The Signal

Serving the College since 1885

Wednesday September 27th

YouTube mommy vlogger Ruby Franke arrested and charged for child abuse

<p><em>Ruby Franke was behind the now-deleted YouTube channel 8 Passengers, where she shared vlogs featuring her now ex-husband Kevin and their six children to nearly 2.5 million subscribers (Photo courtesy of </em><a href="" target=""><em>IMDb</em></a><em>).</em></p>

Ruby Franke was behind the now-deleted YouTube channel 8 Passengers, where she shared vlogs featuring her now ex-husband Kevin and their six children to nearly 2.5 million subscribers (Photo courtesy of IMDb).

By Alena Bitonti and Lauren Felten

Internet star Ruby Franke from the 8 Passengers Youtube channel, along with business partner Jodi Hildebrant, were arrested last month in Irvins, Utah. Franke was behind the now-deleted YouTube channel where she shared vlogs featuring her now ex-husband Kevin and their six children. The channel amassed nearly 2.5 million subscribers before its deletion. 

On Aug. 30, a neighbor of Hildebrant’s called 911 to report a 12-year-old boy who came to his house looking for food and water. 

“He’s emaciated, he’s got tape around his legs. He’s hungry and he’s thirsty,” the neighbor told police in the call. The boy was Franke’s youngest son, who escaped from Hildebrant’s home and was discovered with open wounds and duct tape on his ankles and wrists. Franke’s youngest daughter, 10, was also found in a nearby home in similar conditions.

The children received medical attention and have been taken into state care, along with two other minor siblings. These events led to the subsequent arrest of Franke and Hildebrant.

8 Passengers is just one of the larger channels included in the “mommy vlogger” trend that has exponentially grown in the past decade. These channels often gain popularity because they seem to represent the perfect family, but they more accurately depict an unattainable American ideal with a large, well-behaved and “pure” household, often with traditional Christian values. 

In more recent years, viewers of the 8 Passengers channel have been calling out the Franke family for their poor parenting tactics shown in public videos. This includes making their then-15-year-old son Chad sleep on a bean bag for a year after playing a harmless prank on his younger brother and refusing to bring their then-6-year-old daughter’s lunch to school because the child forgot to pack it. 

In June 2022, Ms. Franke began working for the ConneXions Classroom, a mental health life-coaching company founded by author and life coach Jodi Hildebrant. The group has received considerable backlash for their beliefs, which prioritize three “principles of truth” over the overall well-being and safety of children. The three principles are honesty, responsibility and humility. Any child who does not exhibit these traits is “living in distortion,” according to the group. 

Ms. Franke frequently created videos on the now-deleted @moms_of_truth Instagram page (previously @8passengers until June 2022) alongside Hildebrant in order to provide relationship and parenting advice.

The Frankes’ eldest daughter, Shari, has since ended all communication with her immediate family and has publicly shared her disapproval with the harsh beliefs of her mother and the ConneXions group. The Franke parents (and the Franke children, involuntarily) cut off all communication with their extended family three years ago. This includes Ms. Franke’s sisters and fellow YouTube stars Ellie Mecham, Julie Deru and Bonnie Hoellein.

Ms. Franke had her first court hearing on Sept. 8, 2023, after being charged with six felony counts of child abuse. She and Hildebrant were both ordered to be held without bail. 

Ms. Franke made shocking claims as she virtually attended the court hearing. She alleged that one of her children had been sexually abusing a younger sibling for several years, and that the two of them began to abuse others, including neighbors and cousins. She claimed that her child confessed to sexually abusing 20 people, but provided no proof for any of these allegations.

Mr. Franke has been working behind the scenes to regain custody of his younger children (four out of the six are minors). Many have noted that Mr. Franke was aware and involved in the harsh parenting of Ms. Franke, shown on the 8 Passengers YouTube channel, and have come to the conclusion that he is no longer fit to care for his children. Mr. Franke’s attorney, Randy Kester, has stated that his client was not present or aware of the alleged child abuse Ruby has been charged with.

Ms. Franke’s sisters, Mecham, Deru and Hoellein, are also full-time YouTube vloggers and social media influencers. They had allegedly been working for years, alongside Franke’s eldest daughter Shari, to alert Child Protective Services and help the children. 

Mecham, Deru and Hoellein posted a joint statement via Instagram the day following their sister’s arrest. 

“For the last 3 years we have kept quiet on the subject of our sister Ruby Franke for the sake of her children,” the statement read. “Behind the public scene we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe.”

The sisters concluded by writing, “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.”

Deru and Hoellein have since spoken out again via their respective YouTube channels. In a nearly-10-minute video, Hoellein states, “What my family and I have gone through the last couple of weeks is the worst thing that has ever happened to us… We did not know what they were doing because, like we said, we were cut off.” 

Ms. Franke’s distressing behavior was also addressed in Deru’s video

“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.” Deru shared the same sentiment as her sister, saying, “We are in complete shock still, as to what she had done.”

Ms. Franke’s next court hearing is currently scheduled for Sept. 21.


Most Recent Issue

Issuu Preview