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Ruby Franke: the parenting guru and mummy blogger jailed for child abuse

Ruby Franke (Instagram)
Ruby Franke (Instagram)

On Tuesday 20 February, Ruby Franke stood before the court tearfully apologising as she was sentenced to prison. “I was so disoriented that I believed dark was light and right was wrong,” she said. The 42-year-old American mummy vlogger has been making headlines not for her parenting advice but for child abuse.

In a dramatic fall from grace, Franke went from parenting guru to facing more than 30 years in prison for aggravated child abuse. 

Franke gained YouTube fame in 2015, amassing over two million followers as she documented her dreamy suburban life in Springville Utah on her channel, 8 Passengers. The mummy vlogger often boasted of her strict parental style, described by the prosecutor as “concentration camp-like.”

The channel featured her husband Kevin Franke and their children: Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell, and Eve. Franke shot to popularity and became somewhat of a local celebrity.

“Live in the present and just enjoy the kids,” she told her local news at the time.

The YouTube page no longer exists but, in its place, you’ll find hundreds of videos of creators reacting to and speaking about the mummy vlogger, branding her as “toxic” and “disturbing.”

Ruby Franke pleaded guilty to child abuse (AP)
Ruby Franke pleaded guilty to child abuse (AP)

Cruel punishments and authoritarian parenting

Franke’s content was mostly typical. She posted videos on home-schooling, cooking and other mundane daily activities.  But, dormant among her viewers were those that suspected her unconventional parenting methods to be cruel and controversial.

Frank’s strict disciplinary measures, which included withholding food, sending her son to wilderness camp and threatening to behead a stuffed toy were quickly picked up on by several of her viewers.

In one video, Franke tells her sons they would "lose the privilege to eat dinner" if they continued play-fighting. She is seen telling her six-year-old daughter that she "needed" to go hungry after forgetting to take her lunch to school.

"Hopefully nobody gives her food, and nobody steps in and gives her a lunch, because then she's not going to learn," she said.

In June 2020, what many of her viewers suspected about Franke would come to light. She made headlines after it was revealed her 15-year-old son had been sleeping on a beanbag for seven months for playing a prank on his younger brother. He had lost his bedroom privileges Franke said.

Her viewers didn’t see this unusually cruel punishment as fitting of her son’s ultimately harmless actions. Outraged, they notified the Child Protective Services and a Change.org petition was circulated around, urging CPS to investigate.

It ultimately led to nowhere. Franke staunchly defended her actions claiming to Insider her son was fine with the sleeping conditions.

“They were purely seeking to throw hate. That was their only objective. A reasonable person would not have seen that video and thought: 'She is a child abuser,’” she said.

A letter from the Department for Children, Schools and Families stated the claims made against Franke were unsupported. The case was closed.

The fall of the mummy vlogger

The beanbag incident would be what unravelled the rest of Franke’s seemingly perfect life. Her husband left, reportedly filing for divorce and she began posting less on the family site.

In 2022 she joined a new YouTube channel called ConneXions, in partnership with Jodi Nan Hildebrandt, a disgraced health counsellor who also faced similar charges. The two women began working together, offering parenting seminars and sharing their contentious views under their “Moms of Truth” Instagram page, which drew lots of heavy criticism.

Franke remained a public enemy and many of her previous videos showing her harsh disciplinary actions resurfaced as haunting reminders of what was happening behind those doors.

Her joining the YouTube channel with Hildebrandt ended with failure after a now-deleted video they posted in December 2022 revealed them discussing the “concept of love” in children. They argued that children allegedly don’t show unconditional love.

“If my child will only love me if I give them what they want, then that’s not really love, is it,” she said.

In August 2023, Hildebrandt’s neighbours made a 911 call after Franke’s 12-year-old son knocked on his door asking for help. The child was left “malnourished” and “emaciated” and had “duct tape around the extremities,” the neighbour witnessed.

Franke’s 10-year-old daughter was found in “similar physical condition of malnourishment,” the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety later revealed in a statement. The DCSF remove the rest of the children into the care of agency.

Ruby Franke's sister insists family did 'as much as we could' before YouTuber mom's child abuse arrest (Instagram / moms_of_truth)
Ruby Franke's sister insists family did 'as much as we could' before YouTuber mom's child abuse arrest (Instagram / moms_of_truth)

‘Arrest needed to happen’

“Finally,” Franke’s 20-year-old wrote on an Instagram post after her mother’s arrest. “Today has been a big day. Me and my family are so glad justice is being served. We've been trying to tell the police and CPS for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up."

Sharing the same sentiment, Franke’s sisters, Ellie Mecham, Julie Griffiths Deru and Bonnie Hoellein, said her arrest “needed to happen.”

“For the last 3 years we have kept quiet on the subject of our sister Ruby Franke for the sake of her children,” the sisters wrote in a joint statement.

“Behind the public scene we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe.

“We wouldn't feel right about moving forward with regular content without addressing the most recent events. Once we do, we will not be commenting on it further. 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.”

‘With my deepest regret... guilty ‘

In a last minute ditch to save herself, Franke shifted the blame on Hildebrandt claiming her influence had led her to make those judgements.

“Initially, Ms. Franke believed that Jodi Hildebrant had the insight to offer a path to continual improvement. Ms. Hildebrant took advantage of this quest and twisted it into something heinous," Franke’s attorneys’ reportedly told Fox 13 in a statement.

The attorney added that Hildebrant "systematically isolated Ruby Franke from her extended family, older children, and her husband, Kevin Franke. This prolonged isolation resulted in Ms. Franke being subjected to a distorted sense of morality, shaped by Ms. Hildebrandt’s influence.”

Not long after, Franke stood before the judge and pleaded guilty on all four counts of aggravated child abuse. Her years of physical and emotional abuse against her children were finally outed. Her trial revealed how she physically tormented her children, committing horrifying acts like smothering her son, holding his head under water and kicking him with boot.

“With my deepest regret, and sorrow for my family and my children — guilty,” she said before the judge.