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YouTube mom Ruby Franke and counselor Jodi Hildebrandt sentenced to 4-30 years for child abuse

The creator of the "8 Passengers" channel and counselor Jodi Hildebrandt pleaded guilty to child abuse in a case with horrific details.
Ruby Franke
Ruby Franke, left, in a video on her popular "8 Passengers" YouTube channel, and appearing in court on child abuse charges in December.Youtube / Ron Chaffin / AP

Ruby Franke, a popular "momfluencer" whose YouTube channel detailed her family life with six children, cried in court as she was sentenced to up to 30 years in prison for child abuse that one prosecutor described as "concentration camp" conditions for her children.

Millions of people followed the ups and downs of parenting with Franke, a Utah mom of six who created the popular channel “8 Passengers.”

Now, Franke has been sentenced to four to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to horrific child abuse, the maximum sentence under state guidelines. A counselor with whom she made parenting advice videos, Jodi Hildebrandt, also pleaded guilty to child abuse and was given the same sentence of four to 30 years in prison.

For years, viewers raised concerns about Franke’s controversial parenting methods, like "canceling" Christmas for two of her six children. Court documents have revealed that what went on behind the scenes was far worse than anything people saw on her YouTube channel.

Both Franke and Hildebrandt, a mental health counselor and parenting coach, pleaded guilty to four counts of child abuse. Franke's children range in age from 10-20 years old; the case centers on her two youngest, now 10 and 12.


Ruby Franke, right, and business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, speaks during an Instagram video posted to their @moms_of_truth account.
Ruby Franke, right, and business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, during an Instagram video posted to their @moms_of_truth account.@moms_of_truth via Instagram
89d ago / 7:11 PM UTC

Ruby Franke will not appeal her prison sentence, lawyer says

Ruby Franke will not appeal her four- to 30-year prison sentence, her lawyer says.

“As far as we know, Ruby Franke does not have any intentions of appealing the sentence,” a spokesperson for Franke’s attorney at Winward Law tells TODAY.com. “She has taken full responsibility for her actions and is prepared to serve her time in prison.”

Both Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt, a counselor who Franke described as her former mentor, were sentenced to up to 30 years in prison for brutally abusing Franke's children, in what the county prosecutor called the worst child abuse case in his office's history.

Both women have 30 days following their Feb. 20 sentencing to appeal. TODAY.com reached out to Hildebrandt's attorney, but did not hear back. It is unknown if Hildebrandt will appeal.

89d ago / 9:50 PM UTC

Prosecutor says Hildebrandt should serve more time than Franke: 'Only fair'

In remarks outside the courtroom, county prosecutor Eric Clarke said the abuse inflicted upon Ruby Franke's children was "horrific," adding, "It would have been apparent to anybody that would have seen the kids, that something was wrong here."

Clarke said the cases were the worst that he had seen in his career: "Not just in my career but in our office's career, in our institutional memory, this is one of the worst child abuse cases we've ever seen."

Franke sits in a courtroom, clad in a prison jumpsuit next to her lawyer, an older white man in a dark grey suit.
Ruby Franke, a once-popular YouTuber and mother of six, pleaded guilty to child abuse. She looks on during her sentencing hearing on Feb. 20, 2024, in St. George, Utah.Sheldon Demke / St. George News via AP, Pool

Addressing Jodi Hildebrandt's fate, Clarke said, "I hope that Jodi does serve more — I think that that would only be fair." Clarke explained that the women received a sentences of four to 30 years and that Utah caps sentences at 30 years.

"I think that a four-year minimum for Ruby's actions are entirely appropriate. I hope that Jodi serves more time than that and I hope that she isn't out of prison until everybody is completely confident that she's no longer a risk. And to get there, she's going to have to acknowledge that she has done wrong and that you can't use religion as a means to justify your crazy behavior."

When a reporter asked why a mother wouldn't be held more accountable than an outsider, Clarke answered in part that while both women received the same sentence, Jodi influenced Ruby's actions.

"I'm super concerned that Jodi, if she were released today, is a significant risk ... Ruby was essentially a follower of Jodi. And if she's gathering people and then convincing them to do this kind of thing, that's a huge risk and those types of people shouldn't be walking the streets," Clarke said.

90d ago / 8:44 PM UTC

Social meda reacts to Franke and Hildebrandt's prison sentences: 'Who else cheered?'

Opinions flooded social media as former YouTuber Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt were sentenced to four to 30 years in prison, after each pleaded guilty to four counts of felony child abuse.

