Ruby Franke, the Utah parenting coach who gained over 2 million followers with her “8 Passengers” YouTube channel, has been charged with six counts of child abuse along with her business partner, the Washington County Attorney’s Office announced.
Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt, also known online as “Moms of Truth,” were arrested last week after authorities received a call from a neighbor about a malnourished child “with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities,” the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department said. After police searched Hildebrandt’s home, two children were taken to the hospital for treatment and four others were taken into care by Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services.
The Washington County Attorney’s Office on Friday announced charges, alleging Franke and Hildebrandt caused or permitted serious physical injury to two of the child victims by “a combination of multiple physical injuries or torture,” jeopardizing their lives by starving them and causing “severe emotional harm.”
According to prosecutors, each of the six charges that the Moms of Truth face carries a potential prison sentence of one to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Franke and Hildebrandt are scheduled for their first court appearance on Friday.
Ruby Franke via @Moms_of_Truth
Franke has long faced controversy and criticism online for her strict parenting style on the 8 Passengers channel, featuring her husband and their six children. One viewer went as far as to set up a petition to get child protective services involved in 2020.
According to local NBC affiliate KSL, citing police records, neighbors and Franke’s oldest daughter made at least 15 calls to authorities, including for family services, in the past four years.
KSL cited multiple reports that drew authorities to Franke’s Springville home, including two children allegedly running into the road unsupervised. Franke’s daughter Shari Franke, now 19 and estranged from her mother, also reported to police that neighbors had told her the younger children were left alone for days while Ruby Franke was in St. George with Hildebrandt, KSL reported.
Officers who responded to Shari Franke’s report said they saw the children inside the home, but they would not answer the door, according to KSL.
Some followers of Ruby Franke’s content also reported her and her husband, Kevin Franke, to authorities after their then-15-year-old son said he had been “sleeping on a beanbag” as punishment for playing pranks on his little brother.
“My bedroom was taken away for seven months,” the teen said in a video. “I was sleeping on a beanbag since October.”
The Frankes told Insider in 2020 that this was their son’s choice and that he was allowed to return to his bedroom when he changed his behavior.
Other viewers reposted clips of Ruby Franke’s videos, accusing her of withholding food from her kids and neglecting the young children so she could nap, as well as shaming sexual assault victims and making anti-LGBTQ+ comments.
Ruby Franke told Insider the clips had been taken out of context.
The 8 Passengers YouTube channel was shut down last year. Ruby Franke and Hildebrandt announced they were forming ConneXions, a parenting support group offering paid classes and coaching.
The mom addressed the name change on Instagram, saying she had made content surrounding her children for years, and now that they were getting older, she wanted to keep sharing her “wisdom.” She noted that Shari Franke had already moved out, and a teen son was closely behind her.
Ruby Franke also addressed online criticism when announcing her rebranding with Hildebrandt.
“Now I am very aware of people online who hate me, who would like to cancel me, who would like to see me either ‘burn in hell’ as I’ve been told or disappear off the face of the earth, and I’m not going anywhere,” she said at the time.
“Being a mother of six children for 20 years teaches a woman a lot, and I have been very aware of what has made our family sick, and I’m also very aware of what brought healing,” Ruby Franke continued.
But some critics likened their message via ConneXions group to a cult.
“When parents make decisions based on how the child will react, they are being led by the child instead of principles/virtues,” read one caption on Ruby Franke and Hildebrandt’s @moms_of_truth Instagram account. “Being led by anything/anyone other than God is a form of idolatry.”
Shari Franke celebrated the news of her mother’s arrest in several posts on her Instagram story and shared an in-depth Google Doc featuring her mom’s problematic comments.
On Tuesday, Randy Kester, the attorney representing Kevin Franke, told News Nation’s Chris Cuomo that his client had no role in the alleged abuse, adding that he was not living in the home where it happened.
“Mom had the kids for the summer and went out of the county with the kids,” Kester told Cuomo, “and if he had known of or thought there was abuse going on, he would have been all over it.”