Inside Ruby Franke’s Chilling Spiral from Popular “Momfluencer” to Convicted Felon (2024)

Many knew Ruby Franke, a Utah mother of six, as a charismatic social media personality. But away from the camera, her behavior became much more sinister than anyone imagined.

Franke, 42, is now serving up to three decades in prison after pleading guilty to four felony counts of child abuse in December 2023. Only months earlier, it was discovered she and a family counselor had inflicted horrific mental and physical abuse on two of her children, subjecting them to starvation, confinement, and other heinous acts.

The case has continued to draw national attention—particularly after the release of police documents and other evidence on March 22, which brought shocking details of the mistreatment to light. Franke’s prior history as a popular “momfluencer” is now being viewed through a much darker lens. Because of the horrifying details of the crimes, as well as Ruby’s quasi-celebrity status, the story of Ruby Franke is sure to stand out as one of the most infamous child abuse cases in recent memory.

Franke rooted her family life in faith

Born in Utah in January 1982, Ruby grew up with three sisters and started a large family of her own after marrying Kevin Franke, formerly a professor of engineering at Brigham Young University. The now-divorced couple share six children: Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell, and Eve. Their kids were born between March 2003 and September 2013.

As devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, religion heavily influenced the Frankes’ family dynamic. Ruby told Salt Lake City television affiliate KSL in 2016 that although her family wasn’t “loud and in your face” about their faith, one benefit of the group’s social media presence was being able to share beliefs “in a way that they normally wouldn’t.”

Privately, however, Ruby began to fixate on religious themes, making frequent references to the devil, demons, and possession in her journal writings. In one entry, she labeled one of her kids as “Satanic” and, in another, described how the child “slithers & sneaks around looking for opportunities when no one is watching.”

The well-known YouTube creator had received flack for her parenting

Long before Ruby began documenting these ominous observations, she and her husband rose to internet fame thanks to the YouTube account they started in 2015. Their channel, 8 Passengers, chronicled the lives of the couple and their six children and attracted more more than 2 million subscribers. The couple offered glimpses of their methods for raising and disciplining the kids as well as home-schooling them.

But along with the channel’s popularity came concerns and criticism over the pair’s harsh parenting style, as some of the videos drew suspicions of abuse and exploitation from viewers. According to NBC News, child protective services were called to the Franke home in June 2020 as the result of a petition, which cited an 8 Passengers video in which their then-15-year-old son said he had slept on a bean bag for seven months as a form of punishment. The case was closed when the claims were found unsubstantiated.

However, other instances of potential mistreatment began circulating. In another video, Ruby told viewers she refused to deliver a school lunch to Eve, then 6, after her daughter forgot to pack one. “Hopefully, nobody gives her food and nobody steps in and gives her a lunch, because then she’s not going to learn from the natural outcome,” she explained. The mother also threatened to throw her children’s important possessions away unless they bought them back with cash or performed “equivalent-value” chores.

These seemingly obvious warning signs and the response they generated weren’t enough to curtail Franke’s questionable parenting style. It only seemed to grow harsher after she connected with a new business partner and life coach named Jodi Hildebrandt.

Franke was further influenced by an “extreme” life coaching service

Shortly after Ruby discontinued the 8 Passengers channel in 2022 and separated from her husband, Kevin, she began collaborating with Jodi Hildebrandt and her coaching service, ConneXions. A therapist who specialized in p*rn and sex addiction, Hildebrant started ConneXions in 2007 to provide counseling on relationships and parenting. According to NBC News, a number of former clients said its offerings were rooted in the teachings of the LDS faith and that Hildebrandt, now 54, used “an extreme approach” that sometimes included shaming.

Franke built a professional relationship with Hildebrandt, appearing in videos with her and eventually receiving the title of “certified mental fitness trainer” on the ConneXions website. She later claimed she wasn’t a business partner and never received wages from Hildebrandt or the company.