"Omg, who else cheered?" one person tweeted about Ruby's prison sentence.

Some X users questioned Ruby's sincerity and said her court statement resembled a Hollywood speech.

In her remarks to the court, Ruby thanked the police and the Utah Division of Child and Family Services for intervening in the abuse, along with the Washington County Attorney's Office. At the end, Ruby addressed her estranged husband and then her children, tearfully stating, "How terrifying this must have been for you. I will never stop crying for hurting your tender souls. You’re so precious to me. I’m sorry.”

Some of the people following the case on X objected to the “indeterminate sentencing" in Ruby and Jodi's cases. In Utah, sentences are given as a range, not a set number of years. Ruby and Jodi's exact sentences will be decided by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.

90d ago / 7:39 PM UTC

Prosecutor: Children endured a "concentration camp-like setting"

County prosecutor Eric Clarke described the torture inflicted on Ruby Franke’s children as a “concentration camp-like setting" during his opening statements in both Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt's sentencing hearings.

"The children were regularly denied food, water, beds to sleep in and virtually all forms of entertainment," said Clarke. "They were isolated from others and were hidden when people came to visit the house ... the children were forced to do physical tasks, like carrying ... boxes up and down stairs and wall sits or sitting against a wall without a chair or a stool for hours at a time."

Clarke added, "They were also forced to do manual labor outdoors and in the extreme summer heat, at times without shoes or socks. They were forced to stand outside on a cement patio in the summer heat for hours, and even days at a time. They were beaten ... both children had extensive physical injuries from the abuse that required hospitalization when they were found. The injuries from the binding to the 12-year-old are particularly awful."

"She's repeatedly claimed that she is the victim and the children are the perpetrators."

County prosecutor Eric Clarke, on Jodi Hildebrandt

He described how the children were conditioned to believe that the abuse was their fault: "Had the older of the children not had the courage to run away and ask a neighbor to call the police, heaven only knows how much longer he could have survived in that situation."

Clarke saved his harshest words for Hildebrandt. 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."

"In telephone conversations that will be provided in full to the Board of Pardons and Parole — and which she knew to be recorded — she's repeatedly claimed that she is the victim and the children are the perpetrators," Clarke said.

He added that he believes Hildebrandt is a "significant threat to the community."

90d ago / 7:17 PM UTC

What's the connection between Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt?

In her statement to the court, Ruby Franke dismissed the idea that she was Jodi Hildebrandt's "business partner." On Hildebrandt's life coaching website Connexions, Ruby is listed as a business team member with the title "certified mental fitness trainer."

"Jodi Hildebrandt was never my business partner," said Ruby. "Nor was I employed by her. I have never received wages from her or Connexions. Jodi was employed as my son's counselor in 2019 and in 2020, I paid her to be my mentor. 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’s sister Julie Deru said in a YouTube video that Franke began counseling sessions with Hildebrandt in approximately 2020 “because their family needed it.”

In her video, Deru said that Connexions was “not a great resource” for her sister and that no one in the family liked hearing about Hildebrandt’s teachings. Deru also said Franke suddenly cut her family members out of her life after getting involved with Connexions. “I literally had no contact with her,” said Deru.

Franke and Hildebrandt posted parenting videos together on their Instagram page “Moms of Truth,” where they also advertised their parenting “coaching” services.


 

90d ago / 5:59 PM UTC

Judge tells Hildebrandt she 'terrorized' Franke's children

Judge John Walton tells Jodi Hildebrandt, "This circumstance is tragic; it's largely, of course, of your making. By any measure, your conduct in this case was disastrous for these children. Adults are supposed to protect children. Adults with specialized training in particular are supposed to protect children. You didn't do that in this case. In this case, you terrorized children and the results have been tragic."

"Adults are supposed to protect children."

Washington county court judge john Walton

Walton added, "What happened to these children and your philosophy in dealing with them frankly seems detached from reality or any objective standard of decency or even common sense."

He gave Hildebrandt the maximum sentence under state guidelines.

90d ago / 5:49 PM UTC

Jodi Hildebrandt apologizes to the court

"I sincerely love these children," Jodi Hildebrandt told the court about Ruby Franke's children.

"I desire for them to heal physically and emotionally. One of the reasons I did not go to trial is that I did not want them to emotionally relive the experience which had been detrimental for them. My hope and prayer is that they will heal and move forward to have beautiful lives."

