YouTuber who gave parenting advise online jailed for abusing her own kids

Tuesday, February 20, 2024
 – A mommy vlogger who attracted millions of YouTube subscribers by offering parenting advice has been jailed for horrifically abusing her own children.

Mum-of-six Ruby Franke was sentenced to four consecutive sentences of one to 15 years in prison on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 20, after pleading guilty to aggravated child abuse of two of her kids.

If she receives the maximum sentence, Franke faces 60 years in jail. The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole will determine the total number of years.

Franke admitted having carried out a cruel campaign of abuse against her two youngest children, who she convinced were evil and needed to be “punished” to repent. She tortured her son by forcing him to work outside in the scorching heat for so long his sunburn blistered. He and his sister were also denied food and water or offered very plain meals.

Franke and her former business partner, Connexions Classroom founder Jodi Hildebrandt, were arrested in August 2023 after one of her sons escaped Hildebrandt’s home and fled to a neighbour’s who called 911. The 12-year-old boy was emaciated and had duct tape around his ankles and wrists but wouldn’t say why, the caller reported.

“I think he’s been… he’s been detained,” the caller said. “He’s obviously covered in wounds.”

The boy and Franke’s daughter, who was also found at Hildebrandt’s house, were taken to the hospital. Eventually, Franke’s four youngest children were taken into state custody.

Franke and Hildebrandt were each charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse.

They have remained jailed since their arrests.

Both women pleaded guilty to four of the counts, which each carry a sentence of one to 15 years in prison.

Ahead of her sentencing, Franke broke down in tears as she stood and addressed Judge John Walton.

“I was led to believe this world was an evil place filled with church leaders that lie and molest… and children who need abuse,” she said.

“My choice to believe this led to criminal behavior.” Franke said she was sorry for “twisting God’s word and distorting his doctrines.”

“My greatest desire is to stand in his court someday spotless and confident and Judge Walton, I know that standing before you today is a necessary step towards that end,” she said.

“Thank you to you and your staff for facilitating my opportunity to take accountability and to answer for my charges.”

Franke continued that she was “humbled and willing to serve a prison sentence as long as it takes to continue unraveling all this information I have believed and bought, swallowed and acted out.”

She expressed desire for her family and the community to heal.

She said: “I understand this is going to take time. I am committed to continue my learning until all my toxic layers are shed and I am ready to re-enter as a contributing member of our beautiful society.”

Walton said the court found that “consecutive sentences are appropriate” and that Franke had 30 days to file an appeal.

Shortly after Franke’s sentencing, Hildebrandt was also sentenced to four consecutive terms of one to 15 years.

Hildebrandt before her sentencing said: “I sincerely loved these children. One of the reasons I didn’t go to trial is I didn’t want them to relive this.”

But the judge told Hildebrandt: “This circumstance is largely of your making. Your conduct was disastrous for these children. In this case, you terrorized children.”

The prosecution stated before the sentencing that “Miss Hildebrandt has shown no remorse. She continues to blame the children."

Franke’s husband Kevin Franke, who filed for divorce, said in a statement issued through his attorney ahead of the hearing he hoped the judge would order each sentence to run consecutively.

It said: "The treatment these children received at the hands of those whom the children had a right to trust, was horrific and inhumane, both physically and psychologically.

“Kevin remains focused on the rehabilitation of these sweet and vulnerable children so that they might return to a normal life as soon as possible.”

Under the plea agreement, Franke admitted torturing her son from May 22 through the summer until August 30 by forcing him into hours of physical tasks, summer work outdoors without adequate water and “repeated and serious sunburns” that blistered.

He was denied food or given very plain meals, and he was isolated from other people without access to books, notebooks or electronics. After he tried to run away in July, his hands and feet were regularly bound, sometimes with handcuffs. At times, ropes were used to tie the cuffs securing his hands and feet as he lay on his stomach, lifting his arms and legs off the ground and injuring his wrists and ankles, the plea agreement said.

Franke also admitted to kicking her son while wearing boots, holding his head underwater and smothering his mouth and nose with her hands.

“He was also told that everything that was being done to him were acts of love,” the agreement states.

Franke acknowledged similarly abusing her nine-year-old daughter by forcing her to work outside, run on dirt roads barefoot, and go without food and water.

“She was also repeatedly told she was evil and possessed, the punishments were necessary for her to be obedient and repent, and these things were being done to her in order to help her,” the agreement said.

The girl “was convinced” what her mother said was true, it notes.

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

One clip shows Franke discussing how she and her husband told their two youngest children that they would not be getting presents from Santa Claus one year because they had been selfish and weren’t responding to punishment like being kept home from school and cleaning the floorboards.

The YouTube channel, which started in 2015, ended after seven years.

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