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Who is Ruby Franke and Why Is She Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison?

HomeTop NewsWho is Ruby Franke and Why Is She Sentenced to 30 Years...

Ruby Franke, the former family YouTuber beloved by millions for her relatable parenting advice, has been sentenced to up to 30 years in prison in a shocking child abuse case that has shaken the online community. But who is Ruby Franke, and how did her story take such a disturbing turn?

On Tuesday, Franke, 42, and her former business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, 54, were each handed four consecutive sentences of 1 to 15 years in prison at a hearing in Utah’s 5th District Court. They pleaded guilty in December to four counts each of aggravated child abuse against two of Franke’s children.

The judge ordered their sentences to run consecutively, meaning they could face up to 30 years behind bars – the maximum allowed under Utah law. The actual time served will be determined by the state’s Board of Pardons and Parole.

The crimes detailed in the plea agreements are utterly horrific. Franke’s 12-year-old son was frequently bound with handcuffs and ropes, causing deep cuts treated with home remedies and re-applied over duct-taped wounds. He was forced into brutal physical labor outside in summer heat with no shoes and little water, leading to severe sunburns and sloughing skin.

Franke herself admitted to submerging her son’s head underwater, smothering his face to cut off oxygen, and kicking him while wearing boots. The plea stated the boy was told he was possessed by evil spirits and the punishments were necessary for him to repent.

Franke’s 10-year-old daughter also suffered deprivation of food and water and was forced to run barefoot on dirt roads. She too was terrorized psychologically by being labeled “evil and possessed.” Shockingly, the plea agreement said Hildebrandt “physically forced or coerced” the young girl to jump into a cactus repeatedly.

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Prosecutor Eric Clarke described the conditions as a “concentration camp-like setting” motivated by “religious extremism.” He said Hildebrandt, who surrendered her credentials as a licensed therapist, claimed to be communicating directly with God.

So who is Ruby Franke, and how did a once-celebrated online parent end up sentenced to potential decades in prison for torturing her own children?

The Rise and Fall of “8 Passengers”

Ruby Franke first gained a devoted following starting in 2015 when she launched her popular YouTube channel “8 Passengers.” The moniker referred to Franke, her husband Kevin, and their six children – Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell, and Eve.

The channel amassed over 2 million subscribers at its height as viewers were drawn to the family’s warmth, humor and relatable stories about everyday parenting challenges. Franke dispensed advice, shared cute family moments, and generally conveyed an image as a loving, if somewhat strict, mother.

But even then, some viewers criticized Franke’s parenting as overly harsh, with punishments for her children they felt went too far. One infamous 2020 video showed her son Chad saying he had been sleeping on a beanbag chair for 7 months as punishment for pranking a sibling.

The channel was deleted in 2022, the same year Franke announced her separation from Kevin. By that point, the controversy around Franke as a parenting influencer had grown – as had the darkness in her personal life.

The Toxic Influence of Jodi Hildebrandt

In statements read at the sentencing hearing, Franke’s parents and brother revealed how her former business partner Jodi Hildebrandt had exploited and brainwashed Franke, leading her down a path that destroyed her family.

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“We noticed a shift in Ruby’s thinking the summer of 2020 and by that fall she cut all ties to us – her siblings, and close friends,” Franke’s parents told the court. “She was delusional. She was so deeply brainwashed we could not recognize her.”

Franke’s brother Beau, who had also briefly been involved in Hildebrandt’s life coaching program ConneXions, said his sister was systematically isolated from loved ones by Hildebrandt’s influence.

“Ruby has clearly been brainwashed. She has been taken advantage of by Ms. Hildebrandt,” Beau stated.

Franke acknowledged this at the hearing, tearfully apologizing and accepting responsibility. “I take full accountability for my choices,” she said. “I was led to believe… that children needed abuse.”

She emphasized that while she saw Hildebrandt as a mentor, the older woman was never truly her “business partner” – a role that has been mischaracterized.

“Jodi Hildebrandt was not my business partner. I paid her to be my mentor,” Franke stated.

Extremist Ideology Behind the Abuse

Prosecutors allege the foundation of the abuse was an extremist religious ideology espoused by Hildebrandt, who operated the controversial ConneXions life coaching business since 2007.

Prosecutor Clarke said the abuse was “a case about religious extremism,” with Hildebrandt claiming to communicate directly with God and Franke following her twisted instructions and guidance.

“Hildebrandt regularly stated that God communicated directly with her and gave her directions. Franke accepted Hildebrandt as her leader and followed her instructions and guidance,” Clarke explained.

Former clients of Hildebrandt’s coaching program accused her of causing more harm than good, separating spouses and encouraging people to cut off family that disagreed with her extreme views.

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Tragically, Franke appears to have been one of those individuals who fell under Hildebrandt’s destructive sway. Despite pleas from her loved ones, she completely shut out her parents, siblings and friends at Hildebrandt’s urging.

A Family Torn Apart

Sitting in the front row to watch Franke’s sentencing were two of her children – her eldest son and daughter Chad and Shari. The emotional Franke directly apologized to them during her statement.

“I will never stop crying for hurting your tender souls,” Franke told her two children in court. “You’re so precious to me. I’m sorry.”

Kevin Franke, Ruby’s estranged husband, filed for divorce in November. He appeared at the hearing supporting his children, with Franke telling him “You are the love of my life. The ending of our marriage is a tragedy.”

With Franke and Hildebrandt now facing potential decades in prison, attention turns to the two youngest children who endured horrific abuse. At the heart of this disturbing saga is a failed quest for answers that tore a family apart.

Ruby Franke was once beloved for her relatable stories about the ups and downs of parenthood. How her journey took such a nightmarish detour into brainwashing and extremism that led to the torture of her own children is a tragic mystery.

As she begins her prison sentence, Franke must wrestle with the realization that by opening herself up to Hildebrandt’s toxic ideology, she sacrificed the very family bonds that once endeared her to millions of fans. The pursuit of guidance, taken to an unimaginable extreme, cost her everything.

Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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