The Utah counselor was sentenced to four to 30 years, the maximum under state guidelines, for child abuse.

90d ago / 5:45 PM UTC

What Ruby Franke's family says about Jodi Hildebrandt

Ruby Franke’s sisters, Julie Griffiths Deru and Bonnie Hoellein, said they were suspicious of Jodi Hildebrandt and her website, ConneXions.

“We all felt weird about this Jodi lady, we weren’t comfortable with it ... we didn’t like the teachings Ruby was bringing to the family functions,” sister Julie Griffiths Deru said in a September 2023 video. “We were this close to telling (Ruby), ‘If you come to our family events ... we do not want to hear what you are learning through ConneXions because we don’t like it.’”

Ruby Franke's sisters speak out
Ruby Franke's sisters, Julie Griffiths Deru (left) and Bonnie Hoellein (right), have told their stories on YouTube.YouTube

Hoellein added in a YouTube video released that month:

“My thoughts toward Ruby and Jodi and Kevin and ConneXions is ... it was complete indoctrination of this thing that they created. I don’t agree with how extreme they are on everything. I knew they were weird, I knew that they were off. Those are the things that we kept quiet about because what was I going to say — I was not going to come out and publicly say that I don’t like my sister and I don’t like what she’s doing and I think she’s weird. That is what we kept quiet about.”

90d ago / 5:44 PM UTC

Jodi Hildebrandt sentenced to 4-30 years in prison

Jodi Hildebrandt, who pleaded guilty to child abuse, has been sentenced up to 30 years in prison, the same sentence as Ruby Franke. That's the maximum sentence.

She was given a sentence of 1-15 years for each of her four counts of child abuse. Prosecutor Eric Clarke explained outside the courtroom that the sentence for her crimes is capped by state law at 30 years, maximum.

Hildebrandt and Franke, a popular family YouTuber, made parenting advice videos together. Franke said in court that she had hired Hildebrandt as a counselor for her son.

Jodi Hildebrand
Jodi Hildebrandt, in a video on her Instagram channel.@moms_of_truth via Instagram
90d ago / 5:40 PM UTC

Jodi Hildebrandt is being sentenced

The sentencing hearing for Jodi Hildebrandt, who pleaded guilty to four counts of child abuse, is underway.

90d ago / 5:32 PM UTC

Who is Jodi Hildebrandt?

Sentencing has started for Jodi Hildebrandt, a mental health counselor who ran a life coaching website.

According to NBC News, former clients said Jodi Hildebrandt’s program ConneXions isolated them from their families.

Some of Hildebrandt’s former patients who spoke to NBC News said her teachings were closely entwined with, but an extreme version of, the beliefs of the Mormon church.

"Seven former patients, who used her services between 2008 and 2019, told NBC News that Hildebrandt methodically separated spouses, pathologized patients’ behaviors as evidence of various addictions and encouraged people to cut off others who weren’t living in accordance with her teachings," NBC News reported.

Jodi Hildebrand
Jodi Hildebrandt, in a photo she used on her counseling website. She was sentenced to up to 60 years for child abuse.@moms_of_truth via Instagram
90d ago / 5:29 PM UTC

Ruby Franke is sentenced to up to 30 years in prison

After statements by the prosecution and the defense, Ruby Franke has been sentenced to four to 30 years in prison, consecutive sentences for each count of child abuse.

That is the maximum sentence for her under Utah state sentencing guidelines. How much time she actually spends in prison will depend on the state parole board.

She was given a sentence of 1-15 years for each of her four counts of child abuse. Prosecutor Eric Clarke explained outside the courtroom that the sentence for her crimes is capped by state law at 30 years, maximum.

90d ago / 5:28 PM UTC

Warrant: Cayenne pepper in a child's wounds

According to an August 31 search warrant, viewed by TODAY.com, Ruby Franke’s child “informed medical personnel and officers that a cayenne pepper and honey paste was made to put in his wounds.”

“In Jodi Hildebrandt’s bathroom, I located two used medical gauze dressings near a cayenne pepper and honey paste,” one official stated in the warrant. “This observation adds to Ms. Hildebrandt’s knowledge of the abuse in the home. Ms. Hildebrandt requested a lawyer and did not speak with us.”

90d ago / 5:28 PM UTC

A neighbor calls 911 after finding a child ‘covered in wounds’

On Aug. 30, 2023, a Utah resident called 911 after Ruby’s son, who was staying at the home of Ruby Franke’s business partner Jodi Hildebrandt with his sibling, showed up at his door.

