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Who Is Ruby Franke? What We Know About The Vlogger’s Child Abuse Case

Hand-written journals reveal harrowing details of Ruby Franke's child abuse.

YouTube has a unique ability to catapult ordinary people to extraordinary fame, and that’s exactly what it did for US vlogger 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. However, a darker reality was revealed on 30 August 2023, when Franke was arrested and then charged with six counts of alleged aggravated child abuse.

Ruby Franke
Ruby Franke. (Credit: Image: @moms_of_truth)

Franke has since been sentenced to between four and 30 years of jail time after pleading guilty to four of the six charges of child abuse.

She did not argue for a shorter sentence, and instead thanked local police officers and social workers for being “angels” that saved her children from her. As the sentence was handed down, Franke also addressed her six children, who were not present in court.

“I’ll never stop crying for hurting your tender souls. My willingness to sacrifice all for you was masterfully manipulated into something very ugly. I took from you all that was soft and safe and good,” she said.

Franke’s former `business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, was also sentenced for up to 30 years for her role in the crimes.

The sentencing came nearly three months after Ruby appeared in court to plead guilty to four counts of second-degree aggravated child abuse. Responding to the final charge in December, she told the court, “With my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and my children, guilty.” 

According to plea agreement documents obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune, the details of Ruby’s alleged abuse of her 11-year-old son included forcing him to do physical labour, denying him food and water, and forcing him to remain outside resulting in blistering sunburns. 

The documents also allege that Ruby and her former business partner Jodi Hildebrandt bound the child’s wrists and ankles, resulting in injury, after he attempted to escape in July.

According to the outlet, Franke’s daughter was subject to similar abuse, as well as being told to run barefoot on dirt roads for an extended period of time.

Here, everything we know about the Ruby Franke case.

What Exactly Did Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt Do?

Ruby and Jodi held the two youngest Franke children in a situation similar to that of a work camp.

The legal proceedings revealed that Franke kept handwritten journals that documented the abuse of her two youngest children. This included starving them, forcing them to work outside in direct sunlight, and isolating them from any outside contact.

Throughout the journals, Franke referred to her children as the “spawns of Satan.” In one entry, she justified withholding food from her son, who she referred to as a compulsive liar with a “cold, dead heart,” writing, “I will not feed a demon.”

She rationalised other forms of punishment similarly, writing: “If you can engage a weak-minded soul in a physical activity of obedience, you can begin to break the bond Satan made [with] the weak.”

In a statement relating to the diary entries, prosecutors said: “The women appeared to fully believe that the abuse they inflicted was necessary to teach the children how to properly repent for imagined ‘sins’ and to cast the evil spirits out of their bodies.”

What Led To Ruby And Jodi Being Arrested?

Ruby was arrested on Wednesday, 30 August 2023, after her 12-year-old son escaped from Jodi Hildebrandt’s home and ran to a neighbour’s place for help. According to the Washington County of Utah case summary, the neighbour saw duct tape on his wrists and ankles, as well as “severe wounds, and malnourishment”.

The neighbour called the police, who went to Hildebrandt’s house, arrested her and searched the property after learning that more children could be at risk. They found Franke’s nine-year-old daughter “petrified and hiding in a closet”.

The 911 phone call that prompted Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildbrenadt’s arrest was also officially released.

Page Six and Fox News reported that the call was made by a neighbour at 10:50pm on 30 August 2023.

“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 neighbour also reported that the boy had “duct tape around each ankle” and “sores” on his body, adding that he thought he had been “detained.”

He 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”. 

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. 

Jodi Hildebrandt and Ruby Franke
Jodi and Ruby. (Credit: Image: @moms_of_truth)

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, documents obtained by four American news outlets allege that Jodi Hildebrandt used a combination of cayenne pepper and honey to “dress wounds” on Ruby’s two youngest children.

According to People, KUTV2, ABC4 and the Associated Press, three search warrants relating to the case showed alarming details of the alleged abuse.

A statement establishing grounds for one of the search warrants 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 Jodi 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?

Shari Franke with her mother, Ruby Franke in 2021
Shari and Ruby Franke in 2021. (Credit: Image: @moms_of_truth)

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 Jodi’s arrests, Shari shared an image of police outside a home in Utah with the words “Finally”.

Shari Franke's Instagram post about the arrest, with the word "Finally".
(Credit: Image: @officialsharifranke)

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 represented 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. He and Ruby appear to have separated in 2022, with the Salt Lake Tribune reporting that he moved out of the family home around August of that year. 

He moved back into the home after Ruby Franke’s arrest and filed for divorce on 30 November 2023.

As for custody of the Franke Children, Page Six 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?

After 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.”

The Franke children
(Credit: Image: @moms_of_truth)

After releasing the joint statement, Ruby’s sisters also 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.

While both Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt have been sentenced for up to 30 years in jail, it’s unclear if they will be imprisoned for the maximum sentence time. According to the Washington County of Utah case summary, “Because of Utah’s indeterminate sentencing laws, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole now oversees the length of their prison sentence.”

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