Utah YouTuber Ruby Franke held without bail after court hearing

Sep 8, 2023, 3:19 PM | Updated: Oct 26, 2023, 12:13 pm

ST. GEORGE, Utah — A mother who offered parenting advice on a YouTube channel, and her partner, will remain in state custody after her initial court appearance Friday on suspicion of child abuse.

Ruby Franke will continue to be held without bail, along with her partner Jodi Hildebrandt, each charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse. They were arrested Aug. 30.

Judge Eric R. Gentry of the Fifth District Court granted a motion to move the case to Judge John Walton, but kept in place her no-bail hold. Her attorneys said they would file a bail hearing with Walton, which will be her next court appearance. Gentry set Sept. 21 for that hearing with Walton but her legal had a conflict and said they would check with Walton to reschedule.

There was a family court hearing Thursday that will remain sealed.

‘8 Passengers’ YouTube star, business partner arrested on suspicion of child abuse

Interest in Friday’s hearing was so high, it delayed the hearing. One of the lawyers outside the court told others even the judge was having a difficult time getting into the online hearing which, according to reports to KSL TV, had as many as 1,200 observers. People also showed up in person to watch a case that has captivated and concerned them.

“I grew up watching the “8 Passengers” channel,” Hallie Nielsen told KSL. “And so when I saw all this happening, I got super intrigued.”

So many people had the same interest and logged onto the hearing it clogged up the system.

Franke and Hildebrandt made separate appearances to formally face legal charges for the first time.

The Arrest

Franke was arrested when one of her children ran to a neighbor’s home, knocked on the door and asked for food and water. The neighbor called 911 and told dispatch the boy was emaciated and had tape around his legs.

“He’s hungry and he’s thirsty,” the called told 911. “I think he’s been — he’s been detained, he’s been — he’s obviously covered in wounds.”

The dispatch worker also talked to the child. A full transcript of the conversation can be found here.

Police said Franke was seen on a YouTube video filmed in Hildebrant’s downstairs area that was posted on Aug. 28, which “adds to Ms. Franke the mother of (the child) being present in the home and having knowledge of the abuse, malnourishment, and neglect.”

The YouTube channel has been taken down.

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 Aug. 30 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.

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 reasons unknown. 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.”

In court documents obtained by KSL’s investigative team, neighbors and an older sibling called authorities to Franke’s Springville home and records show police responded to the home 15 times between March 2019 and August this year. At least five of those visits were assisting Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services.

Springville neighbors told KSL the Frankes were very strict with their children. They said when the Franke children were over for playdates, they would make comments about not being allowed to have food or drinks when they were being disciplined.

Neighbors told KSL they were aware others in the community had contacted authorities about the situation. They said the behavior they saw was hard to label as abuse. They said they had suspicions the children were being mistreated, but didn’t have concrete evidence of it, especially not evidence of physical abuse.

Concerns about Ruby Franke’s children reported to police, DCFS more than a year ago

Child abuse resources:

  • Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465). Resources are also available online: udvc.org. The statewide child abuse and neglect hotline is 1-855-323-DCFS (3237).

Help with Children

Those who feel stressed out with a child, who need a break or who feel like they need counseling or training can reach out to one of the following agencies:

  • The Family Support Center has 15 locations throughout the state and offers a free crisis nursery for parents who have to keep appointments or who are stressed out. They also offer counseling and family mentoring. Call 801-955-9110 or visit familysupportcenter.org/contact.php for more information.
  • Prevent Child Abuse Utah provides home visiting in Weber, Davis, and Box Elder counties. Parent Educators provide support, education, and activities for families with young children. Their statewide education team offers diverse trainings on protective factors, digital safety, bullying, and child sex trafficking. They are available for in-person or virtual trainings and offer free online courses for the community at pcautah.org.
  • The Office of Home Visiting works with local agencies to provide home visits to pregnant women and young families who would like to know more about being parents. Home visitors are trained and can provide information about breastfeeding, developmental milestones, toilet training, nutrition, mental health, home safety, child development, and much more. Find out more at homevisiting.utah.gov.
  • The Safe Haven law allows birth parents in Utah to safely and anonymously give up custody of their newborn child at any hospital in the state, with no legal consequences and no questions asked. The child’s mother can drop off the child, or the mother can ask someone else to do it for her. The newborns should be dropped off at hospitals that are open 24 hours a day. Newborns given up in this manner will be cared for by the hospital staff, and the Utah Division of Child and Family Services will find a home for the child. For more information, visit utahsafehaven.org or call the 24-hour hotline at 866-458-0058.

UPDATE: Businesses with names similar to Jodi Hildebrandt’s Connexions Classroom have been targeted with fake, negative online reviews.

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Utah YouTuber Ruby Franke held without bail after court hearing