YouTube has a unique ability to catapult ordinary people to extraordinary fame, and that’s exactly what it did for Ruby Franke and her family. Posting under the account ‘8 Passengers’, Ruby amassed nearly 2.5 million followers by documenting her life with husband Kevin, and their six children: Shari, 20, Chad, 18, Abby, 16, Julie, 14, Russell, 12, and Eve, 10.
The channel focused on Ruby and Kevin’s parenting style, which included homeschooling their children, as well as their Mormon faith. Now however, a darker reality has been revealed, with Ruby arrested on two counts of alleged aggravated child abuse.
Below, everything we know about the accusations against Ruby Franke.
What Is Ruby Franke Being Accused Of?
Ruby was arrested on Wednesday, 30 August, after one of her children reportedly escaped from the home of her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, looking “emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities.”
When police investigated the house, they reportedly found at least one other child who was also malnourished.
Per NBC News, Ruby was charged with alleged aggravated child abuse which, in Utah is defined as an an act that “inflicts upon a child serious physical injury” or “causes or permits another to inflict serious physical injury upon a child.”
According to the same outlet, Jodi Hildebrandt, who runs ‘Connexions’, a life coaching business which often features Ruby in its YouTube content, was arrested on the same charges.
It’s not the first time Ruby’s parenting style has raised alarms.
Viewers of the ‘8 Passengers’ channel were distressed when her son, Chad, recounted in a now-deleted video that his parents allegedly forced him to sleep on a beanbag for 7 months as a disciplinary measure.
In the video from 2020, Chad said, “My bedroom was taken away for seven months. I was sleeping on a beanbag since October.”
In another since-deleted video, Ruby recalled refusing to drop lunch to Eve, then 6, after her teacher texted her to say she forgot to take it to school.
“I responded [to Eve’s teacher] and said, ‘Eve is responsible for making her own lunches in the morning, so the natural outcome is she is just going to be hungry, and hopefully nobody gives her food and nobody steps in and gives her lunch,’” Ruby said to the camera.
According to Page Six, viewers launched a petition to send Child Protective Services to the Frankes’ house in Utah as a result of the alarming videos, however the case was closed, citing insufficient evidence.
Since their arrests, search warrants obtained by three American outlets alledge that Jodi Hildebrandt used a combination of cayenne pepper and honey to “dress wounds” on Ruby’s two youngest children.
A statement establishing grounds for the search warrant said, “The victim informed officers and medical personnel that the wounds were from the rope that was used to tie the victim to the ground.”
“The victim informed officers that ‘Jodi’ put the ropes on their ankles and wrists and that ‘they’ used cayenne pepper and honey to dress the wounds.”
The outlets also reported that authorities seized a number of items from Jodie Hildebrandt’s home, including notes and journals, two bowls with a red liquid and a spoon, two absorbent dressings, rope, two pairs of handcuffs and three carabiners.
What Happened To Shari Franke?
The Frankes’ eldest daughter, Shari, has previously spoken about her strained relationship with her family, which eventually caused her to cut ties with them in September 2022.
Appearing on the Into the Light podcast in April 2023, Shari said her parents’ involvement in the ConneXions group had been the catalyst for her estrangement from them
“I noticed when I would leave my family, I would just feel spiritually drained,” she said.
“I just wouldn’t feel great. I would overhear conversations and find myself, internally, like this isn’t right, this isn’t OK.”
In September 2022, Shari posted an Instagram story saying that she was “not in contact” with her immediate family, and disavowing the “extreme beliefs” of ConneXions.
“Despite good intentions, speculating, rumours, and gossip doesn’t help us. I’d like to ask for privacy for me and my family as we work through this very difficult situation. Please know that many are working on this situation, and I hope one day we can be whole again. Please respect my privacy, as I work through my own healing as well,” she wrote.
Then, when news broke of Ruby and Jodis’ arrests, Shari shared an image of police outside a home in Utah with the words “Finally”.
In a second Instagram story, she wrote, “Today has been a big day. 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.”
She also called on her followers to share “questionable or concerning” video clips relating to 8 Passengers or ConneXions, and created a Google Doc for viewers to submit their finds.
After her mother’s arrest, Shari was spotted attending a court hearing regarding the custody of her younger siblings.
The hearing took place on Monday 18 September, with Shari’s father, Kevin, also in attendance, and Ruby appearing virtually from jail.
