Ruby Franke’s arrest prompted by new video and photo evidence of her son

Mommy vlogger Ruby Franke excitedly holds a camera in one hand while her other hand lovingly wraps around her son. With a wide grin on his face, she joyfully reveals the elaborate multi-day celebration she has prepared for his 10th birthday.

In a video shared on her popular YouTube channel “8 Passengers” in 2021, Franke excitedly announces, “We’re going to celebrate his birthday all week!”

On August 30, 2023, Franke’s son makes a surprise visit to a house in the scenic Red Rock valley of Ivins, Utah. The house is located 250 miles away from their family home in Springville, Utah.

In the recently released Ring camera footage, which was obtained by ABC News, there is a noticeable contrast in the appearance of the boy compared to what was shown in the vlog. He appears significantly thinner and is not wearing any shoes. First responders who arrived at the scene described him as “stoic.”

The Washington County Attorney’s office released a video that serves as a crucial piece of evidence. It has been 30 days since Franke, along with her former friend, therapist, and business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, received sentences of up to 30 years in prison.

In December 2023, they had already admitted their guilt to four felony counts of second-degree, aggravated child abuse.

ABC News has identified the victims as Franke’s two youngest children, referred to as R, a 12-year-old boy who initially managed to escape from Hildebrandt’s extensive 10,000-square-foot residence in August, and E, a 9-year-old girl who was discovered in the same home later that day.

During the investigation, no evidence was discovered to suggest any physical abuse towards the two eldest children, Shari aged 21 and Chad aged 19. Shari and Chad had already left the family home, while the middle teenage daughters were still residing in Springville.

In 2020, there were still some concerns expressed by viewers of the “8 Passengers” channel regarding the well-being of the Franke children. The majority of the criticism was directed towards Ruby’s parenting style as portrayed online.

In May 2020, a petition was created on Change.org urging the Utah Division of Child and Family Services to investigate the welfare of the children. The petition highlighted punishments mentioned by Ruby in her videos, such as depriving her eldest son, Chad, of bedroom privileges and making him sleep on a bean bag chair for several months as a consequence for playing a prank on a sibling. This petition gained over 18,000 signatures.

However, it was later revealed that Ruby Franke and Hildebrandt’s actions during the summer of 2023 extended well beyond the boundaries of authoritative parenting.

According to Clarke, R experienced “physical long-term effects” as a result of the abuse, which was described by one prosecutor as one of the most severe emotional abuse cases they had ever handled.

In her journal, Franke recounts a birthday celebration for R in 2023 that was quite distinct from the sunny vlog she had posted in 2021.

In July 2023, Franke expresses, “It’s R’s birthday, and he isn’t even aware of the month.” She goes on to mention in a subsequent entry, “I advised R that he should seek solace in God. I extended an invitation to him to partake in fasting and prayer.”

On R’s birthday, the boy was awakened and promptly instructed to stand on the back patio, as shared by Deputy Washington County Attorney Zachary Weiland during an interview with “20/20”.

In a fresh episode of “20/20,” which will be broadcasted on March 22 and available for streaming on Hulu the following day, Juju Chang from ABC News presents a comprehensive account of the enduring emotional and physical abuse. This coverage marks the first detailed report since the story first came to light.

In Chang’s report, first responders and prosecutors provide detailed accounts of the evidence and their personal experiences from last summer and the subsequent months. They unanimously agree that R emerges as the hero of this remarkable story, emphasizing that his and E’s journey towards liberation commenced the moment he rang that neighbor’s doorbell.

The neighbor’s Ring camera video shows that R did not believe he was on the verge of being released. On the contrary, he anticipated being transported to jail.

Investigators informed “20/20” that their belief is that R asked for assistance not to receive help, but rather to fulfill the repentance process his mother and Hildebrandt instructed him to complete in order to absolve his sins.

According to Weiland, the kids were informed that they must first repent before being sent to jail.

During their conversation, Clarke informed Chang that both E and R were firmly convinced that they had committed horrendous acts.

In her journal, Franke characterizes the children as being “possessed” and labels the mistreatment they endured from her and Hildebrandt as an opportunity for them to seek redemption.

