YouTuber Ruby Franke, business partner Jodi Hildebrandt sentenced for child abuse

A judge on Tuesday handed down yearslong sentences for Ruby Franke, a mother who once ran a popular parenting-focused YouTube channel, and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, after they pleaded guilty to child abuse.

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Franke ran the “8 Passengers” YouTube channel, vlogging about her family to millions of followers, KSL reported. Hildebrandt, described by prosecutors as Franke’s business partner, founded the mental health company Connexions Classroom and worked as a counselor for Franke’s son before being hired on as Franke’s mentor in 2020, according to the news station.

Franke and Hildebrandt earlier pleaded guilty to four counts each of aggravated child abuse. Utah Fifth District Judge John Walton sentenced them to serve between one and 15 years in prison for each of the charges, KUTV reported.

The sentences will run consecutively, meaning that both Franke and Hildebrandt will ultimately serve between four and 60 years each behind bars, according to KSL. The Utah Department of Corrections’ Adult Probation and Parole Division will ultimately determine how much time each woman will serve, KUTV reported.

Authorities arrested the pair after two of Franke’s children were found emaciated in Hildebrandt’s home in Washington County, according to KTVX. Prosecutors said Franke and Hildebrandt subjected the children to a “concentration camp-like setting,” often denying them food, water and beds to sleep in, the news station reported.

They were found after Franke’s son climbed out of a window to escape the home and sought food and water from a neighbor, according to KSL.

“Heaven only knows how much longer he could have survived in that situation,” Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke said, according to the news station.

Franke and her family said in statements that she was misled by Hildebrandt and that she isolated herself from anyone who challenged her worldview, KTVX reported. She has apologized and called police officers “angels” for saving her children.

“The moment (an officer) handcuffed me was the moment I gained my freedom,” she said, according to KSL.

In impact statements shared in court, family members said that Franke appeared to change after she sought a therapist — Hildebrandt — to help one of her children, according to KUTV. Her parents said that by the fall of 2020, “she cut all ties to us, her siblings, and close friends.”

“For three years what brief communications we had with her she accused of us of either things that never (happened) or she grossly exaggerated the events that did,” Chad and Jennifer Griffiths said in their letter, according to KUTV. “She was delusional. She was so deeply brainwashed we could not recognize her.”

They added that they saw change after Franke was arrested.

“She expressed her gratitude for being incarcerated and felt the mighty wakeup call was a huge blessing,” they said.

During her sentencing, Hildebrandt said that she loves Franke’s children and hopes that they heal from their experiences, KTVX reported. Walton noted, however, that she has continued to call herself a victim and shown “little to no remorse for her actions,” KSL reported.

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