‘8 Passengers’ YouTube star, business partner arrested on suspicion of child abuse
Aug 31, 2023, 11:04 AM | Updated: Oct 26, 2023, 12:11 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — A popular YouTube blogger and her business partner have been arrested on suspicion of child abuse after police say a malnourished child climbed out of the window of a southern Utah home and ran to a neighbor’s home for help.
Forty-one-year-old Ruby Franke, famous for her now-deleted “8 Passengers” YouTube channel, and 54-year-old Jodi Hildebrandt, founder of Utah County-based mental heath counseling company “Connexions Classroom,” were booked into the Washington County Jail on two second-degree felony counts of aggravated child abuse on Wednesday.
According to court documents, one of Franke’s children, 12, climbed out the window of an Ivins home belonging to Hildebrandt and ran to a neighbor’s home, knocked on the door and asked for food and water. The neighbor called 911.
“The neighbor observed duct tape on (the child’s) ankles and wrists and contacted law enforcement,” police said.
Officers said they observed wounds and said the child was severely malnourished. The child was described by Santa Clara-Ivins police as “emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities.”
He was taken to St. George Regional Hospital and placed on a medical hold “due to his deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment.”
Police said Franke was seen on a YouTube video filmed in Hildebrant’s downstairs area that was posted on Monday, which “adds to Ms. Franke the mother of (the child) being present in the home and having knowledge of the abuse, malnourishment, and neglect.”
A second child, 10, was found at Hildebrandt’s home who was determined to be malnourished by doctors at St. George Regional Hospital.
According to court documents, Franke requested a lawyer and did not speak with officers. She was taken into custody in Springville Wednesday night while Hildebrant was arrested a few minutes earlier in Ivins.
Police said the Utah Division of Child and Family Services has taken four of Franke’s children into their custody, two of whom have not spoken with officers.
Franke was known from the 8 Passengers YouTube channel, which had over 2.3 million subscribers and followed the lives of Franke, her husband and six children. It was taken offline earlier this year for unknown reasons. Hildebrandt founded Connexions Classroom, which, according to its website, aims to “invite and encourage healing and facilitate personal growth through impeccable honesty, rigorous personal responsibility and vulnerable humility.”
Franke is listed as a member of Connexions Classroom’s business team as a certified mental fitness trainer who provides pieces of content “that focus on empowering parents and children to live Truth.”
NBC News reported Franke has also faced backlash for videos in which she refused to bring her then-6-year-old lunch after the child forgot to pack food and threatened to throw away her children’s prized possessions.
Eldest daughter Shari Franke, 20, posted about her mother’s arrest to her Instagram Story on Wednesday night. Shari Franke, who previously posted that she was not in contact with her immediate family, shared an image of police officers with the caption, “Finally.”
Many of Franke’s siblings are also online content creators, including Ellie Mecham, Julie Griffiths Deru and Bonnie Hoellein. The sisters released a social media statement that said in part, “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.”
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This article originally stated Hildebrandt’s license was put on probation in 2012; it has been updated to reflect the Utah Division of Professional Licensing’s official record that shows no disciplinary actions remain on her license.
Oct. 26: This story has been updated with the full name of Jodi Hildebrandt’s business after businesses with similar names were targeted with fake, negative online reviews.