Ruby Franke is the mother behind the formerly popular YouTube channel 8 Passengers.
Franke was arrested in August and accused of child abuse.
Over the past three years, her family has been embroiled by allegations and rumors.
Ruby Franke is a YouTuber and mother of 6 from Utah. Once a star for her prominent vlogging channel 8 Passengers, she was arrested on August 30 on suspicion of child abuse.
She and her husband Kevin Franke grew a following of 2.5 million for 8 Passengers, which documented the lives of them and their six children: Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell, and Eve.
But over the past three years, the family has been in a downward spiral, and embroiled in allegations and rumors.
Here's the story of the rise of 8 Passengers, and their downfall, which viewers predicted for years.
Where 8 Passengers began
The channel was launched in January 2015, and followed the lives of Ruby and Kevin Franke and their six children.
The family, from Springville, Utah, are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church.
Franke told local news station KSL in 2016 that she started the channel as a way to feel "present" and "just enjoy being with the kids as they are right now."
"I just want women who are still nursing babies, women who are still trying to get their families, women who are not sleeping through the night to see what it looks like at the finish line, to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's beautiful and it's powerful and it's worth it, it's worth all the effort that families put into their family," she said.
The channel quickly grew a following as people tuned in to see Franke parent her children, cook them meals, and home-school Chad. They hit 1 million subscribers in August 2017.
Rumors started the circle the family
As the Frankes' YouTube channel grew, the picture darkened. Viewers became more critical of their parenting style, and started to see it as overly authoritarian and sometimes cruel.
In the summer of 2020 when Chad revealed in one vlog that he had his bedroom taken away after playing pranks on his little brother, and was sleeping on a beanbag. Some viewers said they considered this child abuse.
Investigative YouTube channels then started looking through other past content and highlighted moments they said concerned them.
In one video, Franke said she wouldn't bring a packed lunch in for her daughter Eve, who was just 6 years old at the time, because the child forgot to pick it up before school. Some viewers said this amounted to starving her.
A Change.org petition was set up calling for Child Protective Services to step in, which received over 17,000 signatures. "This family are profiting off their children and focusing on themselves first," it reads.
(No officials appeared to engage with the petition — Utah's CPS website asks people to call its hotline or fill out an online referral form if they are worried about anybody.)
At the time, the Frankes pushed back on the narrative, accusing the internet of stirring up "drama" and taking clips out of context. In an interview with Insider, they said they gave their children "choices" and were teaching them about the consequences of their actions.
A letter from The Division of Child and Family Services in Utah, where the Frankes live, seen by Insider at the time, said the case was closed because the claims were unsupported.
People continued to circulate clips they found troubling — including Franke threatening to withhold dinner from her son Russell when he and Chad were play-fighting, when she took away Christmas from her youngest children due to "selfishness" and "egregious choices" they made, not giving the children breakfast until they did their chores, and telling them they didn't deserve personal space.
The Frankes continued posting videos on their channel for a while. Uploads became more sporadic, then stopped altogether. The channel was removed sometime in mid-2023.
The Franke's former manager, Larry Shapiro, the CEO of talent agency Ensemble Digital Studios, told Insider in May 2023 that they were "a good family that got torn apart" but could not comment further.
Ruby started a new venture last year
In June 2022, Franke announced she was joining a new YouTube channel called ConneXions with a woman named Jodi Nan Hildebrandt.
Hildebrandt is a therapist whose license was put on probation by the Utah Clinical Mental Health Counselor Licensing Board for 18 months back in January 2012.
The punishment was for discussing a patient's "porn addiction" with elders at their Mormon church without permission. (An article in the Salt Lake Tribune quotes the man as saying Hildebrandt "lied wherever she went to [further] an agenda to destroy my life.")
Franke and Hildebrandt's channel caused concern straight away among viewers. In one video, Hildebrandt appears to suggest women who are raped had a "choice." In another, Franke says children don't deserve privacy, or unconditional love.
The family started to break apart
The eldest of the Franke children, Shari said in September 2022 that she was no longer in contact with her relatives and did not support "the extreme beliefs" of ConneXions.
But she also urged her followers to "please remember that this is my real family."
There are questions about the whereabouts of the rest of the family too. Chad, the second oldest child, is also thought to have moved out, but he has not posted publicly online since the family's channel shut down.
Kevin Franke, the father, was also once involved with ConneXions, but has been out of the public eye for several months. It is unclear if he and Franke are still together.
Kevin Franke was an associate professor at Brigham Young University, but his employment there ended earlier this spring, a spokesperson told Insider. They didn't give any details about why he left the job.
Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested in Ivins, Utah on August 30 at 9:33 p.m.
They are listed on the Washington County Sheriff's Office's website as "in custody."
Officials told Insider that the arrest came after a report of a malnourished and wounded child asking for help.
A statement from the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department said that a call came at 10.50 a.m. where an unnamed caller reported that a child "appeared to be emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities."
"The juvenile was asking for food and water," the statement said, and was in a condition "so severe that they were seen by Santa Clara-Ivins EMS and transported to a local area hospital."
The Springville Police Department then went to the home and found a second malnourished child who was sent to the hospital, the statement said.
Police then obtained a search warrant, took four unnamed children into care, and arrested Franke and Hildebrandt, the statement said.
That evening, Shari shared a photo of a police car on her Instagram story with the word: "Finally."
"Today has been a big day," she said in another post. "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."
Franke's sisters also posted a statement on Instagram, saying her arrest "needed to happen."
"The kids are now safe, which is the number one priority," it reads.
August 31, 2023: This story was updated shortly after publication to incorporate a statement from the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department describing the arrest.
Correction: September 1, 2023 — An earlier version of this story misstated the status of Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt's case. Police said the two have been arrested; they have not yet been formally charged in court.
Read the original article on Insider