Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

YouTuber Ruby Franke is expected to enter a plea agreement on Monday, her lawyer said, after being charged with six counts of child abuse in September.

Franke, 41, is due in court in Utah’s Washington County at 11 a.m. local time. The statement from Winward Law, the law firm representing Franke, did not elaborate on the details of the agreement.

“Our client is working with the prosecutor’s office and anticipates resolving this matter quickly by entering a plea agreement with the court on Monday, December 18th,” the firm said.

Franke, an influential YouTuber known for giving parenting advice, was arrested in Utah in late August after her malnourished son ran to a neighbor’s house asking for food and water, authorities said. Franke’s business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, 54, was also arrested and charged with child abuse. Both women were arrested at Hildebrandt’s house in Ivins, Utah, and are being held without bond.

Winward Law alleges Franke was “led astray” by Hildebrandt.

“Over an extended period, Ms. Hildebrant systematically isolated Ruby Franke from her extended family, older children, and her husband, Kevin Franke,” the firm said in its statement. “This prolonged isolation resulted in Ms. Franke being subjected to a distorted sense of morality, shaped by Ms. Hildebrandt’s influence.”

Douglas Terry, Jodi Hildebrandt’s attorney, declined to comment on Winward Law’s assertions.  

Prosecutors allege Franke and Hildebrandt either caused or allowed someone to torture Franke’s 12-year-old son and injure her 10-year-old daughter. Both children were starved and harmed emotionally, prosecutors said.  

According to an affidavit filed by an officer with the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department, Franke’s 12-year-old son climbed out of a window in Hildebrandt’s residence in Ivins and ran to a neighbor’s house on August 30 and asked for food and water.

The neighbor saw duct tape on the boy’s ankles and wrists and called the police, 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 state.

The boy told officers that “Jodi” put the ropes on his ankles and wrists and that they used cayenne pepper and honey to dress the wounds caused by the ropes, according to a search warrant filed that day. 

While cayenne pepper has long been an ingredient used for medicinal purposes, it should not be used on cracked skin or open wounds, according to Mount Sinai.

Franke’s daughter was later found malnourished in Hildebrandt’s house and was also taken to the hospital, officers said.

They along with two other of Franke’s children were taken into the custody of child protective services.

Franke’s YouTube channel “8 Passengers,” which followed her family of eight, had more than 2 million subscribers before it was taken down following her and Hildebrandt’s arrest.

Hildebrandt owns a counseling business called ConneXions. The business’ website said Franke provides content for social media and podcasts. ConneXions videos featuring Hildebrandt and Franke were removed from YouTube after the women were charged.  

The Franke family was criticized for their parenting decisions, including banning their oldest son from his bedroom for seven months for pranking his younger brother. In one video, Ruby Franke talked about refusing to take lunch to a kindergartener who forgot it at home. Another showed her threatening to cut the head off a young girl’s stuffed toy to punish her for cutting things in the house.

Kevin Franke has since filed for divorce. Winward Law said in a statement that while Ruby Franke is “devastated by this news, she acknowledges and understands his anger and reasoning.”

“Despite the pain, she respects his decisions and remains hopeful that, with time, she can contribute to rebuilding trust and fostering understanding within their family,” the firm said. “Ruby has offered her full cooperation to help the children reunite with their father.”

The Franke’s oldest daughter, Sherri Franke, cut ties with her parents, she has said in social media posts.

Police records from Springville, Utah — where the Franke family lived — show Sherri Franke called police on Sept. 18, 2022, to report her brothers and sisters had been left home alone for days. Police also spoke with neighbors, but were unable to contact the children. A report was made to Child and Family Services, according to the police report.

Records show officers stopped by the house four more times from Sept. 22 through Oct. 3.

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