8 Passengers Mom Ruby Franke Arrested On Charges of Aggravated Child Abuse
Ruby Franke, founder of the former popular YouTube vlogging channel 8 Passengers, has been arrested on two counts of aggravated child abuse. Ruby's business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, was arrested alongside her, also on two counts of aggravated child abuse. This would mark the second time that Ruby has been investigated for claims of child abuse, though this is the first time an arrest has been made. In 2020, the family was investigated by CPS after viewers became concerned by several vlogs on the 8 Passengers channel that depicted Ruby taking away her son's room and bed for seven months as a punishment and making her kindergarten daughter go hungry for forgetting her lunch at home one day.
While the initial CPS investigation was closed due to lack of evidence and the family temporarily went back to vlogging, things have grown increasingly concerning in recent years. In late 2021, 8 Passengers vlogs started becoming less frequent after years of posting daily vlogs. Soon, Ruby revealed that she was stepping away from vlogging because she had found a new passion in ConneXions with Hildebrandt. ConneXions was founded by Hildebrandt and described as a "curriculum" that "helps treat those lost and stranded in the darkness of distortion–which addictions, fear, sadness, and all other self-destructive behaviors derive from."
The company has formulated courses, podcasts, and conferences to teach its principles on distortion. However, Ruby and Hildebrandt were concerningly describing themselves as life coaches, counselors, or mental health experts, despite Ruby having no qualifications to be offering mental health advice or counseling. Additionally, while Hildebrandt was a licensed therapist, she once had her license put on probation for blackmailing a patient and disclosing sensitive patient information. Concern was warranted, as Ruby and Hildebrandt soon began expressing very extreme views through ConneXions, including spreading homophobia and recommending parents resort to extreme punishments for their children. Now, the pair are facing charges of aggravated child abuse, likely for practicing what they were preaching.
Ruby Franke's and Jodi Hildebrandt's arrest explained
While the 8 Passengers channel was deleted recently, and Ruby no longer posts personal updates, users following her estranged daughter, Shari, became aware of possible police presence at the home late on August 30. Shari posted an Instagram Story of law enforcement officers standing outside of what appeared to be Ruby's home. An armed officer could be glimpsed in the photo, as well as a police van, with more police vans visible parked all along the street. Shari captioned the photo simply, "Finally."
Redditors found on PulsePoint that a call for mutual aid had been placed for the Franke's home, as well, which reportedly lasted for two hours. Meanwhile, Fox 13 News began reporting live that police had been called to the home to check up on two children. Ruby reportedly was heading to St. George due to a "family emergency" and had called a family friend to pick up two of her six children. The two children, two of her daughters, were reportedly found unharmed in American Fork, UT.
Fox 13 Now followed up with additional details about the circumstances of the arrest. Police were called to the home after one child escaped the house through a window and went to a neighbor asking for food and water. The child appeared severely malnourished and neglected and had duct tape on their wrists and ankles. After the police arrived, they found another severely malnourished child in the home, with both children being taken to the hospital. It appears it may have been Jodi's house where the children were found, but Ruby was present and aware of the abuse, malnourishment, and neglect.
According to the Washington County Sheriff's Office's website, Ruby was arrested on August 30, 2023, at 9:33 PM, while Hildebrandt was arrested 13 minutes earlier at 9:20. Both are currently listed as "In Custody" on two counts each of "Aggravated Child Abuse - Intentionally or Knowingly."
Soon after the arrests, Shari posted an official update on her Instagram Story. She revealed that she and, presumably, her extended family had been working with police and CPS for a long time about the alleged abuse happening in the home and that law enforcement finally acted on August 30. Most importantly, she confirmed that the children were safe. It is believed Ruby's four minor children, three daughters and a son, were living with her at the time of her arrest. It's unclear if her adult son was residing with her or not. While the children are safe, Shari noted they have a "long read ahead" and asked for respect for their privacy.
It appears that an investigation is ongoing, as Shari took to Instagram on August 31 asking her followers for help in finding evidence from 8 Passengers or ConneXions videos. She explained there was too much content to review herself and hoped that her followers could send her questionable or concerning content. Considering that concerned internet users on Discord and Reddit have been keeping tabs on the family for the past few years, there should be quite a bit of saved content. Unfortunately, it seems Ruby may have recognized that there was a case against her, as she deleted the entire 8 Passengers channel at the beginning of August, potentially to hide evidence. Shari later followed up they were looking more for ConneXions content. If any users screen recorded specific questionable content, it could aid in the investigation.
Ruby's sister, Ellie Mecham, released a statement addressing the arrest, as well. She tagged her other sisters, Bonnie Hoellein and Julie Deru, in the post, indicating it may be a collective statement from the family. She confirmed both arrests and the children's safety and indicated this would be their sole statement.
What led to Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt's arrest?
Many questions remain about the circumstances of the arrest. The biggest question that remains is where Kevin Franke is. Kevin is, or was, Ruby's husband who ran 8 Passengers with her. He was initially involved with her in ConneXions, though he abruptly disappeared from social media when Ruby delved further into the teachings. It has been rumored that he and Ruby divorced or separated and that he moved out with their oldest son. It was also rumored that Hildebrandt moved in with Ruby and the children after Kevin left.
So far, there are no reports or bookings to suggest that Kevin has been arrested. However, there is also no evidence that he was a part of Shari's efforts to save the children. Shari's most recent updates before the arrests indicated she was not in contact with Ruby or Kevin.
While none of the Franke family or extended family has given details on what was happening in the home, Ruby's and Hildebrandt's ConneXions teachings grew more and more disturbing over the years. The pair have exhibited homophobia, transphobia, racism, and ableism through their teachings, claiming that anyone who questions their gender or sexuality is living in distortion. In one particularly disturbing video, Hildebrandt tried to tell victims of sexual assault and rape that they were to blame for what happened to them.
Additionally, their parental advice has been nothing short of horrifying. In early 2022, Ruby and Kevin posted a video for ConneXions in which they gleefully described punishing their two youngest children, who were just 10 and 8 at the time, by pulling them out of school, forcing them to clean floors all day long, and giving them no presents for Christmas. They were being punished allegedly for being selfish and greedy, though it's unclear how such young children are expected not to act in that manner. Ruby also went on to disturbingly say that she was willing to do "anything" to force her children "to repent."
Ruby continued to enforce this view of resorting to extreme measures to get a child to conform. In one video, she claimed that a parent isn't responsible for their child's well-being, mental health, or happiness, and is just solely responsible for making them believe in god through whatever means necessary. She recommended making their life "unbearably small" by taking away all privileges from them and cutting them off from the outside world to make them obey you. In another video, she claimed that parents don't have to love their children unconditionally, but that children do have to love their parents unconditionally.
Multiple times Ruby and Hildebrandt insinuated that their children were evil, claiming that any regular child-like behaviors were actually calculated manipulation and "distortion" that required punishment. As sad as it sounds, the abuse hardly sounds surprising when Ruby and Hildebrandt consistently advocated for severely punishing children for every minor offense and even for no reason just because everything is "distortion" to them. It is a tragedy that the children had to suffer extreme abuse for an undetermined amount of time before being saved, even though concerned family members and internet users have been sounding the alarm and compiling evidence on this family for years.
As this story continues to develop, hopefully, justice will finally be served and the children will find a safe and loving home as they embark on this difficult road to recovery.