Former “8 Passengers” mom vlogger Ruby Franke was a YouTuber success story, with more than a thousand videos documenting her seemingly-wholesome life raising her six children. Millions of fans tuned in to watch Ruby’s kids grow up, virtually looking on as the Franke family cooked meals, did their homeschool work, laughed and played together. Then, in a shocking twist, Ruby was arrested on August 30, 2023, and she and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, were each charged with six felony counts of child abuse. Here’s everything we know about the arrest and case so far.
Who Is YouTuber Ruby Franke?
Ruby was born on January 18, 1982, in Utah, where she was raised with four siblings. Ruby began working as a social media influencer in 2015 when she and her husband, Kevin Franke, started a family YouTube channel called “8 Passengers.” The channel documented the Ivins, Utah-based lives of both parents, and those of their six children: Eve (born 2013), Russell (born 2011), Julie (born 2009), Abby (born 2007), Chad (born 2005), and Shari (born 2003). The family are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In a 2016 interview with KSL News, Ruby said she followed a strict schedule for her channel, posting videos five days a week at 6 a.m. The videos detailed the family’s activities at home, including homeschooling and cooking basic meals, and were often laced with Ruby’s parenting advice for her audience. As of June 2020, the channel boasted 2.5 million subscribers, and had amassed over a billion views over its more than 1,200 videos.
Why Was Ruby Franke Accused of Child Abuse?
The curtain was first pulled back on Ruby’s picture-perfect image when her oldest son, Chad, said in a June 2020 video that he was banned from his bedroom for pranking his younger brother, Russell, into believing they were going on a trip to Disneyland. Ruby began to receive backlash about her parenting style when it was revealed she made Chad sleep on a beanbag for seven months as punishment for the prank.
Other punishments Ruby gave her children included withholding food, sending a child to a wilderness camp for troubled teens, threatening to behead a stuffed animal and telling two children that Santa Claus would not be bringing them anything for Christmas that year because they were too “numb” to other punishments.
YouTube drama channels and TikTokers soon began accusing the Frankes of child abuse. Viewers called Ruby’s punishments cruel and said the extreme forms of discipline didn’t fit the behavior of the children. Concerned viewers searched through years of past videos on the “8 Passengers” channel to find any other evidence of mistreatment.
Videos began circulating on YouTube calling the Frankes “toxic” and “abusive” toward their kids. Some creators received cease-and-desist letters from the Frankes asking for the videos to be removed.
In May 2020, a Change.org petition was launched asking child protective services and YouTube to investigate Ruby for child abuse.
“The mom of six (Ruby Franke) has shown signs of being neglectful and abusive towards her children,” the petition read. “Many of us think we see signs of abuse on their social media accounts and would like for Utah Child Protective Services and/or similar to investigate/check in on their home life.”
Ruby and Kevin Franke Respond to Backlash
In a June 2020 interview with Insider, Kevin brushed off the child abuse claims, and defended the video showing their then 15-year-old oldest son Chad’s punishment of sleeping on a beanbag. He described the since-deleted video as part of Chad’s “story of redemption” that proved his “victory over the challenges that he’s faced over the last several years.”
“The people who’ve been following us this whole time … they would have perceived it as such,” he said at the time. “The problem is when individuals who aren’t familiar with the narrative don’t get the entire story, they fill in the unknown with their own narrative. And that’s really where this blew up.”
Ruby and Kevin Franke Split, Rebrand YouTube Channel
The “8 Passengers” YouTube channel declined in popularity in 2021. In 2022, the Frankes separated, and Kevin moved out of the house. That same year, Ruby began working as a mental health coach at ConneXions, a company run by counselor Jodi Nan Hildebrandt. The duo began cohosting a podcast called “Connexions,” running an Instagram account together called “Moms of Truth” and offering parenting classes.
According to Insider, the podcast reportedly generated concern as Ruby and Jodi allegedly promoted “homophobic, transphobic, racist and ableist rhetoric.”
Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt Get Arrested
On August 30, 2023, Utah police were called after Ruby’s “emaciated” 12-year-old son, Russell, was found with “open wounds and duct tape around the extremities” after he left Jodi’s house and asked a neighbor for food and water.
According to search warrant records released weeks after the arrest, the boy told authorities that “they” — possibly referencing his mother and Jodi — had used cayenne pepper and honey to treat the wounds.
Ruby’s 10-year-old daughter, Eve, was soon found in “similar physical condition” at Jodi’s home, and both children were transported to a local hospital. Authorities determined that the boy and girl had been staying with Jodi, though it’s unclear for how long, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. They, along with two of Ruby’s other minor children, were placed into state custody at that time.
After the discovery, the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department announced the arrest of Ruby and Jodi in a press release. The two women were initially charged with two counts of aggravated child abuse. However, the charges were upgraded on September 5, when Ruby and Jodi were each charged with six felony counts of child abuse, the Washington County Attorney’s Office confirmed. Each count carries a sentence of one to 15 years in prison, and a fine up to $10,000. A judge denied them bail due to “the severity of the [kids’] injuries,” according to court records.
Ruby and Jodi are accused of “causing or permitting serious injury” to Ruby’s two children who were hospitalized in three different ways: through a combination of physical injuries or torture; through starvation or malnutrition that jeopardizes life; and by causing severe emotional harm, according to the Washington County attorney’s office.