In the meantime, Franke had also sought Hildebrandt’s guidance for her own family. The mother said Hildebrandt counseled one of her sons in 2019 and that she began employing Hildebrandt as a personal mentor the following year. Ultimately, she said Hildebrandt’s counseling led her to embrace a “distorted version of reality.”

“I was led to believe that this world was an evil place filled with cops who control, hospitals that injure, government agencies that brainwash, church leaders who lie and lust, husbands who refuse to protect, and children who need abuse,” she said in court prior to her sentencing.

Franke withheld food and water from 2 of her kids

Court documents have detailed the frightening scope of Franke’s abuse, which occurred from May through August 2023. According to her plea agreement, Franke forced one of her sons to perform physical tasks for hours and even days at a time in hazardous conditions. He labored outside without shoes, suffering repeated sunburns “with blistered and sloughing skins.” She also denied the boy adequate food and punished him after discovering he had consumed water without her consent.

The then-12-year-old boy also suffered injuries to his wrists and ankles, including damaged muscle and tissue, from ropes and handcuffs that Hildebrandt used to bind him. The wounds were then improperly treated with cayenne pepper and honey, the boy told police officers, and covered with duct tape.

One of Franke’s daughters similarly worked outside in bare feet and didn’t receive adequate food and water. Documents from the case report she was repeatedly told she was “evil and possessed.”

According to People, the boy tried to run away from Hildebrandt’s home in July 2023 but was caught and bound at his hands and feet with two sets of handcuffs. However, another pivotal moment of bravery would finally ensure the hellish conditions inside the home were brought to light.

A daring escape led to Franke’s arrest

Weeks later on August 30, Franke’s son attempted another escape and successfully climbed through a window of Hildebrandt’s home. The boy sought help at two nearby houses, but no one responded. He rang the doorbell of a third home and, thinking the result was the same, began to leave when a man opened the door.

“Hey. I was just wondering if you could do two favors?” he asked, before explaining, “If you could take me to the nearest police station... well, actually just one [favor] is fine.” Doorbell camera footage showed the neighbor, seeing the boy was emaciated and covered in wounds, offered him water, a banana, and a chair to sit down before calling authorities. Holding back tears, the man described the boy’s condition, saying he was hungry and thirsty, and waited on the phone until an ambulance arrived minutes later.

Franke’s son then directed police to Hildebrandt’s home, where they executed a search of the property based on exigent circ*mstances. Inside the house, they found the boy’s 9-year-old sister inside a closet with her head shaved.

Hildebrandt and Franke were arrested and each charged with six counts of child abuse. Four of Franke’s children were placed in state custody.

Franke’s oldest daughter and sisters disowned her

The fallout from Franke’s apprehension was swift. On September 6, YouTube announced it had banned Franke and terminated her two channels on the site, according to its creator responsibility guidelines.

Her oldest daughter Shari, who had cut ties with her family the year prior, posted an Instagram story showing Franke’s arrest with a short caption: “Finally.” In another post, she suggested the abuse of her siblings might have been prolonged, saying, “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.”

On September 13, Franke’s sister Bonnie Hoellein, a family vlogger herself, released a video explaining that she and her other siblings, Ellie Mecham and Julie Griffiths, were estranged from Ruby and her family and had no knowledge of the abuse. “We were cut off. We did not have access to anyone,” Hoellein said, later ending the video, “I am not my sister. I am not my sister’s mistakes.”

But the legal system still needed to weigh in. Franke and Hildebrandt’s fates were headed to court.

The influencer has taken “full accountability for my choices”

Following her arrest, Franke alleged even more disturbing secrets about her family. During a September 2023 court appearance from prison, she claimed that one of her minor children had sexually abused up to 20 people, including a sibling. However, she provided no proof of the accusations, and there has been no public acknowledgement of any additional investigations.

Franke and Hildebrandt remained in custody without bail until December, when prosecutors requested a waiver hearing, signaling a possible plea bargain. That’s exactly what happened on December 18, with Franke pleading guilty to four felony counts of aggravated child abuse. Hildebrandt similarly pleaded guilty.

