Youtuber who specializes in parenting tips is convicted of child

Youtuber who specializes in parenting tips is convicted of child abuse

Vlogger Ruby Franke, known for her controversial parenting advice, has been sentenced to at least four years in prison for child abuse. At 42, Franke made an emotional apology as she heard the verdict in court, having previously pleaded guilty to abusing and neglecting her children and letting them starve.

Jodi Hildebrandt, Franke's 54yearold former partner, also received the same sentence. The judge ruled that both will serve four consecutive prison sentences ranging from one to 15 years, the maximum sentence for each charge under Utah state law. The actual length of the sentence is determined by the state parole board.

Franke has 30 days to appeal the decision. During the trial, prosecutor Eric Clarke described the environment in which two of her children, then ages 9 and 11, lived as a “concentration camp” and stressed that Franke posed a significant threat to the community.

“The children were regularly deprived of food, water, beds to sleep in and virtually any form of entertainment,” Clarke said.

Franke burst into tears after hearing the verdict. She apologized to her children, saying, “I was so disoriented that I believed darkness was light and right was wrong.”

“I was led to believe that this world was an evil place, full of police who control, hospitals who hurt, government agencies who brainwash, religious leaders who lie and covet, husbands who refuse to protect and children in need of help and abuse,” he added.

The two women were arrested in August 2023 after Franke's malnourished 12yearold son escaped through the window of Hildebrandt's home in Ivins, Utah.

Police said the child ran to a neighbor's house looking for water and food. According to police records, he suffered cuts on his body because he was tied with a rope.

The arrests marked the end of an extensive and controversial development on YouTube.

Previously, Franke reached the mark of more than 2 million subscribers on his channel 8 Passengers (referring to his six children and the couple), which was launched in 2015, when channels documenting family routines were at the peak of popularity.

Franke told a local newspaper at the time that making videos with her family helped her “live in the present moment and just enjoy the moments with the children.”

The videos showed a typical Mormon family living in an American suburb engaging in activities such as homeschooling, cooking, eating and dialogue.

But in 2020, the channel's followers became suspicious when one of the children revealed that they had been forced to sleep on a bean bag for seven months. While reviewing the channel's archives, viewers discovered that Franke used other disturbing and controversial methods, such as refusing food, threatening to behead a stuffed animal, and “canceling” Christmas as punishment.

A petition calling for an investigation into the incident garnered thousands of signatures and prompted Utah Child Protective Services to be called in. However, no legal action was taken at this time.

Franke and her husband initially rejected the criticism on the grounds that some videos had been taken out of context. However, the channel's popularity declined and it was deleted in 2022, coinciding with Franke and her husband's separation.

Franke then appeared in YouTube videos that Hildebrandt, a therapist and life coach, posted on her website ConneXions Classroom.

However, away from the cameras, Franke's children were subjected to even worse abuse. According to police files, they were subjected to shackles, beatings, deprivation of food and working outdoors in the summer without sun protection, which resulted in severe burns.

In a plea agreement, Hildebrandt explained that he tortured the children or was aware of the abuse and that he forced one of Franke's daughters to “jump into a cactus several times.”

Franke told his children that they were “evil and possessed” and needed to “repent.”

Through his lawyer, the YouTuber's exhusband, Kevin Franke, called for the maximum sentence to be imposed before the hearing and described the abuse of his children as “horrible and inhumane”.

With information from G1/BBC