Jodi Hildebrandt’s niece reported mistreatment to police in 2010
Sep 14, 2023, 5:50 PM | Updated: 7:17 pm
AMERICAN FORK, Utah – Newly obtained police records reveal authorities received a report of mistreatment from a juvenile in Jodi Hildebrandt’s care in 2010, yet the licensed mental health counselor continued to practice in Utah for years.
According to records obtained by the KSL Investigators through a public record request, Hildebrandt’s juvenile niece went to American Fork Police in March 2010 seeking information about a safe house.
The records add to others previously obtained by the KSL Investigators that raise questions about whether authorities could have intervened sooner and now establish police knowledge of allegations of mistreatment by Hildebrandt going back more than 13 years.
Hildebrandt, 54, was arrested on Aug. 30, after one of her business partner’s children escaped from Hildebrandt’s Ivins home and asked a neighbor to call police. The child’s mother, Ruby Franke, 41, ran the now-defunct 8 Passengers YouTube channel. She was also arrested. Both women now face several counts of aggravated child abuse and are being held without bail.
‘Jodi’s methods of counseling’
On March 9, 2010, Hildebrandt’s niece, who was 17 at the time, told police that their parents sent them to live with Hildebrandt in June 2009 because the parents were “having problems” with them and “Jodi is a licensed therapist who is counseling,” one American Fork Police report states.
According to the report, the minor described Hildebrandt as “mean” and “very strict,” sharing examples, including claims that Hildebrandt forced the niece to sleep in a sleeping bag outside of Hildebrandt’s home, only allowed them to shower for seven minutes at a time, at one point placed duct tape over the minor’s mouth to prevent the teen from talking, and limited their clothing. The teen shared they had been wearing the same clothes for three weeks and were not enrolled in school.
The juvenile also told police Hildebrandt called them a liar and said they were “going to be a cheap hooker one day.”
According to the report, when asked whether they were being physically abused, the juvenile said no. The teen couldn’t explain some of Hildebrandt’s reported actions but said limiting their clothing and not enrolling them in school was “Jodi’s methods of counseling.”
The report details failed attempts to get in contact with Hildebrandt, then a conversation with the teen’s father, who is Hildebrandt’s brother. The father said the teen was in Utah being counseled by Hildebrandt and claimed contacting the police was a “ploy” to get out of going to a wilderness camp he wanted to send the teen to. As for being forced to sleep outside, the father told police, “That occurred one time and this was a way to show (redacted) what it would be like to sleep outside,” the report states.
The report indicates police took the teen to Vantage Point, which is “a home-like facility meant to be a safe place for teenagers,” according to its website.
“I am requesting a copy of this report be forwarded to DCFS,” the investigator wrote, documenting intent to involve Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services.
‘Save me, I’m trapped’
Two weeks later, on March 23, 2010, Hildebrandt reported to American Fork Police that her niece had run away from her custody. When asked why her niece might have run away, Hildebrandt told police she believed “(redacted) ran away because (redacted) was going to be placed in a girls home … and did not want to go to the girls home.”
According to the report, the teen’s mother told police this was the third time the teen had run away. The first time was on March 9, according to the report. Police later learned that the teen had sent a message to a friend that same day.
“She wrote ‘DUDE, save me, I’m trapped!’” the police report states.
On April 28, 2010, police learned the teen had been staying at a local shelter. When they showed up and told the juvenile they were there to take them back to their parents, “(Redacted) was very surprised at being located and was visibly upset, crying and shaking and looking around as if with the intent to run,” police wrote.
Arrangements were made for the teen to stay with grandparents in Lindon, according to the report. While they waited for the teen’s grandparents to arrive, the teen told police they ran away from Hildebrandt because she made them confess their sins and tried to break them down.
“(Redacted) said Jodi is some kind of therapist and thinks she has all the answers, but Jodi insults me all the time in front of others and acts like I am evil by not letting me talk to her kids or others,” the report states.
The teen told police they were looking into California law concerning emancipation.
“I spoke to (redacted) about being a juvenile and that parents are the ones in charge until you reach that magic age of 18 and can legally be on your own,” the officer wrote.
