The estranged husband of Ruby Franke, the Utah YouTuber arrested for child abuse, refuses to “sling mud and point fingers" following accusations that he could have saved his children, says his attorney.
Kevin Franke and Ruby Franke are the parents of six children, who were featured on their mom's former YouTube channel "8 Passengers" since 2015. The account, followed by millions, was controversial for Ruby's uncompromising punishments. It has since been taken down.
'8 Passengers' and Ruby Franke's parenting
The Utah mom shared on her channel that her punishments included denying her children food and personal space, forcing them to do pushups and skip school to clean the floor when they misbehaved. She once withheld Christmas presents from her two youngest children and took away her eldest son's bed for seven months, actions she freely shared on her own video channel.
In August, Ruby Franke was arrested and charged with six counts of of aggravated child abuse. Her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, a mental health counselor who recorded parenting videos alongside Ruby, was also arrested and charged.
Last week, Ruby's sisters Julie Griffiths Deru and Bonnie Hoellein posted YouTube videos stating they were unaware of their sister's behavior, because she had cut contact with her family.
Hoellein also claimed that Kevin was the responsible party for protecting his family.
“It was Kevin’s job to check in on things and he did not," she said in her video.
Ruby and Kevin Franke separated, attorney says
Kevin's attorney Randy Kester tells TODAY.com that Kevin and Ruby have been separated "at Ruby's directive" for approximately 13 months.
"Kevin did not want to be separated," says Kester. "He wanted to work through concerns as a family. There was never any formal, written decree of separate maintenance or separation agreement. The separation was under terms proscribed by Ruby and Jodi Hildebrandt."
Kester addressed Hoellein's claims about Kevin.
"I think she admits that she, too, was out of the loop and had not had any contact with the children herself ... however, Kevin is more interested in reaching out to his children, family, and friends to heal the past trauma and events."
Kester tells TODAY.com, "(Kevin) is making an effort to rebuild and bridge these relationships rather than sling mud and point fingers. He is focused on doing what is best for his kids at this point, even if that means undergoing some introspection. None of that process, however, is going to be creating more distance between him and his family, including his extended family. He wishes Bonnie and her family well as we all travel down this path of healing."
In previous footage published by "8 Passengers," Kevin appears to support the decision to send their son, then 14, to the Anasazi Foundation Wilderness Therapy Program, an “outdoor behavioral healthcare program” for youth who struggle with “defiance” and other behavioral problems.
"(What) many of you are criticizing or calling abusive are actually things that mental health professionals have counseled us to," Kevin said in the video.
Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt's arrest
Last month, the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department announced in a press release that two minor children were found “emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities.” One child was asking for food and water and was hospitalized in “severe” condition, police said. Police said they found a second child “in a similar physical condition of malnourishment” in another home who was also hospitalized.
Four other children were taken in by the Department of Child and Family Services, according to the press release.
Ruby was arrested in connection with the children’s treatment, along with her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, a mental health counselor who recorded parenting videos alongside Ruby for the former YouTube channel ConneXions.
Each woman was charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse.
Kester recently told Law & Crime, a multimedia network, that the dad was "absolutely shocked" by the child abuse allegations. He said that Kevin had not recently seen his children at all, as Ruby wanted to separate while they worked on their marriage.
Kester told the outlet that Ruby assured Kevin that their children were happy in his absence.
According to Kester, Kevin "never had any reason to believe that his children were being abused," he told the outlet.
Kester said in that interview: "If he had even one inkling that his kids were being abused, and that this separation wasn't for any other purpose than to figure out a way between he and Ruby to reunite their family, he would have been down there in two seconds."
"Physical abuse had never been a part of their family," Kester told Law & Crime.