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the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

Who is Ruby Frank?

Utah YouTuber facing child-abuse charges

On Aug. 30, Ivins, Utah police received a disturbing call; a 12-year-old boy had escaped through a window and ran to a neighboring house, asking the owners for help. The boy, according to the caller, appeared to be emaciated and malnourished. After law enforcement and EMS appeared on the scene, they were alerted that there were children that could still be in the house that the boy escaped from.

“Officers arrived at the home and searched the residence, locating another juvenile in a similar physical condition of malnourishment,” the official release states. “That juvenile was also transported by EMS to the hospital for treatment.”
Shorlty after finding the children, Ruby Franke, the children’s mother, and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrant, were arrested on suspicion of aggravated child abuse. 

Ruby Franke is a 41-year-old mother of six who lives in Utah. She gained attention from her parenting advice and family vlog, in which she documented the lives of her and her family. 

“Franke, arms outstretched, selfie-style, toggles between speaking to the children directly and making eye contact with the camera, narrating her rationale for parenting decisions as they unfold in real time,” NPR reported, “Some of her lessons contain spiritual undertone or light references to traditional values.” 

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From doctors office visits, to learning to shave, to getting in trouble, Franke filmed it all, and she was not afraid to let her viewers see how she reprimanded her children, even when she sparked backlash for her extreme parenting decisions.

The YouTube channel, “8 Passengers,” started in 2015. Now defunct, the family-vlog channel was led by Ruby Franke and her now ex-husband, Kevin Franke. Along with their six children: Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell, and Eve. At the height of the channel’s fame, “8 Passengers” boasted over 2 million subscribers. 

The controversy surrounding “8 Passengers” has always been present due to the stricter parenting style that Ruby and Kevin Franke used to lead their household. However, according to USA Today, “the last three years have been specifically damaging for the family, as viewers began circulating petitions and reporting what they saw as evidence of child abuse and neglect to local authorities.” 

Some of the Franke’s most infamous incidents include Ruby and Kevin taking away Christmas from their two youngest children one year, reasoning that they were being “selfish” and needed to learn a lesson. Another time, Franke took away their oldest son’s bed for seven months and had him sleep on a bean bag, because he pulled a prank on his younger brother. 

Although the main channel is now deleted, clips taken from the “8 Passengers” videos have been reposted many times across several social media platforms. One of the most infamous incidents documented was when Franke refused to bring her six-year-old daughter lunch after she forgot it at home. 

“I just got a text message from Eve’s teacher and she said that Eve did not pack her lunch today and can I bring a lunch over to the school,” Franke vlogs from inside her car. 

“This happens quite often when you’re raising children because I know that her teacher is uncomfortable with her being hungry and not having a lunch and it would ease her discomfort if I came to the school with lunch. But, I responded and said Eve is responsible for making her lunches in the morning and she actually told me she did pack a lunch. So the natural outcome is she’s just going to be hungry. And hopefully, hopefully nobody gives her food, nobody steps in and gives her a lunch.”

These referenced incidents are just a few of the many that raised concern throughout the “8 Passengers” viewers. USA Today reporting, “In many instances, she could be seen threatening to withhold food or otherwise punishing her children in a way viewers found to be too severe.” 

Shortly after new videos stopped appearing on “8 Passengers,” she started appearing in another YouTube channel, “ConneXions Classroom,” also known as “ConneXions.” According to NPR, “ConneXions bills itself as a mental health curriculum and counseling service structured around the principles of ‘impeccable honesty, rigorous personal responsibility, and vulnerable humility.’”  

While the YouTube channel has since been removed, the website is still available to access. Jodi Hildebrant, the founder of ConneXions, states on the “ConneXions” website that, “I designed and wrote the curriculum for ConneXions Classes– Masterclass, Parenting, Principles and Group –to help treat those lost and stranded in the darkness of distortion–which addictions, fear, sadness, and all other self-destructive behaviors derive from.” 

Franke and Hildebrant began to appear in many videos together, sharing “values-based lessons on topics like blame, control, and denial, with notes on family life infused throughout.” Many of their opinions and advice were extreme and caused controversy though, especially after viewers learned that Hildebrant “had her license suspended in 2012 after she disclosed a patient’s ’porn addiction’ to his Mormon church leaders,” NPR stated. 

Shifting back to the morning of Aug. 30, when dispatchers arrived, the young boy had open wounds and duct tape around his extremities. 

“Information was obtained by the police that other juveniles in similar condition may be in a nearby home. Officers arrived at the home and searched the residence, locating another juvenile in a similar physical condition of malnourishment. That juvenile was also transported by EMS to the hospital for treatment,” the official press release from the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department said.

In total, four “minor children were taken into the care of the Department of Child and Family Services.” The homeowner, identified as Jodi Hildebrant, and the children’s mother, Ruby Franke, were both arrested on suspicion of “two felony counts each of aggravated child abuse.” The two women were taken into custody and were decided to be held without bail. 

In early Sept., after Franke appeared for a virtual hearing, it was announced that both Franke and Hildebrant had been officially charged with six counts of felony child abuse. Both women carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000, a Washington County Attorney in Utah revealed to NBC News. 

“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,” NBC reported what the county attorney said. 

5th District Court Judge, Eric Gentry, according to People, ruled that Franke will “remain on no bail hold until her next hearing, currently scheduled for Sept. 21.” Franke’s case was also transferred to District Judge John Walton, who was also assigned Hildebrandt’s case. People stated that “Franke’s case and Hildebrandt’s had initially been assigned to different judges.” 

Since Franke’s arrest, some of her family members have spoken out, including her sisters, who have all expressed “relief” since the YouTuber’s arrest. 

Shari, Franke’s oldest daughter, has also expressed how relieved she is that her mother is now facing legal consequences. In an instagram story that has since disappeared, Shari shared a picture of what appeared to be her mother being placed in handcuffs, with a simple, “Finally,” captioning the image. 

“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,” Shari stated in another instagram story. 

Now, everyone is waiting for Sept. 21, when Franke and Hildebrant will return to court.

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About the Contributor
Lainey Vollmer
Lainey Vollmer, Staff Writer

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    Lillian A CarboneNov 18, 2023 at 6:17 AM

    They should spend 25 years in prison and starve both of them