On February 20, 2024, Franke was sentenced to four consecutive prison terms of 1 to 15 years. While the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole will determine how much jail time she actually serves, it won’t be more than 30 years because of a Utah law regarding consecutive sentences.

“It is important to me to demonstrate my remorse and regret without blame. I take full accountability for my choices, and it is my preference that I serve a prison sentence,” Franke tearfully said at her hearing.

Hildebrandt received the same four consecutive terms for her guilty plea, while Kevin Franke, who officially filed for divorce from Ruby in November 2023, hasn’t been charged with any crimes in connection to the case.

Inside Ruby Franke’s Chilling Spiral from Popular “Momfluencer” to Convicted Felon (2)

Tyler Piccotti

News and Culture Editor,

Tyler Piccotti first joined the staff as an Associate News Editor in February 2023, and before that worked almost eight years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor. He is a graduate of Syracuse University. When he's not writing and researching his next story, you can find him at the nearest amusem*nt park, catching the latest movie, or cheering on his favorite sports teams.

Inside Ruby Franke’s Chilling Spiral from Popular “Momfluencer” to Convicted Felon (2024)


Inside Ruby Franke’s Chilling Spiral from Popular “Momfluencer” to Convicted Felon? ›

The Story of Ruby Franke's Chilling Spiral from Popular “Momfluencer” to Convicted Felon. YouTube creator Ruby Franke shared her life as a mom of six children with millions. Offscreen, she inflicted horrifying child abuse that led her to prison.

What were the injuries to Ruby Franke? ›

Other images released highlight the extent of the abuse by Franke and show the two emaciated victims with infected cuts on their legs, duct tape around their arms and feet and scratches and bruises on their bodies.

Does Kevin Franke have custody of his children? ›

Before then, Kevin was responsible for financial care of the family while Ruby was supposed to take physical care of the kids, as per their agreement. Now, according to reports, Kevin is working to repair his relationship with his children and win custody of them after he filed a petition for divorce in November 2023.

How did Ruby Franke's husband not know? ›

Kester told Court TV that Kevin had been through the "perfect storm" and he was "shocked" to find out what had happened to his children when they were under the care of Ruby and Hildebrandt. He said Kevin had no knowledge of the situation because he had not been living with his family for over a year.

Did Ruby Franke show remorse? ›

While he said Franke had shown "considerable remorse" by agreeing to consecutive prison terms and being willing to cooperate with the state against Hildebrandt, he said Hildebrandt had "shown little to no remorse for her actions."

What did Ruby and Jodi do to the kids? ›

What did Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt do? In December, Franke pleaded guilty to four counts of child abuse and admitted that she tortured her children, including the now 12-year-old boy who escaped Hildebrandt's home.

Where is Ruby Franke right now? ›

On August 30, 2023, Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt were arrested in Washington County, Utah, and charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse of two of Franke's children under Utah law, four counts to which she pled guilty. She was sentenced to serve between four and thirty years in prison on February 20, 2024.

What does Kevin Franke do for a living? ›

Kevin Franke, an engineer and college professor, told police he couldn't make sense of some of the things he experienced. “I can't explain it, but I saw it with my own eyes,” he said.

What wounds did Ruby Franke's children have? ›

The video footage and photos show Franke's 10-year-old daughter with stick-thin arms and buzz-cut hair. Police documents detail how she refused medical treatment for hours before letting anyone touch her. Franke's 12-year-old son was found with saran wrap around gaping, still-bloody wounds on his ankles.

What injury did Ruby Rose have? ›

Besides her own injuries — “the broken neck, “the broken rib split in two,” “the tumor,” and a “cut in the face so close to my eye in a stunt I could have been blind,” as she details in the story — Rose describes a situation in which a crew member's “whole body” was burned.

What happened to Ruby Franke? ›

Many knew Ruby Franke, a Utah mother of six, as a charismatic social media personality. But away from the camera, her behavior became much more sinister than anyone imagined. Franke, 42, is now serving up to three decades in prison after pleading guilty to four felony counts of child abuse in December 2023.

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