Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt sentenced to serve for four counts of aggravated child abuse 

Reading Time: 3 minutes READER DISCRETION ADVISED: On Feb. 20, 2024, family vlogger Ruby Franke and her unlicensed counselor Jodi Hildebrandt were both sentenced to four consecutive counts of felony aggravated child abuse following their arrest on Aug. 30, 2023.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

On Feb. 20, family vlogger and disgraced mother Ruby Franke was sentenced to up to 30 years in prison alongside her unlicensed counselor and cohort Jodi Hildebrandt. Both women were originally charged with six counts of felony child abuse back in August 2023. The arrest followed the escape of Franke’s 12-year-old son from Hildebrandt’s home in Ivins, Utah, and seeking help from a neighbor. The child was found emaciated and covered with open wounds and duct tape still around his wrists and ankles. Following the boy’s escape, police found Franke’s 10-year-old daughter in Hildebrandt’s home, who was also injured and malnourished. 

“For the past four years, I have chosen to follow counsel and guidance that has led me into a dark delusion,” Franke stated during her sentencing at the Washington County 5th District courthouse. “To my little chicks,… I can see now over the past four years that I was in a deep undercurrent that led us to danger.” She would continue to explain to the court that she was “deceived” by Hildebrandt into thinking that the world was evil and that her children were possessed and in need of “repenting.” 

Franke and Hildebrandt both entered a plea deal in December 2023, pleading guilty to four of the six felony counts they were both charged with. Following their guilty plea, Franke and Hildebrandt’s agreements were made public, revealing more details of the barbaric and horrific torture Franke’s two youngest children were subjected to. The contents of these plea agreements are summed up as follows and should be read with discretion. 

According to the documents and prosecuting attorney Eric Clarke, both children were “in a concentration camp-like setting,… regularly denied food, water, beds to sleep in, and virtually all forms of entertainment.” The plea agreements also go on to describe that both of Franke’s two youngest children were forced to labor outside in the desert without shoes and stand for days at a time in the summer heat, resulting in severe sunburns and sloughing skin. The youngest of the two was forced to run barefoot on roads and repeatedly jump into a cactus. The 12-year-old boy was kicked repeatedly by his mother while she wore boots, had his head held and submerged underwater, and had his oxygen cut off by having his mouth and nose covered. 

Both children were regularly told that they were evil and possessed, that they needed to obey and repent, and that actions being done to them were “acts of love.” After an attempt to escape in July 2023, the oldest of the two was regularly bound with duct tape, handcuffs, and weights to prevent him from escaping. Nonetheless, he did escape on the morning of Aug. 30, 2023, and went to one of Hildebrandt’s neighbors for help, saving himself and his sister. 

“I sincerely love these children,” Hildebrandt said before she was sentenced. “I desire for them to heal physically and emotionally.” Hildebrandt allegedly has a record of misconduct dating years back. She has allegedly shared privileged information with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about her then-patient Adam Paul Steed, subsequently destroying his career and reputation by painting him as an abuser. These allegations also included subjecting her own niece Jessi Hildebrandt to similar horrors that Franke’s children endured. 

Due to a 2002 Utah Criminal Code (76-3-401), Franke and Hildebrandt will serve no more than 30 years in prison, as the code prohibits consecutive sentences from exceeding that limit. Additionally, the amount of jail time is not set in stone, as both Franke and Hildebrandt will have the opportunity to meet with a parole board after four years of time served. 

Ruby Franke’s ex-husband Kevin Franke, with whom she documented her life on their YouTube channel “8 Passengers,” filed for divorce. His attorney spoke on his behalf following the motion, saying in an interview with Today, “He is focused on doing what’s best for his kids at this point.” 

However, long-time followers of “8 Passengers” and many in the general public have taken to social media to say that Kevin does not have his kids’ best interests at heart. “I find it hard to believe that he wasn’t involved at all. He’s trying to feign innocent and separating himself from her” said YouTube user Ali.Bruni143. “At the very least Kevin should be charged with gross child neglect and abandonment.” added TheBelleRoberts. Additionally, Ruby’s sister Bonnie Hoellein said on her own YouTube channel, “It was Kevin’s job to check in on things and he did not.” Kevin has not been charged, and no statement has been made either by himself or through his lawyer to address these concerns. 

The Review will continue to update the case as it progresses. 

Links to Full Plea Agreements: Ruby Franke December 18, 2023, Jodi Hildebrandt December 27, 2023.