Ruby Franke Case Explained: YouTuber’s Child Abuse & Religious Extremism Story


ruby franke

Utah Influencer Ruby Franke’s Child Abuse Case Shocks the Nation

Ruby Franke, a former YouTuber who gained fame for her parenting advice videos, has become a household name for a much darker reason. In August 2023, Franke and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, were arrested on charges of child abuse.  New details released by prosecutors paint a disturbing picture of religious extremism motivating the horrific abuse of Franke’s two youngest children.


From Picture-Perfect Family to Unthinkable Abuse


Franke’s online persona painted a picture-perfect family life. Through her immensely popular YouTube channel, “8 Passengers,” she shared the adventures of her six children, attracting millions of viewers. However, beneath this façade, a sinister truth lurked in the shadows.

While the world saw the cheerful and adventurous moments captured in Franke’s videos, behind the scenes, a dark and disturbing reality unfolded. The seemingly idyllic family life portrayed online was far from the truth.


Escape and Revelation


In August 2023, a harrowing escape brought the horrific abuse Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt inflicted on Franke’s children to light. Franke’s 12-year-old son, his body bearing the unmistakable signs of neglect, mustered the strength to flee their Ivins, Utah, home. Emaciated and wounded, he reached a neighbor’s doorstep, a desperate plea for help that shattered the facade of the family Franke presented online.

This act of courage triggered a police investigation that unveiled the appalling reality the children had endured for months. Evidence revealed a systematic campaign of abuse. The children were:

  • Starved: Deprived of adequate food and water, they likely suffered from malnutrition and dehydration. Imagine the gnawing hunger, the constant thirst, the physical weakness that accompanies such deprivation.
  • Forced into Labor: Instead of playing and learning, the children were likely forced to perform grueling tasks, both inside and outside the home. This could have included heavy lifting, excessive chores, or yard work in the scorching Utah heat.
  • Isolated: Cut off from social interaction and support systems, the children were likely kept in a state of fear and loneliness. Imagine the emotional toll of being denied connection with others, the feeling of helplessness and despair.

The details surrounding the abuse remain disturbingly unclear. How severe was the starvation? What kind of forced labor were they subjected to? For how long did this isolation last? The investigation may shed light on these specific details, but the overall picture is undeniably bleak.


Religious Extremism: A Disturbing Motive


Prosecutors in the Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt case paint a chilling picture of religious extremism as the driving force behind the horrific abuse inflicted on Franke’s children. While both women claimed affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the church has vehemently distanced itself from their actions, emphasizing that their teachings do not endorse such cruelty.

The key evidence lies in Franke’s journal, a disturbing document filled with “extremist religious rhetoric.” Here, we see a fundamental distortion of faith twisted into a justification for abuse. Franke appears to have believed her children were possessed by demons, a notion far removed from mainstream LDS beliefs. This warped perception fueled her conviction that the children required harsh treatment – a twisted form of “repentance” – to purge them of these supposed demonic influences.

Here’s a deeper dive into the potential issues at play:

  • Misinterpreting Religious Text: Extreme interpretations of religious scripture can lead to dangerous justifications for violence and abuse. Franke’s warped understanding of demonic possession and the need for “repentance” suggests a possible selective reading or manipulation of religious texts.
  • Cult-like Mentality: The details of the case raise questions about the potential influence of a cult or extremist religious group. Were Franke and Hildebrandt involved in a fringe sect promoting these dangerous interpretations? The investigation may shed light on any external influences.
  • Mental Health Factors: While religious extremism appears to be a central factor, it’s crucial to consider if mental health issues also played a role. Franke’s distorted beliefs and justifications could point towards underlying psychological problems that further fueled the abuse.

The LDS Church has a strong stance against child abuse and emphasizes the importance of protecting children. They have condemned Franke and Hildebrandt’s actions, highlighting the stark contrast between their beliefs and the abuse inflicted.


Justice Served, But Scars Remain


Both Franke and Hildebrandt pleaded guilty to child abuse charges and were sentenced to prison.  However, the physical and emotional scars inflicted on the children will likely last a lifetime.  This case serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of religious extremism and the importance of online vigilance, particularly regarding content portraying seemingly perfect family lives.


Search for Answers


The Ruby Franke case leaves a trail of unanswered questions and shattered trust, exposing the dark underbelly of online personas and the insidious nature of religious extremism. Here’s a deeper look at the lingering issues:

Depth of Extremism: A crucial question is how deeply entrenched Franke’s extremist beliefs were. Did these views evolve gradually, or was there a sudden shift? Examining her online activity, past social media posts, or communication with others involved in her life might reveal a timeline of her descent. Understanding the depth of these beliefs is crucial to assess the risk of similar situations and identify potential red flags.

