Franke’s business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, was also arrested. Hildebrandt is the founder of ConneXions, a life coaching brand based in Utah.
In Utah, if a perpetrator is found to have intentionally inflicted aggravated child abuse — which includes starvation, broken bones, head injuries and suffocation — they face up to 15 years in prison.
After years of allegations against the popular YouTube channel 8 Passengers, mommy vlogger Ruby Franke was arrested on Aug. 30 along with her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt.
The vlog, which documented the lives of Franke, her husband, Kevin and their six children, had peaked with 2.5 million subscribers on the platform, but viewers started raising concerns about the couples’ parenting style within the past three years. Earlier this year, the channel was taken off the platform entirely for unknown reasons.
Franke’s arrest came after a child escaped from a house that’s been identified as belonging to Hildebrandt and ran to a neighbor to ask for food and water, Fox13 reported. According to police documents obtained by Fox13, the neighbor noticed duct tape on the child’s ankles and wrists and called police.
“The calling party stated the juvenile appeared to be emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities,” a statement from local authorities says.
When police arrived at the house, a second child, described as being in a “similar physical condition of malnourishment” as the child who escaped, was found and was also taken to the hospital.
Police also discovered evidence that Franke had filmed a YouTube video from the house a few days before the arrest and wrote in the statement to Fox13 that the revelation “adds to Ms. Franke … being present in the home and having knowledge of the abuse, malnourishment and neglect.”
In mid-2020, rumors and allegations of child abuse swirled around the 8 Passengers YouTube channel. Chad, one of the siblings, had shared in a vlog that he was not allowed to go into his bedroom because he had been caught playing pranks on his little brother. Instead, he was sleeping on a beanbag chair.
According to Reddit, Franke had argued against abuse allegations in the past and claimed she was teaching her kids that their choices have consequences. But the consequences, former viewers argued, were too “severe.”
Other punishments that Franke featured on the channel included not bringing lunch to her 6-year-old daughter, Eve, at school because she accidentally forgot it. She also excluded a then-8-year-old Eve and a 10-year-old Russell from Christmas one year because, as she put it, they were “showing patterns of selfishness.”
“Hi all. Today has been a big day,” she continued in another Story. “Me and my family are so glad justice is being served. We’ve been trying to tell the police and CPS for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up.”
She has since shared pleas for people to gather “any questionable or concerning Connexions or 8Passengers videos” presumably to help build the case against her mom and Hildebrandt.
Shari, 20, has not had a relationship with her mom or family in almost a year, according to screenshots of her past Instagram Stories. In a Mother’s Day post from May, she did not acknowledge Franke.
Elle Mechem, Julie Griffiths Deru and Bonnie Hoellein, who identify themselves as Franke’s sisters, also responded to the arrest in a joint Instagram post shared across their accounts.
“For the past 3 years, we have kept quiet on the subject of our sister Ruby Franke for the sake of her children,” the post says. “Behind the public scene we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe.”
Mechem, Deru and Hollein all run their own parenting vlogs on YouTube as well. Shari called them “amazing mentors and supportive women” in her Mother’s Day Instagram post.
“Ruby was arrested which needed to happen,” the post continues. “Jodi was arrested which needed to happen. The kids are now safe, which is the number one priority.”
Who is Jodi Hildebrandt and what is ConneXions?
In June 2022, Franke announced a partnership with ConneXions and founder Hildebrandt. ConneXions is a life-counseling service that describes itself as “a different modality of healing that psychotherapy cannot offer you.” The brand started its YouTube channel in 2013 and Hildebrandt is credited as the founder; costs for ConneXions classes range from $795 to $14,985.
The collaboration between 8 Passengers and ConneXions was not met with support from fans at the time. Members of the 8 Passengers subreddit called ConneXions a “cult,” and even Franke’s sisters publicly liked an anti-ConneXions Facebook post.
Franke and Hildebrandt would co-host conversations on YouTube about parenting life and have given advice, such as how exerting total control over children is the best way to show love and that children do not deserve privacy. Viewers have also called some of their comments homophobic, transphobic, racist and ableist.
As of reporting, the two are still in police custody. Under Utah law, if a perpetrator is found to have intentionally inflicted aggravated child abuse — which includes starvation, broken bones, head injuries and suffocation — they face up to 15 years in prison.
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