Ruby Franke, the mother behind the YouTube channel 8 Passengers, has been arrested.
She and Jodi Hildebrandt are currently in custody under suspicion of child abuse.
The news follows years of criticism about Franke’s parenting, and rumors of a family torn apart.
The mother behind a formerly famous family YouTube channel has been arrested under suspicion of two counts of aggravated child abuse.
Ruby Franke is listed on the Washington County Sheriff’s Office’s website as “in custody” after being arrested at 9:33 p.m. on August 30 in Ivins, Utah. Her business partner was also arrested at the same time.
According to a statement from the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department that was shared with Insider, a child climbed out of a window at a residence in Ivins, Utah, to get help, which led to the allegations of abuse Franke is being charged with. The residence belonged to Franke’s business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, who was also arrested in the case, local outlet Fox 13 reported.
The child ran to a neighbor’s house to get help, and asked for food and water, according to the statement. The neighbors noticed that the kid had duct tape on their ankles and wrists and decided to call the police.
The child was taken to the hospital where they were treated for “severe” wounds and malnourishment, according to the statement.
After the first kid escaped the house, a second malnourished child was found in the same residence “in similar physical condition of malnourishment,” according to officials. The second child was also taken to the hospital for treatment.
According to the documents, Franke filmed a YouTube video from the house just days before the arrest which “adds to Ms. Franke…being present in the home and having knowledge of the abuse, malnourishment and neglect,” Fox 13 reported, citing the documents.
The statement from officials said that a search warrant led to the discovery of evidence consistent with the kids’ wounds and four minors were taken into care by the Department of Child and Family Services.
Ruby Franke was once a familiar face on the 8 Passengers channel, which followed the lives of her, her husband Kevin Franke, and their six children: Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell, and Eve. But over the past three years, the family has been in a downward spiral.
The channel had about 2.5 million subscribers at its peak but was taken offline earlier this year for unknown reasons. The family has also been surrounded by allegations of wrongdoing for some time, which signaled the beginning of the end of 8 Passengers, with Franke splintering off to a different, controversial channel last year and certain family members disappearing from view altogether.
For years, the Franke family faced criticism for their parenting style. Rumors of child abuse started circulating in the summer of 2020 when Chad disclosed in one vlog that he had his bedroom taken away after playing pranks on his little brother and was sleeping on a beanbag.
Investigative YouTube channels then started looking through other content the Franke’s had put up and found what they believed to be more evidence.
In one video, Franke said she wouldn’t bring a packed lunch in for her daughter Eve, who was just 6 years old at the time, because the child forgot to pick it up before school. This led to allegations that Franke was starving her daughter.
Psychologists and parenting experts previously told Insider that severe discipline of this kind can develop a poor sense of self-worth and a fear of abandonment in children.
It can also lead to the child not really understanding what they did wrong and repeating the behavior, creating further strain on the parent-child relationship.
At the time, the Frankes pushed back on the narrative, accusing the internet of stirring up “drama” and taking clips out of context. In an interview with Insider, they said they gave their children “choices” and were teaching them about the consequences of their actions.
A letter from the Division of Child and Family Services in Utah, where the Frankes live, seen by Insider at the time, said the case was closed because the claims were unsupported.
The Frankes continued posting videos on their channel for a while, but they couldn’t shake the allegations. Uploads became more sporadic until they ceased altogether. The channel has now been removed.
In June 2022, Franke announced she was forming a new channel called ConneXions with Hildebrandt — a therapist whose license was put on probation by the Utah Clinical Mental Health Counselor Licensing Board for 18 months back in January 2012 for discussing a patient’s “porn addiction” with elders at their Mormon church without permission. (An article in the Salt Lake Tribune quotes the patient as saying: “She just lied wherever she went to [further] an agenda to destroy my life.”)
Franke and Hildebrandt’s channel caused concern straight away, with onlookers labeling ConneXions a “cult.” It describes itself as a mom’s “support group” and claims to “help treat those lost and stranded in the darkness of distortion — which addictions, fear, sadness, and all other self-destructive behaviors derive from,” but has been criticized as damaging, extreme, and authoritarian in its teachings.
In one video, for example, Franke and Hildebrandt said parents should not love their children unconditionally, and in another Franke gave multiple reasons children shouldn’t be listened to and said they didn’t deserve privacy. They have also freely made homophobic, transphobic, racist, and ableist comments.
Those who criticized Franke’s new venture were also simultaneously looking at old videos and finding more worrying and problematic teachings from the Franke parents.
Clips have been circulating on TikTok and YouTube, sometimes amassing millions of views, showing Franke’s harsh, disproportionate punishments toward her children and dictatorial rules of the household.
Those who have been following the Franke family’s story have theorized that it was Franke’s involvement with ConneXions that led to her eldest daughter, Shari, cutting off contact.
In an Instagram story posted in September 2022, Shari addressed the rumors and said she was “not in contact” with her “immediate family,” and she did not support “the extreme beliefs” of ConneXions.
She also said to her followers: “Please remember that this is my real family.”
“Despite good intentions, speculating, rumors, and gossip doesn’t help us. I’d like to ask for privacy for me and my family as we work through this very difficult situation,” she said. “Please know that many are working on this situation, and I hope one day we can be whole again. Please respect my privacy, as I work through my own healing as well.”
Now, Franke and Hildebrandt have both been arrested. In Utah, the definition of aggravated child abuse includes starvation, broken bones, head injuries from hitting or shaking, and suffocation. If intentionally inflicted, the perpetrator faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
When the news broke of Franke and Hildebrandt’s arrest on Wednesday night, Shari shared a photo of a police car on her Instagram story with the word: “Finally.”
“Today has been a big day,” she said in another post. “Me and my family are so glad justice is being served. We’ve been trying to tell the police and CPS for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up.”
There are questions about the whereabouts of the rest of the family, too. Chad, the second oldest child, is also thought to have moved out, but he has not posted publicly online since the family’s channel shut down. Kevin Franke, the father, was also once involved with ConneXions but has been out of the public eye for several months.
Fox News reported that the Springville Fire Department responded to an incident at Hildebrandt’s home earlier that same day at 3:44 p.m. for almost two hours. It’s unknown if these incidents are connected.
Insider has reached out to the police department and the family’s former management for more information.
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