June 12, 2024

Nearly one week after controversial mom vlogger Ruby Franke was arrested and charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse, police incident reports reveal her daughter previously called police alleging that her siblings had been left alone for several days.

Franke and her family ran a popular YouTube channel, “8 Passengers,” for years. She is known for, among other things, taking away her son’s bed for months as a punishment and withholding Christmas presents from two of her six children.

She was arrested and charged along with a mental health counselor whom she turned to for parenting advice and partnered with on videos.

Ruby Franke and clinical mental health counselor Jodi N. Hildebrandt, a mom who works with Franke, are currently in custody; Hildebrandt was also charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Hurricane, Utah.

What happened with Ruby Franke?

According to a press release from the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department, the women were arrested on August 30 after its dispatch center received a phone call about a juvenile who “appeared to be emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities.”

“The juvenile was asking for food and water,” stated the release. The child’s condition was “so severe,” according to the official statement, that they required medical attention at a local hospital.

“Information was obtained by police that other juveniles in similar condition may be in a nearby home,” stated the release.

At that other home, police found another young person “in a similar physical condition of malnourishment,” who was also hospitalized.

Police obtained a search warrant for the home and said “evidence was located consistent with the markings found on the juvenile.”

“Four minor children were taken into the care of The Department of Child and Family Services,” stated the release. “Jodi Hildebrandt and Ruby Franke were arrested in connection with the incident.”

“Due to the sensitive nature of this case, no additional information will be released at this time,” the release said.

Utah defines aggravated child abuse as when a person “inflicts upon a child serious physical injury” or allows someone else to seriously injure a child in their care.

On Sept. 7, 2023, Springville Police Department released incident reports to NBC News covering times police were called to the Franke home since 2019. In one of the reports, police detailed a call they received on Sept. 18, 2022 from her oldest daughter, alleging that a neighbor informed her that her younger siblings had been home alone for five days.

When police arrived at the home to conduct a welfare check, the children were visible through the windows but would not answer the door, the report states. Several neighbors arrived and informed the police that Franke will leave her children for extended periods to visit Hilldebrandt in St. George.

Other reports detailed times Franke called about harassment threats and an instance when a case worker called after being notified that two children were outside without supervision. Police did not observe any children in the street when they arrived.

Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke told TODAY.com on Sept. 1 that each woman has been charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse. Each count carries a potential prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine up to $10,000, Clarke’s office said.

“There are two juvenile victims in these cases, and each defendant is accused of causing or permitting serious physical injury to the victims in three different ways: (1) a combination of multiple physical injuries or torture, (2) starvation or malnutrition that jeopardizes life, and (3) causing severe emotional harm,” Clarke’s office said in a news release.

On Sept. 1, before the charges were announced, Ruby’s sister Bonnie Hoellein released a YouTube video entitled “My Statement on My Sister Ruby Franke,” which has since been deleted. NBC has verified the authenticity of the video.

“This week has been nothing that I could have anticipated,” Hoellein said in the video. “If you have the internet, you have seen news articles on my sister Ruby from the ‘8 Passengers’ … I don’t think any of us could have seen this coming.”

Hoellein referred viewers to a post on her Instagram account, which said: “For the last three years, we have kept quiet on the subject of our sister Ruby Franke for the sake of her children. Behind the public scene, we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe.”

She 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.”

Neither Franke nor Hildebrandt has an attorney listed in their public records. TODAY.com made multiple attempts to contact both women through different channels but did not get a response.

Here’s what else to know about Ruby Franke and her family.

Who is Ruby Franke?

Ruby Franke and her husband Kevin Franke share six children.

The Frankes launched their YouTube channel “8 Passengers” in 2015, when their youngest child was about 10 months old, Ruby told Cwic Media last year. At one point, the account, which is no longer on YouTube, had more than 2 million subscribers.

“I felt maybe a little bored at home … I wanted to expand my skills, I wanted to learn … And so I just started filming little things like my 2-year-old crawling up on the counter and pouring cereal,” she said. “I kept the camera rolling … people started watching how I would respond.”

In the Cwic interview, Franke said her content was relatable to both moms and older children. According to Franke, she received “hundreds and thousands” of comments from strangers saying, ” I wish you were my mom” and “I want to be you.”

Franke also said during the interview that her children became “entitled” and she sought the advice of Hildebrandt, a self-described “mental fitness trainer.”

