A 41-year-old United States woman once popular for giving parenting advice on YouTube has been arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse in the state of Utah after her emaciated son approached a neighbour’s house looking for food, authorities say.
Ruby Franke, whose now-deleted channel 8 Passengers had 2.5 million subscribers, was arrested on Wednesday night in the southern Utah city of Ivins along with her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt.
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Franke, the mother of six, has recently appeared in YouTube videos with 54-year-old Hildebrandt that were posted online by the latter’s counseling business, ConneXions Classroom.
The two women were formally charged on Friday in Washington County, according to the local website the St George News. They each face six counts of aggravated child abuse.
‘Duct tape on the boy’s ankles and wrists’
Franke’s 12-year-old son climbed out of a window in Hildebrandt’s residence in Ivins, ran to a neighbour’s house on Wednesday morning and asked for food and water, according to an affidavit filed by an officer with the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department.
The neighbour saw duct tape on the boy’s ankles and wrists and called law enforcement, the affidavit said. The boy was taken to a hospital, where he was put on a medical hold “due to his deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment”, arrest records said.
Franke’s 10-year-old daughter was later found malnourished in Hildebrandt’s house and was also taken to the hospital, officers said. Two more of Franke’s children were in the custody of child protection services, the affidavit said.
Franke requested a lawyer and did not speak with officers, the affidavit said.
A voicemail left at a phone listing for Franke’s husband, Kevin Franke, seeking comment on the arrest was referred to his lawyer, Randy Kester, who said he was representing Kevin’s interests in keeping his children together and in his care and that he could not comment on Ruby Franke’s arrest.
A voicemail left with Hildebrandt’s counseling business seeking comment on Thursday was not returned.
A judge on Thursday granted the detective’s request that Ruby Franke be denied bail. Hildebrandt was also denied bail, court records said.
The detective cited “the severity of the injuries of her two kids located in the home” and told the judge the Department of Child and Family Services had taken four of Franke’s children into custody and the officer had yet to speak to two of them.
While the children were found at Hildebrandt’s house, Ruby Franke had been seen on a YouTube video filmed at Hildebrandt’s house and posted two days earlier, indicating that she was present at the residence and had knowledge of the abuse, malnourishment and neglect, arrest records said.
This is not the family’s first encounter with child and family services.
In 2020, officials were called to the Franke home after one son said on YouTube that he had been forced for seven months to sleep on a beanbag chair as punishment for an infraction.
His parents told reporters that the matter had been taken out of context.