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All the abuse allegations against Ruby Franke

by John Jefferson
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Ruby Franke was once a popular vlogger who gave parenting advice to her millions of followers – but behind the scenes, she was physically torturing and starving at least two of her children.

The 41-year-old Utah mother of six, who pleaded guilty in December to four counts of second-degree child abuse, admitted to a slew of horrific acts that included forcing them to work outside in the sweltering heat without adequate water until they “blistered”.

She tried to convince her children that they were evil and possessed and that the “punishments” were necessary to repent. She described the abuse as “acts of love”.

The disturbing details were revealed in Franke’s statement filed in court last December in support of her guilty pleas in which she stated she abused two of her children in Washington County from 22 May until her arrest on 30 August.

Franke, along with her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, were arrested in August after Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped from Hildebrandt’s house and asked a neighbour to call police, while begging for food and water, according to police.

The boy appeared to be severely malnourished and had “deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment,” according to court documents. Hildebrandt had allegedly used cayenne pepper and honey directly on his wounds, the boy alleged.

Franke admitted in her statement that her “actions involved the physical torture” of her son.

In the plea deal statement, Franke further admitted to forcing the boy into long hours of physical tasks, working outside in the summer without shoes or adequate water. He received “repeated and serious sunburns” that blistered after he was “forced to stand in the direct sunlight for several days.”

The boy was denied sufficient food, and when given food he was given very plain meals while others in the house ate regular and more flavorful meals, according to the plea agreement.

Franke also admitted to kicking her son while wearing boots, holding his head under water and “cutting off oxygen by placing her hands over his mouth and nose.”

Ropes were used to tie together handcuffs that secured his hands and feet as he lay on his stomach, lifting his arms and legs off the ground and injuring his wrists and ankles, the plea agreement stated.

Franke further admitted that her son was kept isolated from other people and denied all forms of entertainment, including books, notebooks and electronics.

Similar abuse was inflicted on Franke’s nine-year-old daughter, she admitted, writing in her statement that the girl was forced to work outside, run on dirt roads barefoot “for extended periods of time,” and go without food and water.

“She was also repeatedly told she was evil and possessed, the punishments were necessary for her to be obedient and repent, and these things were being done to her in order to help her,” the plea agreement said.

The girl “was convinced” what her mother said was true, the agreement added.

Franke pleaded guilty to four of the six charges of aggravated child abuse, a second-degree felony, originally filed against her in exchange for the other two being dismissed.

“With my deepest regret, and sorrow for my family and my children, guilty,” she said as she pleaded guilty to her final count in December.

A week later, her business partner and former Utah therapist Hildebrandt pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse for physically and emotionally abusing Franke’s children.

According to her plea agreement, Hildebrandt admitted to knowingly inflicting and allowing another adult to inflict serious physical injuries upon two young children living at her home.

She admitted that she physically forced Franke’s nine-year-old daughter to jump into a cactus multiple times, to run barefoot on dirt roads for extended periods of time and kept her isolated from others.

The former therapist also admitted to helping Franke torture her youngest son.

Both Franke and Hildebrandt have confessed to telling the two children that they were evil, possessed and needed to be punished to repent. The boy was told that everything being done to him was an act of love, according to the plea agreements.

The women, who have been behind bars since their arrest, will learn their fate at their sentencing on 20 February. They each face a minimum of four years to a maximum of 60 years in prison.

The charges of child abuse were brought to light after years of allegations and concerns by viewers of the YouTube channel 8Passengers, where Franke and her husband gained a public profile by documenting the day-to-day lives of their family and sharing parenting advice.

Three months after Franke’s arrest, her husband filed for divorce at the Fourth District Court of Utah. He has constantly denied any knowledge of the alleged child abuse, as he was estranged from his family for some time up until the arrests.

However, many viewers became concerned about the couple’s strict parenting style shown in their videos, such as withholding food and Christmas presents from their children as punishment.

Franke also made her son, Chad, sleep on a beanbag for an extended period of time as punishment for pulling a prank on his brother; however, she did claim to Business Insider at the time that this sleeping arrangement was Chad’s “choice” instead of sharing a room with his younger brother.

Their actions on the channel prompted viewers to create an online petition in 2020 after they saw this incident and other examples of harsh punishments, prompting child services to be called.

The channel was eventually deleted, but Franke continued to share parenting advice alongside Hildebrandt in videos under the name of Hildebrandt’s therapy company Connexions.

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