifth District Court)

The plea agreement comes after Ms Franke’s lawyers shared a statement that said they wanted to “resolve this matter quickly.”

The statement, put out by Winward Law, is the first time Ms Franke and her legal team have acknowledged her charges and said that Ms Franke was a “devoted mother” and “committed to constant improvement”.

It also added that they believed Ms Hildebrandt “took advantage” of Ms Franke’s “quest” for improvement and “twisted it into something heinous”.

“Over an extended period, Ms Hildebrant systematically isolated Ruby Franke from her extended family, older children, and her husband, Kevin Franke.

“This prolonged isolation resulted in Ms Franke being subjected to a distorted sense of morality, shaped by Ms Hildebrandt’s influence,” the statement said.

The statement went on to say that she was “devastated” by her husband, Kevin Franke’s, request for divorce by understands why he would, and is committed to helping their children reunite with their father.

Three months after Ms Franke’s arrest, her husband filed for divorce at the Fourth District Court of Utah.

Mr Franke has constantly denied any knowledge of the alleged child abuse, as he was estranged from his family for some time up until the arrests.

“Despite the pain, she respects his decisions and remains hopeful that, with time, she can contribute to rebuilding trust and fostering understanding within their family,” the statement added.

The arrests and charges of Ms Hildebrandt and Ms Franke came after Ms Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped out of a window of Ms Hildebrant’s home and ran to a neighbour’s house and was begging for food and water, according to police.

Ms Franke was formally charged with child abuse after two of her six children were found to have been duct taped and starved (Instagram/ Moms_of_Truth)

The boy appeared to be severely malnourished and had “deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment,” according to court documents.

His health condition was apparently “so severe” that he was transported to a hospital nearby.

The police were called and carried out a search of the house and found a 10-year-old girl in a  “similar physical condition of malnourishment.”

Ms Hildebrandt had allegedly also used cayenne pepper and honey directly on the wounds of Ms Franke’s children, court documents alleged.

Ms Franke’s four minor children were taken into the Department of Child and Family Service’s care after what authorities had found.

The charges of child abuse come after years of allegations and concerns by viewers of the YouTube channel 8Passengers, where Ms Franke and her husband gained a public profile by documenting the day-to-day lives of their family and sharing parenting advice.

However, many viewers became concerned about the couple’s strict parenting style shown in their videos, such as withholding food and Christmas presents from their children as punishments.

Ms Franke also made her son, Chad, sleep on a beanbag for an extended period of time as punishment for pulling a prank on his brother; however, she did claim to Business Insider at the time that this sleeping arrangement was Chad’s “choice” instead of sharing a room with his younger brother.

Their actions on the channel prompted viewers to create an online petition in 2020 after they saw this incident and other examples of harsh punishments, prompting child services to be called.

The channel was eventually deleted, but Ms Franke continued to share parenting advice alongside Ms Hildebrandt in videos under the name of Ms Hildebrandt’s therapy company Connexions.

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