YouTuber Ruby Franke and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt are scheduled to appear in court in St. George, Utah, on Friday afternoon on child abuse charges, but the trial has yet to officially begin because the virtual hearing was plagued by technical problems.
More than 1,000 people tuned in – and were told multiple times to be quiet – to see what happened to the women, who were each accused of six counts of child abuse. According to the Washington County District Attorney’s Office, each child abuse case carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted.
“In these cases, there are two juvenile victims, and each defendant is accused of inflicting or permitting serious physical injury to the victims in three different ways: (1) a combination of multiple physical injuries or torture, (2) endangering starvation or malnutrition life and (3) cause serious emotional harm,” the district attorney said.
The couple were arrested on August 30 after Ms. Franke’s 12-year-old son climbed out of a window and asked neighbors to give him food and water, court documents showed.
After noticing duct tape covering the boy’s ankles and wrists, a neighbor prompted the neighbor to notify law enforcement. In a frightening emergency call, the neighbor can be heard describing the boy: “He is emaciated. He has duct tape around his legs. He’s hungry and thirsty.”
With his voice shaking, as if he was holding back tears, the neighbor told 911, “This boy was obviously…he was arrested. He’s obviously covered in wounds.”
After the call, officers discovered that the 12-year-old was severely malnourished and took the child to a nearby hospital. The 12-year-old was held for medical reasons after it was discovered that he also suffered from “deep lacerations” from being “tied with rope,” arrest records state.
When police arrived at the home, they also found Ms. Franke’s 10-year-old daughter, who also appeared to be malnourished, authorities said. According to court documents, the two children were taken to a hospital for medical treatment.
The Utah Division of Child and Family Services had custody of four of Ms. Franke’s children.
According to theSalt Lake TribunePolice determined that Ms. Franke’s two children had been staying with Ms. Hildebrandt, but it is unclear how long they had been there.
An affidavit states that “Ruby Franke was seen in a YouTube video filmed on the ground floor of Mr. Hildebrandt’s house just two days before the incident,” showing that the women “were present in the home and about the abuse, malnutrition and neglect.”
When police arrived at the home to arrest Ms. Franke, the influencer “requested a lawyer” and refused to speak to police, the affidavit said.
Ms. Franke’s family said they had expressed their concerns about their children behind closed doors. Since her arrest, Ms. Franke’s family has not been afraid to express their opinions.
Ms. Franke’s estranged 20-year-old daughter, Shari, rejoiced on social media over her mother’s arrest, writing “finally” about a video that captured the arrest.
“Today was a big day,” she wrote in a separate post. “We have been trying to inform the police and CPS about this for years and are so pleased they have finally decided to intervene.”
Ms. Franke’s three sisters have also advocated for their children on social media. Bonnie Hoellein, Julie Griffiths Deru and Ellie Mecham posted one together opinion They wrote on Instagram that while they had not publicly reported their concerns, privately, “we did everything we could to make sure the children were safe.”
They added that they would not comment further on the arrest.
“Ruby was arrested, which had to happen. Jodi was arrested, which had to happen,” they wrote. “The children are safe now, that’s the top priority.”
Ms. Franke rose to fame through her YouTube channel “8 Passengers,” which focused on the lives of her – and her now ex-husband – with their six children in Utah. Some viewers accused her of being too strict and controlling towards her children.
In a video Ms. Franke said: “My children are literally starving. I hesitate to say this because it might sound like I’m a mean barbarian, but I told the kids, ‘I won’t even let you eat breakfast until you finish your chores.'” But now all of the videos have been taken from Ms. Franke removed from YouTube.
Ms. Hildebrandt invited Ms. Franke to join her life coaching service, Connexions, where they gave daily advice to viewers.
Accordingly The Daily MailMs. Franke appeared in juvenile court via video call on Thursday for a hearing regarding four of her minor children. At the hearing, she made a shocking allegation: The influencer said that one of her children had sexually abused a younger sibling for years. Ms. Franke added that her child was according to this postconfessed to sexually abusing 20 people in May.
In response, the judge said the allegedly abusive child “must then be placed in a home with no other children.”