Prosecutors say new video, documents show ‘religious extremism’ motivated parent blogger Ruby Franke’s abuse of children

The Washington County Attorney’s Office in Utah has released several videos and documents related to the child abuse case involving popular parent blogger Ruby Franke.

The documents released late last month include Franke’s diary, and detail why prosecutors believe “religious extremism” motivated Franke and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt to inflict “horrific abuse” on Franke’s children.

Franke, who pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse in December, had vlogged the abuse of her children on the now-deleted “8 Passengers” YouTube channel. She was initially charged with six counts but pleaded not guilty to two of the counts as part of a plea deal to testify against her business partner.

Hildebrandt, in her own agreement with prosecutors, also pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse, prosecutors said.

One video released by the attorney’s office shows Franke’s 12-year-old son, who had climbed out of the window of Hildebrandt’s home on August 30, 2023, knocking on a neighbor’s door “requesting food and water,” appearing wounded and malnourished, according to Franke’s arrest report in the case.

The neighbor’s witness account details how the boy, identified in documents as ‘R,’ “said he needed a favor” and “asked to be taken to the nearest police station,” after which the neighbor contacted 911 and noted duct tape around the child’s ankles and wrists.

The boy was taken by first responders to the hospital, where “he was placed on a medical hold due to his deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment,” according to Franke’s arrest report.

Jodi Hildebrandt, left, and Ruby Franke, center, were arrested on child abuse charges on August 30, 2023, in Ivins, Utah. - Washington County Attorney's Office/AP
Jodi Hildebrandt, left, and Ruby Franke, center, were arrested on child abuse charges on August 30, 2023, in Ivins, Utah. - Washington County Attorney's Office/AP

Responding officers then conducted a search of Hildebrandt’s home, where they found Franke’s 9-year-old daughter “petrified and hiding in a closet,” also malnourished, according to the Washington County Attorney’s Office.

Franke’s handwritten journal, of which a redacted version was also released on Friday, outlines months of abuse inflicted on the children, including making the children stand and sleep outdoors, making them do wall sits, shaving the girl’s head and at times withholding water, food or oxygen.

Franke writes in one entry dated July 11, 2023, “[R] was told to stand in the sun w/ his sun hat. He is defiant. ‘No.’ I tell him a couple more times. [R] or I should say, his demon stays in the shade.” In another entry she says, “I told [R] that he needs God. I invited him to fast [and] pray.”

“Satanic choices lead one to becoming destitute – even in the most affluential homes,” Franke wrote.

“The women appeared to fully believe that the abuse they inflicted was necessary to teach the children how to properly repent for imagined ‘sins’ and to cast the evil spirits out of their bodies,” the attorney’s office wrote in their case summary.

A detailed incident report in the case noted the father of the two children, Kevin Franke, who said he was married to Ruby but separated, had been unaware they were living with Hildebrandt and “had not spoken with them or seen them in a year.”

Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt were each sentenced to four consecutive sentences of one to 15 years in a Utah prison in February, CNN previously reported. “Because of Utah’s indeterminate sentencing laws, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole now oversees the length of their prison sentence,” the attorney’s office said.

CNN has reached out to their attorneys for comment regarding the Washington County Attorney’s Office’s evidence release last month.

“Thank you for reaching out and recognizing the complexities of this case,” attorney LaMar Winward said in a statement Tuesday. “At this time, the juvenile court has restricted all parties from discussing details about the children which would include the newly released videos and documents. When it is appropriate, we are willing to talk in more detail.”

CNN’s Sara Smart, Keith Allen and Laura Studley contributed to this report.

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