Disturbing Details About Ruby Franke

Since the rise of social media influencers, the internet has become inundated with aspirational lifestyle accounts purportedly teaching us how to live well. But one recent news story has shockingly revealed that not all perfect families that document their lives online are quite as well-balanced as they first appear. Indeed, the tale of Ruby Franke — the former family-focused influencer who once commanded the attention of around 2.5 million followers — has led to calls for platforms such as YouTube to ban influencers from using their children for content. Such calls came after it was revealed that the Franke's children were subject to forms of discipline that constituted child abuse — and occasionally spilled out on camera.

Franke, along with her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, now faces a lengthy spell in prison for her crimes. Here's what we know about the stomach-churning events that led to her multiple felony convictions.

She took her son's bed away

Ruby Franke first made a splash on social media in 2015 when she launched a channel named "8 Passengers" documenting her and her husband Kevin's parenting journey as they raised their six children at their home in Springfield, Utah. The channel quickly gained a sizeable and devoted following thanks to Franke's regular updates and willingness to show all aspects of family life, good and bad. "I've never, not once, forgotten to vlog ... it's like forgetting to eat," she once told her followers (via YouTube).

Followers of Ruby Franke's "8 Passengers" first began to feel there may be something amiss about Ruby Franke's parenting methods back in 2020. Notably, after she detailed how she had taken away her son's bedroom as punishment for a prank he played on a sibling, forcing him to spend months sleeping on a bean bag. While Franke continued to defend the decision on her channel, many of her followers claimed that such methods of discipline amounted to child abuse.

She let her 6-year-old child go hungry

More details of Ruby Franke's unnecessarily cruel forms of punishment came soon thanks to a resurfaced video in which she openly discussed allowing her daughter to go hungry at school as a form of punishment. The mother explains to the camera that she had received a phone call from the teacher of her daughter, Eve, saying that Eve didn't have a lunch with her. The teacher then asked Franke if she could bring food to the school so that her daughter didn't have to go hungry. But in a turn of events that few viewers would have expected, Franke told her followers that she had no intention of going to school to bring her daughter a meal. Instead, Eve would go without any as punishment for forgetting to pack it herself — the child's responsibility in the Franke household. Eve was just 6 years old at the time.

The video was central to a major backlash against Franke and "8 Passengers" in 2020, when the channel began shedding followers amid allegations of abuse. Many of Franke's former fans also began a Change.org petition asking child protective services to investigate Franke for child abuse.

Did Franke's business partner isolate her?

Ruby Franke initially pushed back against critics of her parenting style, who were growing increasingly vocal that her treatment of her children was abusive. Eventually, pressure built to the point that two officers from child protective services visited her home. But she claimed that they found no evidence of wrongdoing and left intending to raise their own kids in a similar way (per Yahoo). But opposition to Franke continued to mount, so much so that her critics launched a parody channel, "6 Prisoners," to highlight the danger they believed the Franke children were in.

She eventually deleted her YouTube channel in 2022, though she soon reemerged as a contributor to "ConneXions," a podcast and social media channel run by life coach and therapist Jodi Hildebrandt. While Hildebrandt was at first described as Franke's business partner, as Franke's crimes against her children came to light it became clear that Hildebrandt might have influenced the once-popular influencer. In court, Franke's parents and brother claimed that Hildebrandt had convinced Franke to distance herself from her husband and family members, and that she even became instrumental in the abuse (via CBS News).

The 911 call that revealed all

In August 2023, a neighbor of Jodi Hildebrandt dialed 911 to report that a boy had turned up at his front door begging for help. The child, who was emaciated, asked for food and water and claimed he had been help captive in Hildebrant's home (per The Salt Lake Tribune). The boy's limbs were covered in open wounds, which it later emerged were the result of his being bound with rope. Hildebrant had allegedly attempted to treat the wounds with a mixture of honey and cayenne pepper. That boy was Ruby Franke's 12-year-old son, who had escaped from the house through a window.

Police then obtained a search warrant and found the boy's 10-year-old sister in a similarly malnourished state, as well as items including two pairs of handcuffs, Saran wrap, ropes, a bowl with liquid and a metal spoon, and absorbent dressings and bandages. After it was discovered that Franke had been filming at the house in the days immediately prior to the police investigation, both she and Hildebrandt were arrested and held without bail (per WPDE). Child protective services took the two children along with two of Franke's other children, who were in their teens.

The arrest and trial of Ruby Franke

The arrest of Ruby Franke brought to an end a long campaign by those who were adamant that her children were being raised in an atmosphere of systematic abuse. One such person was Franke's own daughter, Shari, who was 20 at the time of her mother's arrest and posted repeatedly on Instagram stating that Franke's arrest was a long time coming (per People). Franke's three sisters also spoke out in support of her arrest.

At her trial, Franke pleaded guilty to four of a total of six child abuse charges, and in February 2024 the former influencer was sentenced to four one-to-15-year sentences and agreed to give testimony against Jodi Hildebrandt (via NBC News). As reported by Business Insider, Franke begged for forgiveness, claiming that she had been "deceived" into viewing the world as an "evil place." She also gave harrowing details of other punishments she and Hildebrandt had subjected the children to, including beatings, forced manual labor in full sun without protective wear or water, and forcing one of them to injure themselves on a cactus, per the BBC.

Hildebrandt has also pleaded guilty to four of the six charges against her. Her niece, Jessi, has since publicly claimed that she was subjected to similar abuse as the Franke children while in Hildebrandt's care as a child 10 years ago (per KUTV).

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.