COURTS & LEGAL

Kevin Franke sues Jodi Hildebrandt for ‘intentional’ emotional harm, negligence

Apr 11, 2024, 9:03 PM

Kevin Franke speaking about his relationship with his wife and children....

Kevin Franke speaking about his relationship with his wife and children. (The Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department)

(The Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department)

PROVO — The father of children who were abused by the “8 Passengers” blogger Ruby Franke and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt has sued Hildebrandt for negligence and causing intentional emotional harm.

Kevin and Ruby Franke’s two young children were found to be “emaciated” and severely malnourished after one of the kids escaped from their home in Ivins and sought food and water from a neighbor last August.

Ruby Franke, of Springville, and Hildebrandt, of Ivins, were charged Sept. 1 in 5th District Court with six counts each of aggravated child abuse, a second-degree felony. Ruby Franke and Hildebrandt pleaded guilty in December for the child abuse, which included withholding food and water from the children while forcing them to work hours in the sun to “repent for imagined ‘sins’ and to cast the evil spirits out of their bodies,” prosecutors said.

Both Franke and Hildebrandt were sentenced for their “concentration camp-like” abuse to four terms of one to 15 years in prison on four counts of aggravated child abuse, a second-degree felony. The judge said serving the sentences consecutively is appropriate, meaning each woman will serve between four and 60 years.

Kevin Franke previously asked the court for restitution to pay for his children’s “ongoing” mental and physical treatments, and Hildebrandt was restrained from selling her home in order to properly fund the restitution.

Hildebrandt, the founder of the Orem-based mental health company Connexions Classroom, said at her sentencing her “hope and prayer” is that the children move forward and live beautiful lives.

“I sincerely love these children,” Hildebrandt said before being sentenced.

Kevin Franke alleges in the new lawsuit that Hildebrandt intentionally and negligently inflicted emotional stress upon him and his children and was neglectful in her care of them.

The lawsuit says Ruby Franke moved their four minor children from the Franke house in Springville to live at Hildebrandt’s home in Ivins on May 22, 2023. The document says Ruby Franke and Hildebrandt did not advise Kevin Franke about the children’s removal from the family home.

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

Kevin Franke’s complaint alleges from May 22 to Aug. 30, his two younger children experienced “physical torture” through hard labor in the heat without shoes, where they received sunburns and blisters.

The children also were confined to the house, denied food and water, and the son was “regularly” bound after he tried to run away in July, and the daughter was “forced to jump into a cactus multiple times.”

The lawsuit states the children were “indoctrinated” and told their punishments were “acts of love” and “necessary” to help them repent. The children were told “repeatedly” told they were “evil and possessed.”

Kevin Franke’s lawsuit states all of these acts made the children “emotionally traumatized” and caused “severe emotional harm.”

The lawsuit says Kevin Franke has been attending professional therapy to “coordinate not only with the children’s treatment providers, but to gain an understanding of his children’s conditions and needs, and how to best facilitate the restoration of all of his children back to their former status as happy and healthy individuals and of a happy and intact family in their family home.”

The suit alleges Hildebrandt’s “severe and intolerable conduct” caused “severe” emotional distress to Kevin Franke and his children.

Both intentionally and negligently, Hildebrandt “acted with reckless disregard” and negatively impacted Franke’s marriage and his children’s “individual psyches, personalities and behaviors, essentially dismantling, exploding his family and personal life.”

The lawsuit alleges Hildebrandt “should have known” her actions had an “unreasonable risk of causing emotional distress” that could result in illness or bodily harm or injury. The lawsuit also says Hildebrandt was negligent in her care for the children after she undertook duties and responsibilities.

The lawsuit states her actions resulted in Kevin Franke experiencing pain and suffering, loss of quality of life and economic and noneconomic damages. Franke seeks unspecified punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

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Kevin Franke sues Jodi Hildebrandt for ‘intentional’ emotional harm, negligence