“I think he’s been detained,” the caller told dispatch. “He’s obviously covered in wounds.”

According to a Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department press release, the boy was “emaciated and malnourished.” The department stated that another one of Ruby Franke’s children was found in Hildebrandt’s home “in a similar physical condition of malnourishment.”

The Department of Child and Family Services took in four of Franke’s minor children, officials said, and Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested.

90d ago / 5:15 PM UTC

Ruby Franke apologizes to her children in court

During the sentencing, Ruby Franke apologized directly to her six children. "To my babies, my six little chicks. You are part of me. I was the mama duck who was consistently waddling you to safety. I can see now that over the past four years, I was in a deep undercurrent that led us to danger."

Franke added, weeping, "I was so disoriented that I believed dark was light and right was wrong. I would do anything in this world for you. My willingness to sacrifice all for you was masterfully manipulated ... I took from you all that was soft, and safe, and good. I took from you, your mother. How terrifying this must have been for you. I will never stop crying for hurting your tender souls. You're so precious to me. I'm sorry."

Franke, a mother of six, pleaded guilty to child abuse.

90d ago / 5:15 PM UTC

Ruby Franke pleaded guilty to child abuse

On Dec. 18, Ruby Franke pleaded guilty to four counts of felony second-degree aggravated child abuse in Washington County Court, in the southwest corner of Utah.

“With my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and my children, guilty,” Franke said, in response to the charges in court.

Judge John J. Walton said in court that prison is the “appropriate sentence” and that sentences would run consecutively.

According to NBC News, the law firm representing Ruby released a statement that blamed her former business partner Jodi Hildebrandt for the YouTuber’s “distorted sense of morality.” 

The statement continued, per NBC News: “Initially, Ms. Franke believed that Jodi Hildebrandt had the insight to offer a path to continual improvement. Ms. Hildebrandt took advantage of this quest and twisted it into something heinous.”

90d ago / 5:12 PM UTC

Jodi Hildebrandt sells her $5.3 million home

Jodi Hildebrandt’s five-bedroom home in Ivins, Utah (in the southwest corner of the state) was recently put up for sale.

The five-bedroom, 10,124 square foot home is described on Zillow as “a true masterpiece, with stunning features and finishes that will take your breath away.”

The listing states: “The patio area is perfect for entertaining friends and family, with a pool/slide feature (rock), a spa, a fire pit, and an outdoor kitchen. The large-screen TV is perfect for enjoying the ballgame or movies while soaking in the hot tub.”

According to a Jan. 31 court order viewed by TODAY.com, $100,000 from the sale of Hildebrandt’s home will be placed in escrow until restitution toward Ruby Franke’s two minor children is determined. “Any remaining funds shall be returned to Ms. Hildebrandt,” stated the document.

Weeks prior, Randy Kester, the attorney of Ruby Franke’s estranged husband Kevin Franke, filed a motion for victim restitution, which was viewed by TODAY.com.

“The children remain in professional care for the aggravated psychological and emotional injuries suffered,” stated the January 12 motion. “It is clear and admitted that the children suffered immediate and continuing irreparable harm as a result of the crimes perpetrated upon them by this Defendant.”

90d ago / 5:11 PM UTC

Ruby and Kevin Franke quietly separated in 2022

Kevin Franke’s attorney, Randy Kester, told TODAY.com that Ruby Franke initiated a separation in 2022.

“Kevin did not want to be separated,” Kester told TODAY.com via email in September of 2023. “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.”

The following month, Kevin filed for divorce, according to NBC News.

90d ago / 5:10 PM UTC

Jodi Hildebrandt was previously put on probation

In 2018, Jodi Hildebrandt committed professional violations that resulted in her counseling license being placed on probation, according to the state of Utah.

TODAY.com viewed documents from the Utah Division of Professional Licensing that stated Jodi shared “sensitive private information” numerous times about her clients to other people without permission.

Hildebrandt’s license was later reinstated.

“Under Utah law, the discipline must remain on our website for up to ten years,” a Utah Division of Professional Licensing spokesperson previously told TODAY.com. “However, a practitioner can appeal to have it removed at the five-year mark. Hildebrandt did appeal to have the discipline removed, which was in 2017.”

90d ago / 5:09 PM UTC

Ruby Franke is speaking in court

Ruby Franke is speaking at her sentencing hearing. The mother of six and former YouTuber has pleaded guilty to child abuse.

