The Utah mother of six, who offered parenting advice through a popular YouTube channel called “8 Passengers,” appeared in her initial court appearance Friday on charges that she and the owner of a relationship counseling business abused her Abused and starved two small children.
Utah State Courts spokeswoman Tania Mashburn said the proceedings were delayed about 45 minutes due to technical difficulties after more than 1,300 people sought to log in to watch the virtual hearing.
Ruby Franke, 41, and Jody Hildebrandt, 54, were charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse after their arrest on Aug. 30 at Hildebrandt’s home in the southern Utah city of Ivins.
Both wore orange striped uniforms and appeared before Judge Eric Gentry via video from jail and spoke little. Their lawyers refused to read the charges and the women did not enter a plea.
Gentry ordered him to remain jailed without bail and scheduled his next hearing for Sept. 21. Their attorneys – Lamar Winward for Franke and Douglas Terry for Hildebrandt – said they were going to ask for a bail hearing.
Because of the intense interest in the case — including people calling in to hear the hearing — officials also allowed about 50 people in the courtroom, Mashburn said.
Charges were filed after Franke’s 12-year-old son ran away from Hildebrandt’s home and asked a neighbor to call the police, according to a 911 call released by the St. George Police Department.
The caller said the boy was thin and had duct tape tied around his ankles and wrists, but did not say why.
“I think he’s been taken into custody,” the caller said in his own voice. “He’s obviously full of wounds.”
As the dispatcher was asking questions, the boy said he did not know where his mother was and that his father was not in the area. The boy said two siblings, ages 10 and 14, were still at Hildebrandt’s house.
“He says everything is fine with them,” the caller told the dispatcher. “He says what happened to him is his fault.”
While waiting for police and paramedics, the caller expressed concern that Hildebrandt might come looking for the boy.
Prosecutors allege that the women either tortured or allowed someone to torture Franke’s son and injured his 10-year-old daughter. Court records say both children were starved and emotionally harmed. It is unclear why the children were at Hildebrandt’s home.
Police said the 12- and 10-year-old children were taken to the hospital. She and Franke’s two other children were taken into the custody of Child Protective Services.
Franke was known for sharing his family’s life on his video blog.
The 1,300 people attending the virtual hearing included people livestreaming on TikTok and providing real-time commentary, an example of the fascination with the case in online communities, where Franke was already a divisive figure before her arrest.
The Frank family was criticized for their parenting decisions, including restricting their eldest son to his bedroom for seven months for pranking his younger brother. In one video, Ruby Franke talks about refusing to take lunch to a kindergartner who forgot it at home. Another showed him threatening to decapitate a young girl to punish her for cutting things in the house.
In a video, Franke said she and her husband told their two youngest children that they would not receive gifts from Santa Claus because they were selfish and not responding to punishments such as being kept home from school and scrubbing the floorboards. Were.
“That’s because they’re so numb, and the more numb your child is, the bigger response is required to wake them up,” Franke said in a video.
Some critics started an online petition asking child protective services to get involved. Franke’s eldest daughter, Sherry Franke, has cut ties with her parents, she said in a social media post. This YouTube channel, which started in 2015, ended after seven years.
Police records from Springville, Utah – where the Franke family lived – show that Sherry Franke called police on September 18, 2022, to report that her siblings had been left home alone for several days. The police also talked to the neighbors, but could not contact the children. According to the police report, a report was made to Child and Family Services.
Records show officers stayed at the home four times from September 22 to October 3.
Hildebrandt owns a consulting business called ConneXions. The business’s website said Franke provides content for social media and podcasts. The Connexions video featuring Hildebrandt and Franke was removed from YouTube after the women were accused.
The state of Utah began efforts to “take appropriate action” on Hildebrandt’s clinical mental health counseling license after her arrest, said Melanie Hall, a spokeswoman for the Commerce Department, which includes the state’s occupational licensing division. If someone facing professional discipline refuses to surrender their license, they are given an opportunity to respond and may have a hearing, he said.
The agency is working with the Attorney General’s Office about possibly holding an emergency licensing board hearing in Hildebrandt’s case, Hall said.
This story was originally published by court tv,