According to local outlet The Salt Lake Tribune, attorney Virginia Blanchard, who is representing the children, requested that public access be restricted to the custody proceedings.
Per the outlet, Kevin Franke’s attorney Randy Kester agreed with the request for privacy, adding that he thought Shari Franke had “a right” to be present for the proceedings.
Has Kevin Franke Been Arrested?
Kevin Franke has not been arrested or charged.
Speculation has surrounded whether Kevin and Ruby are still married after the arrests made headlines, however Kevin’s lawyer told Page Six that they are still a couple, saying he was “not at liberty to respond about the topic of divorce.”
As for custody of the Franke Children, the publication reported that they had been placed in the custody of the Department of Child and Family Services, with Kevin’s lawyer saying that his client’s “urgent focus is simply to keep his children together under his fatherly care.”
What Have Friends And Family Said About Ruby Franke?
Since the arrests, NBC News reported that two anonymous neighbours of the family have come forward, saying they are relieved that action has been taken, and feared the outcome would be worse.
“Everyone is just breathing a collective sigh of relief,” a male neighbour said.
He also commented on Ruby’s parenting style, saying, “I remember that she took away their Christmas one year,” adding that the youngest child, Eve, would wander the neighbourhood during school hours, allegedly indicating that she was not attending school.
“She would just knock on your door and say, ‘Hi, can your kids play?’ And we’re like: ‘Well, they’re at school. They won’t be home for three or four hours.’ And she’d be like, ‘I’ll wait.’”
A female neighbour expressed frustration that it took so long for action to be taken against Ruby Franke for the alleged mistreatment.
“I’m really angry, because I spoke up. Other people spoke up. And nothing happened,” she said.
“I want those kids to know that the community loves them and wants them to be safe,” she added. “If people knew the amount of tears and time spent talking with law enforcement and CPS over the last year — I want people to understand that. And I want those kids to know that, because I think they thought they were abandoned.”
Ruby’s sisters, Ellie Mecham and Julie Griffiths Deru also released a joint statement following her arrest.
“For the last 3 years we have kept quiet on the subject of our sister Ruby Franke for the sake of her children. Behind the public scene we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe,” they wrote on Instagram.
“We wouldn’t feel right about moving forward with regular content without addressing the most recent events. Once we do, we will not be commenting on it further. Ruby was arrested which needed to happen. Jodi was arrested which needed to happen. The kids are now safe, which is the number one priority.”
Since releasing the joint statement, Ruby’s sisters have released separate YouTube videos saying they were not aware of the alleged abuse, and that Ruby had cut ties with her extended family.
“What my family and I have gone through the last couple of weeks is the worst thing that has ever happened to us,” Hoellein said in her video. “The more I learn, my feelings are turning more to anger. I am mad at what has happened. I am beyond disgusted.
“We did not know what they were doing because, like we said, we were cut off. We did not have access to anyone,” she continued.
In Deru’s video, she blamed Ruby’s involvement with ConneXions for her sister’s actions.
“We were this close to telling [Ruby], ‘If you come to our family events … we do not want to hear what you are learning through ConneXions because we don’t like it’,” she said. “We are in complete shock still, as to what she had done. I had no idea what was happening,” she added.
Who Phoned The Police To Report Ruby Franke?
The 911 phone call that prompted Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildbrenadt’s arrest has officially been released.
“I just had a 12-year-old boy show up here at my front door asking for help, and he said he just came from a neighbour’s house, and we know there’s been problems at this neighbour’s house,” the neighbour told the emergency dispatcher.
“I’m sitting outside with him on the patio,” he added.
The dispatcher then asked how the boy left the house, to which the caller responded, “He says he just left through the porch at the neighbour’s house. Her name is Jodi and she lives two doors up the street.”
The concerned caller also reported that the boy had “duct tape around each ankle” and “sores” on his body, adding that he thought he had been “detained.”
The caller remained on the phone until police and an ambulance arrived, telling the dispatcher that he and his wife had given the boy food and water because he was “really […] hungry”.
What Is The Latest On Ruby Franke?
According to People, both Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt have experienced medical issues while being held at a county jail in Utah.
The publication reported that Ruby was moved to a medical observation block on Friday, before returning to normal jail conditions over the weekend.
While details of Jodi’s medical issue are unclear, local outlet 2KUTV reported that her attorney told a judge that she had experienced a “life threatening medical issue resulting in hospitalisation” since being incarcerated.
We’ll keep you updated as this case continues to unfold.