"My choice ... culminated into criminal activity," Franke tells the court.

She thanked the police officers who investigated the abuse and arrested her. "The moment she handcuffed me was the moment I gained my freedom," she told the arresting officer.

"My charges are just," she said, after breaking down in tears as she spoke.

90d ago / 5:03 PM UTC

The sentencing of Ruby Franke begins

Ruby Franke is in the courtroom, and Judge John Walton has started the sentencing hearing.

90d ago / 4:56 PM UTC

What kind of sentence is Ruby Franke facing?

In December 2023, Ruby Franke pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree felony aggravated child abuse. According to Utah law, each charge carries a possible prison sentence of one to 15 years and up to $10,000 in fines.

A spokesperson from the Utah State Courts tells TODAY.com that Utah uses “indeterminate sentencing,” meaning that sentencing will be set for a range of time versus a specific time period. One year after sentencing, Ruby’s fate will be determined by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.

90d ago / 4:33 PM UTC

Kevin Franke's attorney calls child abuse charges 'horrific and inhumane'

Kevin Franke, the estranged husband of Ruby Franke, has issued a statement to Law & Crime through his attorney Randy Kester.

"We trust the judge to sentence them both to 1-15 years for each of the four counts, to run consecutively, and then let the Utah State Board of Pardons decide if that should be shortened or other conditions imposed," Kester said of Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt. "The treatment these children received at the hands of those whom the children had a right to trust, was horrific and inhumane, both physically and psychologically.  Kevin remains focused on the rehabilitation of these sweet and vulnerable children so that they might return to a normal life as soon as possible."

Ruby Franke
Kevin and Ruby Franke, before their separation and the abuse charges against Ruby.@moms_of_truth via Instagram
90d ago / 4:11 PM UTC

What is Ruby Franke famous for? The history of '8 Passengers'

Ruby Franke’s former YouTube channel “8 Passengers” captured life with her six children, alongside her now-estranged husband Kevin Franke.

Ruby punished her children with limited meals, forced exercise and on-camera shaming, all of which she filmed and published on her YouTube channel. One year, Ruby and Kevin didn’t buy their two youngest children Christmas presents because they made “egregious choices,” she said in a video that was later deleted. “We want them to really have a visceral experience that hits them.”

In other videos, Ruby refused to bring her 6-year-old daughter’s lunch to school when the child failed to make it and bring it herself. “The natural outcome is, she’s just going to need to be hungry,” Ruby said in a video. “And hopefully nobody gives her food and nobody steps in and gives her a lunch.”

Ruby Franke
Ruby Franke rose to fame as a family YouTuber with the popular channel "8 Passengers."@moms_of_truth via Instagram

 

90d ago / 3:44 PM UTC

Plea agreement: The children were told they were 'evil'

A plea agreement signed by Ruby Franke in December 2023 described the “physical torture” of her son, who was made to carry boxes of books up and down stairs, perform wall-sits and stand in direct sunlight for days.

According to the plea agreement filed with the court, the boy was kicked, his head was held under water and his oxygen was restricted with hands on his nose and mouth.

Franke’s daughter had to work outside without shoes and run barefoot on dirt roads “for an extended period of time,” stated the court document.

The children were told they were “evil” and their punishments were acts of love, according to the plea agreement.

Ruby Franke
Ruby Franke during a hearing on December 18, 2023 in St. George, UT.Ron Chaffin / AP
90d ago / 3:44 PM UTC

What to know about the Ruby Franke-Jodi Hildebrandt case

Ruby Franke is a mom of six who created a family YouTube channel, "8 Passengers," followed by millions at the height of her popularity.

Behind the scenes, according to charges that Franke pled guilty to, was a nightmarish home life of child abuse.

Ruby Franke
Ruby Franke rose to popularity by sharing her life with six kids on her YouTube channel. Now, she's being sentenced for child abuse.YouTube

Millions of followers watched videos about Franke's family life in Utah with husband Kevin Franke and their six children. Jodi Hildebrandt is a mental health counselor in Utah who ran the life coaching website ConneXions; she and Franke became close, and they posted parenting videos together.

For years, viewers raised concerns about Franke's controversial parenting methods. In August 2023, Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested for their abuse of Franke's children after a 911 call from a neighbor. The women pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree aggravated child abuse and face decades in prison.

Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt will be sentenced on Feb. 20, 2024.

Kevin Franke has not been charged with any crime.