Evidence released in ‘8 Passengers’ mom Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt child abuse cases

Mar 22, 2024, 5:19 AM | Updated: Mar 26, 2024, 3:11 pm

ST. GEORGE — Prosecutors in Washington County have released their case files containing a significant amount of evidence gathered during the investigation and prosecution of convicted child abusers Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt.

Franke, known for her now-deleted ”8 Passengers” YouTube channel, and Hildebrandt, founder of Orem-based mental health company ConneXions Classroom, were sentenced to prison in February after both previously pleaded guilty to four counts each of aggravated child abuse.

The release of the case files, through Utah’s public records law, comes roughly six months after a 12-year-old child escaped from an Ivins home, 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.

The child told police Hildebrandt tied them up with a rope and put cayenne pepper in their wounds. Police arrested the child’s mother, Franke, and the owner of the home, Hildebrandt, who was also Franke’s business partner. A second child, 10, was found in the home and also determined to be malnourished.

The records released Friday include written reports, audio recordings, video files, and images documenting the severe nature of the abuse the children endured.

Ruby Franke’s journal

Among the documents released were 60 pages of Ruby Franke’s journal from May 2023 to August 2023. Prosecutors said at that time that her children were living in conditions comparable to a concentration camp.

On May 30, 2023, Franke wrote that one of her children — whom KSL TV is choosing not to identify — refused to do wall sits. The next day, she said the child had to stay and sleep outside, only entering the home to shower or use the bathroom.

She also wrote about her children standing outside in the rain for two hours and regularly mentioned them fasting — one time for two days.

The next month, she said one of her children ran away at 1:15 a.m. before being found two hours later.

Franke wrote longer entries that included disturbing details, calling her children sinners, saying they had made “satanic choices” and reinforcing the idea that they needed to repent.

She compared one of her children to a snake, saying the child “slithers & sneaks around looking for opportunities when no one is looking.” She said they needed “to be 100% obedient with exactness. No wavering. No hiding.”

On July 11, 2023, Franke wrote that she poked one of her children with “a cactus poker” to force them to stand in the sun. She said the child didn’t flinch when she poked them in the neck and Hildebrandt tapped them on the cheek to wake them up.

Franke and Hildebrandt calls from jail

In jail recordings released Friday, Franke and Hildebrandt justified the abuse of Franke’s two youngest children.

Franke called the prosecution a “witch hunt,” while Hildebrandt was emotional in one of her jail calls. Hildebrandt was speaking to an unknown woman whom Hildebrandt says she has known for years.

Hildebrandt told the woman the spirit had told her the devil had influenced the children.

“Nobody wants the truth,” she said tearfully. “Now it’s abusive to make a kid sleep on the floor, it’s abusive, or it’s abusive to you know — it’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. You can’t even raise your kids anymore.”

In a call made the day after her arrest, Franke spoke to a man who was not identified by name but could have been her estranged husband Kevin Franke.

The man told Ruby Franke her children are in foster care, and he plans to fight to get them back.

“Adults have a really hard time understanding that children can be full of evil and what that takes to fight it,” Ruby Franke said. “You’ve seen what it takes to fight evil. It’s not the person you’re fighting and can look like something it’s not. And you’ve been there, you know that.”

Where was Kevin Franke? Evidence in ‘8 Passengers’ abuse case reveals what he told police

In a call on Sept. 1, Franke is heard expressing concern for Hildebrandt, and distress in feeling that they were both misunderstood.

“That is the most horrible feeling, like my own family misunderstands me. They misinterpret me,” she said. “And poor Jodi, they misinterpret her, they misunderstand her. She puts her neck out on the line for people and then they get mad at her. I mean, it is just horrendous.”

During a recorded call in October, Hildebrandt is heard saying, “I shouldn’t be here, I haven’t done anything wrong.”

She went on to say, “When I get out of here, I have a story to tell and I am going to try to do everything I can to protect the children because that’s what’s happening is that kids are being absolutely horribly abused.”

By early December, audio recordings of jail phone calls reveal Franke started to turn on Hildebrandt.

“I think just being gone and not hearing her has cleared a lot of things up for me,” Franke said during a call on Dec. 2.

Then, during a call toward the end of the month, Franke discusses the fact that Hildebrandt pleaded guilty, and calls Hildebrandt “mentally ill.”

“The only reason she pled is because she didn’t want to do life,” Franke said. “She knew I would testify.”

Franke discusses the possibility that she could be released within a few months or years and that Hildebrandt could serve a longer sentence than her, due to the differences in their plea deals. In recordings from calls in early February, after Hildebrandt had pleaded guilty but before she was sentenced, Hildebrandt shares with a man on the phone several scriptures she’s been reading dealing with themes of persecution and betrayal.

“That statement, right there, is what’s going on with me,” Hildebrandt said.

**KSL TV is choosing to not air or share large amounts of the evidence released today due to the sensitive nature of the case involving children and in an attempt to not re-traumatize the young victims **

KSL 5 TV Live

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Evidence released in ‘8 Passengers’ mom Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt child abuse cases