WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah (KTVX) – Utah mother and YouTube creator Ruby Franke was officially charged with child abuse in the Fifth District Court in St. George Friday.
Franke and business partner Jodi Hildebrandt were each charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse following the discovery of two of Franke’s children in conditions of neglect and abuse on Wednesday, August 30.
Franke was made famous by her YouTube channel “8 Passengers” where she chronicled her parenting techniques, which often came under public scrutiny.
Hildebrandt is the creator of the mental health company “Connexions Classroom” and cohost of Moms of Truth with Franke, all of which she said were designed to “treat those lost and stranded in the darkness of distortion.”
Police arrested the two women after Franke’s son escaped through a window of a house owned by Hildebrandt and fled to a neighboring home looking for food and water, according to an affidavit filed by an officer with the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department. The neighbor noticed duct tape on the child’s ankles and wrists and called police.
The 12-year-old boy was taken to a hospital, where he was put on a medical hold “due to his deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment,” arrest records state.
Franke’s 10-year-old daughter was later found malnourished in Hildebrandt’s house and was also taken to the hospital, officers said.
Later on that Wednesday, Washington County worked with Springville Police to find Franke’s two other minor children – both teenagers – in Franke’s residence in American Fork, Utah. All of the children have been taken into care by the Utah Department of Children and Family Services.
No court dates have been established yet.
The Franke family was criticized online for its “8 Passengers” video blog showing parenting decisions including banning their oldest son from his bedroom for seven months for pranking his younger brother, and also sending him to a wilderness therapy camp for undisclosed reasons. In other videos, Ruby Franke talked about refusing to take lunch to a kindergartener who forgot it at home, threatening to cut the head off a young girl’s stuffed toy to punish her for cutting things in the house and saying that she and her husband told their two youngest children that they would not be getting presents from Santa Claus one year because they had been selfish.
Some critics started an online petition asking child protective services to get involved. The oldest daughter cut ties with her parents, she has said in social media posts.
The YouTube channel, which started in 2015, ended after seven years. Franke was also seen in segments posted to Hildebrandt’s Connexions Classroom channel, which has also been removed.
“We can confirm that we have terminated two channels linked to Ruby Franke in accordance with our creator responsibility guidelines,” Nicole Bell, a YouTube spokesperson, told Nexstar in a statement.
A voicemail left at a phone listing for Ruby Franke’s husband seeking comment on the arrest was referred to his attorney, Randy S. Kester. Kester said he was representing Kevin Franke’s interests in keeping his children together and in his care, and that he could not comment on Ruby Franke’s arrest.
A voicemail left with Hildebrandt’s counseling business seeking comment on Thursday was not returned.
A judge on Thursday granted the detective’s request that Ruby Franke be denied bail. The detective cited “the severity of the injuries of her two kids located in the home,” and told the judge the Department of Child and Family Services had taken four of Franke’s children into custody and the officer had yet to speak to two of them.
While the children were found at Hildebrandt’s house, Franke had been seen on a YouTube video filmed at Hildebrandt’s house and posted two days earlier, indicating that Franke was present at the residence and had knowledge of the abuse, malnourishment and neglect, arrest records said.
Hildebrandt was also denied bail, court records said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.