Missed Signs of Abuse: The case compels us to examine if anyone suspected the abuse. Did Franke’s online portrayal of a happy family mask warning signs? Neighbors, relatives, or even school officials might have noticed inconsistencies in her online persona and the children’s well-being. This raises questions about the effectiveness of existing support systems in identifying and reporting potential child abuse.

Long-Term Damage: The physical and emotional scars inflicted on the children are undeniable. Recovery from such abuse is a long and arduous process. The investigation may shed light on the extent of the damage, but the children will likely grapple with the trauma for years to come. This case highlights the critical need for specialized support services for victims of child abuse.

Fractured Trust and Online Facades: Franke’s online platform, once a curated image of a perfect family, now stands as a chilling reminder of the potential for abuse behind online personas. This case raises concerns about the lack of transparency and potential manipulation on social media. It emphasizes the importance of critical thinking when consuming online content, particularly portrayals of seemingly ideal family lives.

Moving Forward: The Ruby Franke case serves as a wake-up call. It highlights the need for vigilance in protecting children, fostering open communication within religious communities, and identifying signs of religious extremism. Furthermore, it underscores the importance of strengthening support systems for victims of abuse and promoting responsible online content creation. By learning from this tragedy, we can work towards creating safer environments for children and fostering healthier online communities.

A Timeline of the Ruby Franke Case: From Picture-Perfect Family to Unmasking the Abuse

The Ruby Franke case, a shocking story of child abuse disguised behind a facade of online family bliss, unfolded over a period of months before finally coming to light in August 2023. Here’s a closer look at the key events:


Before August 2023:


Building a Family Online: Ruby Franke, a Utah mother of six, establishes a popular YouTube channel called “8 Passengers.” The channel documents their seemingly idyllic family life, garnering millions of views and portraying a picture of happiness and togetherness.

Concerns Emerge: While Franke cultivates a positive online image, questions arise about her parenting methods. In 2020, a video showing one of her sons forced to sleep on a beanbag for months as punishment sparks outrage and prompts a visit from child protective services (CPS). However, the investigation is reportedly closed due to “unsupported claims.”


August 2023:


Escape and Revelation: In a pivotal moment, Franke’s 12-year-old son, emaciated and wounded, escapes their Ivins, Utah, home. He seeks help from a neighbor, revealing the horrific abuse he and his younger sister have endured. This brave act triggers a police investigation.

Unveiling the Abuse: Police investigate the Franke residence and find evidence of maltreatment. Witness statements, body camera footage, and a chilling discovery – Ruby Franke’s personal journal – paint a disturbing picture. The journal entries allegedly reveal a twisted interpretation of faith used to justify the abuse.

Arrest and Charges: Based on the investigation, Ruby Franke and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, are arrested on charges of aggravated child abuse.


Following the Arrests:


Public Outcry: News of the case breaks, sparking public outrage and disbelief. People struggle to reconcile the happy family image portrayed online with the horrific reality of the abuse.

Religious Affiliation and Condemnation: Franke and Hildebrandt claim affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). However, the church vehemently condemns their actions, emphasizing their teachings do not condone such abuse.

Court Proceedings: In December 2023, both Franke and Hildebrandt plead guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse.

Sentencing and Aftermath: February 2024 sees them sentenced to lengthy prison terms. However, the emotional and physical scars inflicted on the children remain a harsh reality.


Present Day:

Release of Records: Prosecutors release a trove of evidence, including police reports, body camera footage, and excerpts from Franke’s journal, offering a deeper understanding of the case and the motives behind the abuse.

Case Remains a Cautionary Tale: The Ruby Franke case continues to serve as a stark reminder of the dangers of online facades, religious extremism, and the importance of vigilance in protecting children. It highlights the need for open communication, responsible online content creation, and robust support systems to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the key events that unfolded in the Ruby Franke case.  While the legal proceedings are over, the case continues to raise critical questions about the impact of social media, the influence of religious extremism, and the importance of protecting vulnerable children.

Additional Resources:

Utah Child Abuse Laws 

Warning Signs of Child Abuse


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What forms of abuse did Ruby Franke’s children endure?


Franke’s children endured a range of abuse, including neglect, physical labor, and emotional manipulation, highlighting the severity of the mistreatment.

How did religious extremism influence the abuse?


Franke’s extreme religious beliefs played a significant role in justifying and perpetuating the abuse inflicted upon her children, as evidenced by her journal entries.

How did law enforcement intervene in the case?


Responding to the son’s escape, authorities swiftly intervened, rescuing the children and initiating legal proceedings against the perpetrators.

What were the legal consequences faced by Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt?


Both Franke and Hildebrandt received prison sentences after pleading guilty to multiple counts of aggravated child abuse, marking a significant step towards justice.

What lessons can we learn from this tragic case?


Franke’s case underscores the importance of vigilance and accountability in safeguarding vulnerable individuals and preventing abuse, urging for collective action to address systemic issues.