Sister of ‘8 Passengers’ mother shares what the family knew
Sep 13, 2023, 7:03 PM | Updated: Oct 26, 2023, 12:15 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — The sister of the Utah family vlogger charged with abusing her children is speaking out about the allegations about her sister.
Ruby Franke’s sister, Bonnie Hoellein, posted the video response on her own YouTube channel on Monday. It’s the first time the public is hearing from a family member who to close Franke.
“What my family and I have gone through the last couple of weeks is the worst thing that has ever happened,” Hoellein said in the video statement.
The two sisters’ families are known for putting their daily lives online. Ruby’s sisters and parents are also YouTube content creators. Hoellein has made appearances in her sister’s vlogs and Franke’s was in hers. Hoellein said a lot was kept behind the scenes for years.
“We did not have access to anyone,” she said.
On Aug. 31, local police said they found two of Franke’s children in the basement of her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt’s Ivins, Utah, home, emaciated with wounds all over their bodies.
“It makes me tremble because it is unheard of,” Hoellein said.
Hoellein said when her sister got involved with Hildebrandt’s mental health service, ConneXions Classroom, she felt their views were extreme.
“It was complete indoctrination,” she said.
Hoellein says as an aunt, she did everything legally possible to protect the children, but Ruby had cut off her extended family.
“For those that were saying they’d go in and bust down doors and do whatever it took–to end up in jail? Because from jail, I can’t do anything,” Hoellein said.
Hoellein mentioned Kevin Franke, her brother-in-law and Ruby Franke’s husband, saying he was the only one with the power to take legal action.
“The one person that could’ve done something within his legal right was Kevin. We had zero contact with him. It was Kevin’s job to check in on things and he did not,” she said.
Kevin Franke’s attorney claims he was following Hildebrandt’s and Ruby’s instructions.
“Kevin was dedicated to his family, he was dedicated to his marriage, he didn’t want to be divorced, he didn’t want to be separated from his family, but in an effort to try to save his marriage, she asked him to move out of the home and be away from the family and basically said, if you want to stay married and you want to patch up our marriage and make things work and to help our children, you’ll stay away,” said Randy S. Kester, Kevin’s attorney.
Kester said Ruby told her husband to move out of the family home around August 2022. He said this is when Hildebrandt became more involved with the family.
He said Kevin hadn’t seen his children for a year and had no idea they were being mistreated.
“He thought he was doing what was best based upon their observations of the children and their marital situation,” Kester said. “He thought he was doing what was best at their direction to make things better and he was hoping there would be a reconciliation.”
The attorney claims that Hildebrandt brainwashed his client.
“He was being berated, belittled and torn down by Jodi and constantly being told he was selfish and greedy and he needed to repent and in that respect, in order to psychologically comport with her direction that he was being greedy and selfish, Kevin disclosed to me that he hasn’t eaten fast food for almost two years and he had his first bite of pizza the Saturday after this all happened,” Kester said.
Kester said Kevin’s next step is to seek psychological help. He said he is seeking custody of his four children, who are still in state custody.
“He’d love to have them back at home tonight in their home with him, but he knows that, at this point, he knows that’s not possible quickly,” Kester said.
In her video, Hoellein said that multiple people are to blame for causing turmoil in her family.
“Ruby and Kevin and Jodi and ConneXions (Classroom) have been destroying our lives offline,” Hoellein said.
Kester told KSL TV that Kevin has contacted his extended family, including Hoellein.
“They’re all in this together, they’re a big family and they were previously included in all of his family things and he wants to get that back,” Kester said.
He said that Kevin wants to reestablish those relationships but cannot say if they responded to him.
When asked about criticism Kevin received for his parenting techniques posted online on the “8 Passengers” YouTube channel, Kester said many of the allegations made against him were investigated by authorities, but none were found to be true.
“In hindsight, of course, we all look back and say, I didn’t do that quite right. I think a lot of parents do that and he’s at that point now looking back saying, well you know, maybe that wasn’t good parenting, but it certainly wasn’t abusive and it certainly wasn’t damaging to the kids,” Kester said.
A spokesperson with Brigham Young University confirmed Wednesday that Kevin Franke’s employment with the university ended this spring. Kester said Franke has a new job and would not comment on the circumstances of his departure from BYU.