‘We didn’t send it’
American Fork Police Chief Cameron Paul told the KSL Investigators Thursday that after reviewing department records, he found no documentation that the report was sent to DCFS as intended.
“I’m going to own it. If we didn’t send it, we didn’t send it,” Paul said. “And so, there’s a small possibility we did, but again, I have no record of it, and we’ve looked at some other lists that should have something and I don’t see it. So, I’m thinking that it never got disseminated to DCFS.”
As someone who has previously investigated child abuse, Paul noted that some details in the report stood out to him, including that the teen was asked whether they were being physically abused and said no.
“It’s hard when these disciplinary things happen, like duct tape, or, you know, sleeping outside, that’s situational,” he said. “And so, I personally would have asked more questions to try and figure out some different things, and I would like to say that now we would have, but at the time, I do understand why this was closed out, where she alleged that there was no physical abuse happening in the home.”
Paul said the officers involved no longer work for the department.
“I think we could have dug a little bit more into what was going on, and perhaps the officer did that and it’s just not documented well in the report and that detail is not there,” Paul said. “But whether it’s through the report or the actions of the officer, yes, I do wish we would have taken the time to dive in a little bit further into the case.”
According to state licensing records, Hildebrandt was first licensed as a professional counselor in Utah in 2005.
In 2012, Hildebrandt’s license was subject to disciplinary action, and she was placed on an 18-month probationary period after admitting to unprofessional conduct.
A stipulation agreement provided to the KSL Investigators by Utah’s Division of Professional Licensing states that on multiple occasions, Hildebrandt discussed private information about a married couple she was counseling to their clergy and two other mental health therapists. The document also states Hildebrandt disclosed confidential information about the husband, including a medical diagnosis, to administrators at a university in Utah.
A spokesperson told the KSL Investigators that DOPL is seeking to take “appropriate action” on Hildebrandt’s license, which is still active. State licensing officials do not want her counseling anyone and believe immediate action is necessary “due to the heinous nature of the charges,” Utah Department of Commerce communications director Melanie Hall said.
This audio is difficult to listen to.
This is portions of the 911 call that led to the arrests of Ruby Franke & Jodi Hildebrandt a week ago, obtained by @KSLInvestigates via public record request.
— Daniella Rivera KSL (@DaniellaKSL) September 7, 2023
The 12-year-old child who escaped Hildebrandt’s Ivins home last month knocked on a neighbor’s door and asked for food and water. The neighbor called police, noting duct tape on the child’s ankles and wrists. According to Santa Clara-Ivins police, the child had open wounds from being tied up with rope and was emaciated and malnourished. A second child, 10, was found in the home and also determined to be malnourished.
In a recording of the neighbor’s 911 call, the man’s voice breaks as he tries to describe the boy’s condition to a dispatcher, telling her, “He’s been detained … he’s obviously covered in wounds.”
Unanswered questions about DCFS involvement
The KSL Investigators first reported a history of visits to the Franke family home in Springville by law enforcement and child welfare workers in 2022.
Records reveal Springville police visited Franke’s home 15 times between March 2019 and Aug. 31, 2023. During at least five of those visits, police were assisting DCFS.
In response to questions from the KSL Investigators, DCFS spokesperson Miranda Fisher released a statement on Sept. 6 saying in part, “Due to confidentiality and the privacy of the children and families we work with, DCFS cannot share information on a case, either past and present, or confirm involvement with a child or family.”
Fisher’s statement did not address a question from the KSL Investigators about whether the agency is reviewing its prior involvements with the family to determine whether policies and best practices were followed. DCFS declined to participate in an interview.
Two days later, Fisher sent out a news release stating in part, “DCFS affirms recent law enforcement reports of our involvement in the Franke case. However, in order to protect the integrity of the necessary working relationships with those we serve, and to respect the privacy of children and families, DCFS will continue its practice and refrain from sharing specific information on a case, past or present.”
Domestic violence resources
If you or someone you know is going through abuse, help is available. In an emergency, call 911.
- Utah Domestic Violence Coalition: Utah’s confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465)
- YWCA Women in Jeopardy program: 801-537-8600
- Utah’s statewide child abuse and neglect hotline: 1-855-323-DCFS (3237)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
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 training 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.
Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at firstname.lastname@example.org or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.