YouTuber vlogger and counselor in Utah each charged with 6 counts of child abuse

A YouTube blogger and a mental health counselor were each charged Friday with six counts of aggravated child abuse after a malnourished boy climbed out a window seeking help from a neighbor, police say.

A YouTube blogger and a mental health counselor were each charged Friday with six counts of aggravated child abuse after a malnourished boy climbed out a window seeking help from a neighbor, police say. (Utah State Courts)

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IVINS, Washington County — A popular YouTube blogger and the creator of Utah County-based mental health counseling company are now facing felony charges accusing them of child abuse after police say a malnourished child who appeared to have had his hands bound ran to a neighboring home for help.

Ruby Franke, 41, of Springville, and Jodi Nan Hildebrandt, 54, of Ivins, were each charged Friday in 5th District Court with six counts each of aggravated child abuse, a second-degree felony. A judge ordered both to be held without bail pending trial. They are scheduled to make their initial appearances in court on Sept. 8.

The investigation began Wednesday when a 12-year-old boy — Franke's son — "climbed out of the window of an Ivins residence belonging to Jodi Hildebrandt and ran to a neighbor's home," according to a police booking affidavit.

The boy asked the neighbor for food and water.

"The neighbor observed duct tape on (the boy's) ankles and wrists and contacted law enforcement. Upon arrival, law enforcement observed the wounds and the malnourishment of (the boy) to be severe," the affidavit alleges.

The neighbor told police the boy appeared to be emaciated, according to a statement from the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department.

The boy was taken to a local hospital where he was "placed on a medical hold due to his deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment," the affidavit states.

Police then found a 10-year-old girl in Hildebrandt's home who also appeared to be malnourished. Police say both children were staying in Hildebrandt's home and were under her direct care.

"Ms. Hildebrandt requested a lawyer and did not speak with us. Once given her charges, Ms. Hildebrandt informed me (the children) should never be allowed around any other kids," police wrote.

Ruby Franke
Ruby Franke (Photo: screenshot)

The arrest report refers to a video that was posted on YouTube this week that appeared to be filmed in Hildebrandt's basement. Police say the mother of the two children, Franke, is in the video, showing she had "knowledge of the abuse, malnourishment and neglect," according to the affidavit.

Franke is known for her "8 Passengers" YouTube channel which had millions of followers. The videos followed the lives of Franke, her husband and six children, who are originally from Spingville. The was launched in 2015 but was taken offline earlier this year for unknown reasons. According to Business Insider, as the popularity of the channel grew, concerns over the parents' authoritarian or outright cruel style of parenting were raised.

Four of Franke's children were taken into state protective custody following Wednesday's arrest.

Hildebrandt is the founder of the Orem-based mental and emotional healing company "Connexions Classroom," a company that says it helps people with addiction and mental health issues. According to the Utah Division of Professional Licensing's website, Hildebrandt is a licensed clinical mental health counselor in Ivins.

Hildebrandt and Franke are business partners, with Franke listed on the ConneXions website as a "certified mental fitness trainer."

Word of Franke's arrest spread quickly Thursday, and sparked reaction from several relatives.

"For the past 3 years we have kept quiet on the subject of our sister Ruby Franke for the sake of her children. Behind the public scene we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe," her sister, Elle Mecham, posted on her Instagram account. "Ruby was arrested which needed to happen. Jodi was arrested which needed to happen. The kids are now safe which is the number one priority."

Jodi Hildebrandt
Jodi Hildebrandt (Photo: screenshot)

Ruby Franke's daughter, Shari Franke, who is also a blogger, posted a picture on her Instagram of an officer standing near what appears to be an unmarked police vehicle while holding a rifle, with the caption: "Finally."

"Today has been a big day. Me and my family are so glad justice is being served. We've been trying to tell the police and (child protective services) for years about this, and so glad they finally (decided) to step up. Kids are safe but there's a long road ahead," she wrote.

Franke is also asking the public for links to "questionable or concerning Connexions or 8 Passengers videos."

"More specifically, Connexions stuff. We are aware of most of the 8passengers things already," she wrote.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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