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21st Feb 2024

Parenting YouTuber given maximum prison sentence for child abuse

Charlie Herbert

parenting youtuber ruby franke

A parenting YouTuber has been handed four maximum sentences for child abuse.

Ruby Franke will spend at least four years behind bars after she was was sentenced to four prison terms of between one and 15 years each, on aggravated child abuse charges on Tuesday.

Her former business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, 54, received an identical sentence.

The 42-year-old had more than 2.3 million subscribers on her 8 Passengers YouTube channel which she started in 2015. Franke’s videos shared her family life and were particularly known for her strict parenting methods.

But she was arrested in the southern Utah city of Ivins last August after her malnourished 12-year-old son climbed out of a window Hildebrandt’s home to plead for food and water from a neighbour.

Police said he also had injuries from being tied up with rope and bound with duct tape.

One of Franke’s daughters was later found at the same property in a similar malnourished condition.

In court, prosecutor Eric Clarke said Franke’s nine and 11-year-old children lived in “concentration camp-like setting,” saying they were “regularly denied food, water, beds to sleep in, and virtually all forms of entertainment.”

Ruby Franke’s parenting YouTube channel racked up more than 2 million subscribers (Instagram/@moms_of_truth)

After the sentence, a tearful Franke apologised to her children and said she was “so disoriented that I believed dark was light and right was wrong.”

“I was led to believe that this world was an evil place, filled with cops who control, hospitals that injure, government agencies that brainwash, church leaders who lie and lust, husbands who refuse to protect and children who need abuse,” she said.

Suspicions around Franke’s videos started in 2020, when one of her sons, who was 15 at the time, said on camera that he had been forced to sleep on a bean bag for seven months, the BBC reports.

When YouTubers looked back through older videos, they noticed Franke was using methods such as withholding food from her kids and threatening to chop the head off a cuddly toy.

Franke and her daughters (Instagram/@moms_of_truth)

In another video, Franke and her husband Kevin told their two youngest children that Christmas was cancelled and they wouldn’t be receiving any presents from Santa Claus.

The concerns from viewers lead to a petition demanding an investigation and Utah’s child protection agency was called. However, no legal action and the parents said the clips had been taken out of context.

Off-camera, Franke’s children were being subjected to punishments such as being tied up, kicked, beaten, and forced to work outdoor in the summer sun without any sunscreen on.

Eventually, the channel was deleted in 2022 after a decline in popularity, with the couple separating that year as well.

This lead Franke to start appearing in videos posted by counsellor and life coach Hildebrandt on her site, ConneXions Classroom.

Together, the pair collaborated on parenting and relationship advice videos.

Before the sentence hearing, Kevin Franke had asked for the maximum sentence to be handed to his ex-wife and called the abuse his children had suffered “horrific and inhumane.”

Franke and Hildebrandt’s sentences will run consecutively, and how much time they spend in prison will be decided by the state’s parole board.

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