Ruby Franke, mother of six and parenting advice YouTuber, pleads guilty to child abuse


Ruby Franke, a mother of six, who gave parenting advice on a once popular YouTube channel called "8 Passengers" in the US state of Utah has pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse, on Monday (Dec 18). The 41-year-old woman reportedly convinced her two youngest children they were evil and possessed and needed to be punished to repent.

What happened in court?

Franke was originally charged with six counts of child abuse in September and has pleaded not guilty to two other counts, reported the Associated Press citing court records. 

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The 41-year-old former YouTuber faced accusations of starving and abusing her children after one of her sons managed to escape her former business partner’s home in Utah. 

Franke, who once had over two million subscribers for her parenting vlog, appeared in court and pleaded guilty to each of the first three charges individually. On the fourth one, she said, “With my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and my children, guilty”. 

Judge John Watson, who is presiding over the case, has scheduled sentencing for February 20, 2024. In line with the plea deal, prosecutors left sentencing exclusively up to the judge, said Franke’s attorney.

According to Utah law, second-degree aggravated child abuse can be charged if that person knowingly or intentionally inflicts serious physical injury to a child or causes or permits another to inflict serious physical injury to their child. Each of these charges carries 15 years in prison. 

Trigger warning: Some readers may find the details of this story disturbing. Discretion is advised.

About the case

The 41-year-old was arrested in August at the house of her former business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, 54. During the hearing on Monday, new details of the abuse the children endured emerged including claims that they were told that they are possessed. 

Winward Law, in a statement, said that the abuse occurred while Franke was influenced by a relationship counsellor, Hildebrandt, who led her to “a distorted sense of morality” and called the 41-year-old “a devoted mother”

In August, Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped Hildebrandt’s house and told officers the 54-year-old had put ropes on his ankles and wrists, according to court documents. 

The officials, at the time, said the boy had to be taken to the hospital “due to his deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment”. 

They later found Franke’s daughter, who was also malnourished, and took her to the hospital. Eventually, four of her children were placed in state custody. 

The 41-year-old has admitted to torturing her 12-year-old son for months with hours of physical tasks, outdoor work during summers without enough water and “repeated and serious sunburns”. Her son was denied food or given very plain meals and was isolated from other people. 

She reportedly restricted her son’s access to books, notebooks or electronics, and also kicked him while wearing boots, held his head under water and smothered his mouth and nose with her hands, reported the AP citing the plea agreement.

“He was also told that everything that was being done to him were acts of love,” the agreement stated. Franke also acknowledged similarly abusing her nine-year-old daughter. “She was also repeatedly told she was evil and possessed, the punishments were necessary for her to be obedient and repent," the plea agreement said, adding that the girl was "convinced". 

Both Franke and Hildebrandt have been arrested and charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse and remained jailed since their arrests.

The Franke family was criticised online for their vlogs for showing several of their appalling parenting decisions. Ruby’s husband, Kevin Franke, has since filed for divorce. 

(With inputs from agencies)