Ruby’s two other minor kids, Abby and Julie, were later found safe at the home of Pam Bodtcher, an employee of ConneXions — the counseling service Ruby ran with Jodi. The two children were taken into state custody and later released to their oldest sister, Shari Franke.
Through a lawyer, Ruby’s husband has denied having any part in the abuse.
What Did Police Find When They Searched Jodi’s Home?
Items confiscated from Jodi’s home included two pairs of handcuffs, tape, Saran wrap, ropes, and dressings and bandages, the records state.
Two days before Ruby’s son was taken into custody of the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS), a video posted to YouTube showed Ruby in Jodi’s home, according to court documents. Investigators considered the footage evidence that Ruby had recently been in Jodi’s home and knew about the apparent abuse, a probable cause statement read.
Inside Jodi’s bathroom, investigators also found used gauze, which they considered evidence that Jodi knew about the apparent abuse, the statement also noted.
Ruby Franke and Jodi Appear in Court for First Appearance
On September 8, Ruby and Jodi appeared in court virtually from jail. That day, Ruby accused one of her minor children of sexually abusing a sibling for years. According to the Daily Mail, Ruby said that one of her children, who she did not name, confessed in May 2023 to sexually abusing 20 people, also including cousins and neighbors. The outlet said Ruby provided no proof of her allegations. However, the judge ordered her alleged abusive child to be “placed in a home with no other children.” 5th District Judge Eric Gentry announced that the two women would remain held without bail until their next scheduled court appearance.
Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt’s Second Court Hearing
On September 18, the women’s scheduled status review hearing was postponed until after October 5. Attorneys requested the delay, citing “additional time needed to review copious amounts of discovery,” a Utah state courts spokesperson said.
On October 13, Ruby was moved back to Utah County after being transferred from Washington County’s Purgatory Correctional Facility to the Utah County Jail. Ruby was booked in Spanish Fork and held on a “courtesy hold” for her juvenile court hearing, which took place on October 17.
Judge Seals Portion of Ruby Franke’s Case Regarding Her Children
On October 16, The Washington Tribune reported that a Utah judge decided to seal hearings and documents related to the welfare and placement of Ruby’s children.
Fourth District Juvenile Court Judge Suchada P. Bazzelle issued the ruling to close the juvenile court case on October 10. Bazzelle said the court can’t guarantee a “fair, impartial and private process” for the Frankes and their children without “adequate safeguards to shield the children from the intrusive effects of media coverage related to this case.”
Further court dates in Ruby and Jodi’s child abuse criminal case have not been scheduled.
What Did the Body Camera Footage of Ruby Franke’s Arrest Show?
After Ruby’s son escaped from Jodi’s house and asked a neighbor to call 911, police began searching for Ruby’s two other minor kids — a search documented in police body camera footage released on October 23, 2023.
After Springville police were unable to find the children at Ruby’s home, officers eventually arrived at the home of ConneXions employee Pam Bodtcher. There, they found the other two children, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Body camera video obtained by KUTV shows a roughly 90-minute exchange between American Fork police and Pam, her husband, Roy, and the Franke kids, Abby and Julie.
“I don’t even know what this is all about,” Pam told the officers as Roy asked if they had a warrant, which they confirmed they did.
One officer remained at the doorway with Roy and one of the girls, while the other spoke with Pam inside his car, where she sat handcuffed.
When police asked Roy to move away from the home, he was reluctant.
“What are you afraid of, sir?” the officer asked him.
“Number one, I don’t know what’s going on,” Roy replied. “Number two, I don’t want Springville [police] to drive up and you guys whisk her away without giving any information or anything. Number three, [Ruby] isn’t here right now, and I feel like I’m kind of trying to protect her from getting into a bad situation.”
Roy went on to say, “I’m not going to get crazy, I don’t have any weapons, I don’t have anything. I just had surgery on this ankle. I just feel a certain responsibility to [Ruby’s daughter] and her mom to protect her the best that I can.”
Pam was detained for nearly 50 minutes before Springville officers arrived to gather more information, according to the footage. The two children were taken into state custody and later released to Shari Franke, their oldest sister.
Ruby Franke’s Oldest Daughter Reacts to the Arrest
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Shari, a student at Brigham Young University, said in an April 2023 podcast episode she cut ties with her family the previous year.
Following her mother’s arrest, Shari posted a picture of police officers to her Instagram Story with the caption, “Finally.” on August 31, 2023. In a subsequent post, she said she was glad “justice is being served.”
“There’s literally not even words to describe how upside down my life has become,” Shari wrote on Instagram on October 16, 2023. “I’ve cried, had an infinite number of panic attacks, had way too much ice cream, and yet life goes on. Therapy has literally saved me, but God has too. My life is somehow becoming more beautiful and fulfilling, despite all the terrible things going on,” she wrote.
Shari added that she has tried to live “life to the fullest the last few weeks” despite wanting to “hide away.”
Ruby’s sisters, Julie Deru and Bonnie Hoellein, released a joint statement saying they did everything they could to protect their nieces and nephews “behind the public scene” and that the arrest “needed to happen.”
Where Is Ruby Franke Now?
On September 11, 2023, Ruby was briefly placed in the medical block at a Utah county jail due to an unknown health issue.
According to Washington County jail records obtained by People, Ruby was transferred to the medical block for a few days, before returning to her usual holding block.
The former family vlogger has not been sentenced. Ruby remains in custody in Washington County, where she is being held without bail, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
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