Parenting YouTuber Ruby Franke Pleads Guilty To Torturing Her Kids

Ruby Franke, a Utah mother of six who gave parenting advice to millions of subscribers to her family YouTube channel, pleaded guilty Monday to four counts of aggravated child abuse after she spent months torturing her young children.

Franke, 41, was initially charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse alongside her business partner, 54-year-old Jodi Hildebrandt. As part of a plea deal, Franke agreed to testify against Hildebrandt in exchange for dropping two of her counts.

Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested on Aug. 30 after Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped from her home and asked a neighbor to call police. According to an initial report from the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department, the boy appeared to be “emaciated and malnourished” with “open wounds” and duct tape around his wrists and ankles.

Franke and her husband, Kevin, ran the now-defunct 8 Passengers YouTube channel, which also regularly featured their six children. The couple had faced criticism before for their strict parenting style, and concerned viewers shared clips from the channel on social media, accusing Franke of withholding food and neglecting her children. After 8 Passengers was shut down in 2022, Franke began producing content for ConneXions, a counseling company owned by Hildebrandt.

Kevin Franke filed for divorce in November.

Ruby Franke, known for her now-defunct parenting YouTube channel, pleaded guilty Monday to four counts of aggravated child abuse.
Ruby Franke, known for her now-defunct parenting YouTube channel, pleaded guilty Monday to four counts of aggravated child abuse.

By pleading guilty to each of the four counts, Franke acknowledged her involvement in repeated acts of torture on her kids. According to court documents, her son and daughter were locked out of their house for extended periods and forced to work outside throughout the summer, suffering “serious sunburns” with blisters, and were denied food and water. Her son was regularly bound and hogtied using handcuffs and duct tape, according to the court documents. Franke admitted that she held her son’s head underwater, and suffocated him by covering his mouth and nose with her hands.

She and “another adult” — who was not specifically identified as Hildebrandt in the documents — told the children that they were “evil and possessed,” and that the punishments were “acts of love” that were “necessary to repent.”

Franke’s attorney, LaMar Winward, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost, but in a statement shared with media by his law firm on Friday, Winward called Franke “a devoted mother” who is “committed to constant improvement.”

Hildebrandt “took advantage of [Franke’s] quest and twisted it into something heinous,” isolating the mother from her older children, husband and other relatives, the statement says. “This prolonged isolation resulted in Ms. Franke being subjected to a distorted sense of morality, shaped by Ms. Hildebrandt’s influence.”

Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke did not respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.

Franke told the judge Monday that she was pleading guilty “with my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and my children.”

Her sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 20.

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