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A woman in Utah who previously gave online parenting advice for a popular YouTube channel has been charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse. This comes after two of her six children were found abused and malnourished.
The Associated Press reported that Ruby Franke, whose now-deleted channel "8 Passengers" detailed her family life, was arrested Wednesday night in the city of Ivins, Utah. She was taken into custody from the home of Jodi Hildebrandt, who runs a counseling business meant to help people improve their lives by being honest, responsible, and humble.
Hildebrandt is also facing the same six abuse charges as Franke.
Franke has previously appeared in YouTube videos with Hildebrandt under the latter's counseling business, ConneXions Classroom, per the report. Prosecutors claim Franke and Hildebrandt either caused or allowed someone else to torture Franke's 12-year-old son and injure her 10-year-old daughter.
Both women are currently being held without bail.
On Wednesday morning, Franke's son apparently escaped the house by climbing out of a window and running to a neighbor's home, asking for food and water. The neighbor spotted duct tape on the boy's wrists and ankles, and immediately called the authorities.
The boy was subsequently taken to the hospital, where he was put on a medical hold "due to deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment." NBC News reported that the boy was described as "emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds," and that the "condition of the juvenile was so severe that they were seen by Santa Clara-Ivins EMS and transported to a local area hospital."
Franke stepped into the spotlight in 2015 through the "8 Passengers" YouTube channel, which tracked the daily life of her husband and six children. The channel had a large following, topping 2.3 million subscribers, before it was apparently taken down earlier this year. It is not clear why the channel was removed.
The Frankes' strict parenting style had led some viewers to report them to the authorities. Insider reported that in June 2020, some viewers of the channel called child protective services after it was discovered that then-15-year-old son Chad said in a video he had slept on a beanbag for seven months. However, Franke said the sleeping arrangement was Chad's choice after he was removed from a shared bedroom with his younger brother that stemmed from behavioral issues.
In one video, Franke said she and her husband revealed that their two youngest children would not be receiving gifts from Santa Claus one year because they had been selfish and were not responding to punishment such as 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.
Elle Mechem, Julie Griffiths Deru, and Bonnie Hoellein, three women who claim to be Franke's sisters and who themselves are family influencers, posted a joint Instagram post saying that her arrest "needed to happen."
“For the past 3 years, we have kept quiet on the subject of our sister Ruby Franke for the sake of her children,” the post said. “Behind the public scene we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe.”
Utah family YouTuber Ruby Franke arrested on child abuse chargeswww.youtube.com
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