Why is Ruby Franke so controversial?

Longtime watchers of the channel raised concerns about some of the Frankes’ parenting tactics.

When one of their sons was 14, the Frankes sent him to the Anasazi Foundation Wilderness Therapy Program, which describes itself as an “outdoor behavioral healthcare program” for children ages 12 to 17 who struggle with “defiance, family conflict, mental health, lack of motivation” and “other self-defeating behaviors.”

In a video, the parents said their son would spend between eight and ten weeks living in the mountains of Arizona. The Frankes would not disclose their reasons for sending their child away. Rather, said Kevin Franke, “it’s an accumulation of things over years” and he added that their son needed to “develop some very basic maturity and skills.”

In a separate incident, the same son explained in a video that his mom had taken his bed away for a period of seven months for playing a prank on his brother.

“I’ve been sleeping on a bean bag since October,” he said. “They gave me my room back two weeks ago.”

“I don’t think our viewers know that,” remarked Ruby Franke, who sat beside her son in the video, later adding, “He was sleeping on the floor in the family room.”

In 2021, Ruby and Kevin Franke decided to withhold Christmas gifts from their two youngest children after noting what they called “long patterns of selfishness,” Ruby Franke said in a video published on Hildebrandt’s ConneXions YouTube channel that year.

While their siblings opened gifts on Christmas morning, the little ones would receive “gifts of truth,” Franke said, which were “boundaries” and “repentance.”

Ruby Franke remarked in the video that keeping them home from school and having them clean the floors had not been an effective punishment.

“We told them that this year they are not going to be visited by Santa,” she said. “We prepped them, we let them know that (on) Christmas morning, their four older siblings will be getting Christmas presents to open and that they will have the gift of love from their dad and I. Because we want them to really have a visceral experience that hits them.”

Ruby Franke also threatened to remove her son’s “privilege to eat dinner” for tickling his brother. In a different video she said, “My kids are literally starving. I hesitate to say this because it’s going to sound like a mean barbarian but I told the kids ‘I’m not even going to let you eat breakfast until you get your chores done.'”

In another video, Ruby Franke shared that she received a text message from her child’s kindergarten teacher, stating that her daughter didn’t have a packed lunch that day, asking if Franke could deliver it at school.

“I responded and I just said, “Eve is responsible for making her lunches in the morning and she actually told me she did pack a lunch,” said Franke. “So the natural outcome is that she’s just going to need to be hungry and hopefully nobody gives her food and nobody steps in and gives her a lunch, because she’s not going to learn from the natural outcome.”

“My hope is that she’ll be hungry and come home home and go, ‘Oh man, that was really painful being hungry all day. I will make sure to always have a lunch with me.’”

What has Ruby Franke said?

In her Cwic interview, Ruby said she was surprised by her public image as a mean mom.

“I was slapped upside the face with shock that people didn’t like responsibility,” she said of the backlash. “I went, overnight nearly, from being this loved YouTube mom to being called a neglectful, abusive mom … I was shocked.”

In 2021, Franke said in an interview with “The Wrap” that Child Protective Services had visited her home the previous year.

“I remember that morning very well,” she told the outlet. “These officers — they were two ladies — said there had been several complaints about child abuse and child neglect. Could they come in and spend some time?”

Franke told “The Wrap” that the concerns were unsubstantiated and the agency workers asked her for parenting advice before leaving.

Ruby’s husband Kevin Franke, and his attorney, did not immediately respond to TODAY.com’s request for comment. TODAY.com also reached out via the “8 Passengers” account and did not get a response.

Who is Jodi Hildebrandt?

According to the Utah Division of Professional Licensing, Hildebrandt is a clinical mental health counselor.

Hildebrandt and Ruby Franke created and published videos on Hildebrandt’s YouTube account “ConneXions Classroom,” which Hildebrandt founded in 2012, she wrote on the ConneXions website. The ConneXions YouTube channel has been deleted since the arrest.

Also on the ConneXions website, Hildebrandt describes her methods as a way to “help treat those lost and stranded in the darkness of distortion, which addictions, fear, sadness, and all other self-destructive behaviors derive from.”

A spokesperson from the Utah Division of Professional Licensing tells TODAY.com that Hildebrandt was disciplined and placed on a period of probation for 18 months in 2012. Afterward, her license was reinstated with full privileges.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com


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