In July, investigators discovered that R had attempted to escape for the first time. Before making his getaway, Franke, in her journal, recounts that he took a moment to arrange small pebbles to spell out the word “Jail.” Alongside where he had been sleeping on the concrete, he left the message as a sign. Despite having to sleep outside, his determination to escape remained unyielding.

According to Weiland, this action demonstrates that R was not only convinced that he needed to be imprisoned but also that he believed the conditions in jail would be preferable to those at Hildebrandt’s home. A video captures the moment when a neighbor, who encountered R after his second escape, urgently calls 911 for assistance, while his wife steps in to provide R with water and a snack.

The body camera footage captures the moment when EMTs arrive at the scene and assess R for the first time.

Maddee Ickes, an EMT with Santa Clara-Ivins Fire and Rescue, recalled the moment she first saw him, saying, “When I first laid eyes on him, I immediately sensed that something was not right.”

R is being taken to the ambulance for treatment, and the body camera footage captures him lying on a gurney. He is dressed in a loose-fitting blue button-down shirt, with a baggie of pretzels placed by his side.

Santa Clara-Ivins Police Officer Simon Pikyavit stated that, during the interrogation, R revealed that his mother and Hildebrandt had restrained him by binding his arms and feet to weights on the ground, severely limiting his ability to move.

Officers discovered that R had been restrained with handcuffs on his wrists and ankles before the application of duct tape.

In the body camera footage, we witness the pivotal moment when Hildebrandt confidently swings open her spacious, wooden front door. Sporting a casual ensemble of shorts and a sweatshirt, she holds her phone up to her ear. As the encounter begins, her initial words to the police officers are, “I have my attorney on the phone.”

In the video, Hildebrandt’s demeanor appears notably different from her composed and polished online persona. She is the mastermind behind ConneXions, an online life coaching business that has unfortunately ceased operations. Through social media, the company shared publicly accessible videos and provided additional resources such as mental health workbooks that required a paid subscription.

Hildebrandt and Franke frequently appear together in numerous ConneXions videos, with one of their most notable collaborations being in the popular series titled “Moms of Truth with Jodi & Ruby.”

Hildebrandt and Franke are seen in these videos, sitting together on a couch, engaging in conversations about various topics such as parenting and providing self-help advice.

Officers entered the home without a warrant, claiming that there were urgent circumstances due to the tip from R, who stated that his siblings were still inside. They swiftly navigated through a complex layout of numerous bedrooms, bathrooms, and hallways.

After a few minutes, they stumble upon a child with a buzzcut, sitting comfortably on the wooden floor of an unoccupied closet.

“We initially believed there was a young boy sitting there,” Tobler shared with Juju Chang, “just staring up at us.”

The child refused to reveal their identity or explain how they ended up in Hildebrandt’s closet. In an attempt to identify the child, Tobler reached out to his colleague, Detective Jessica Bate, who was still with R.

During the interview with Juju Chang, Bate recalled how he inquired about R’s family. He asked, “Hey, do you have a little brother?” To which R responded, “No, I have a younger sister there.”

Officers made a startling discovery when they realized that the child hidden in the closet was none other than R’s sister, E. Known for her outspoken nature in the popular “8 Passengers” videos, E appeared quite different on the body camera footage. She appeared quiet and reserved, evoking a sense of fear and hesitancy as officers attempted to coax her out of her hiding spot on the floor.

In the body camera footage, we can see the first responders taking turns, each one attempting to coax her into getting up. However, it is Tobler’s words that manage to capture her attention: “I bet you like pizza.” E nods her head in agreement.

E was initially hesitant to eat, but she eventually mustered up the courage to devour an entire personal pizza and half of a large one. It wasn’t until four hours later that she finally emerged from the closet, accompanied by the EMTs.

According to ABC News, Weiland mentioned that a significant portion of the abuse experienced by E was emotional in nature. Initially, it was extremely challenging to engage in conversation with E.

As E is being transported to the hospital, Ruby Franke at last reaches the residence. Hildebrandt and Franke patiently wait in different rooms while law enforcement officers conclude their search. During the investigation, detectives discover handcuffs, ropes, and Franke’s journal within the house. However, Franke’s remaining two underage children, who are still missing at this stage, are not found.

The two girls were eventually found by the police, unharmed, four hours from Ivins, in American Fork, Utah. Pam Bodtcher, the president of ConneXions, was with them when they were located.

Bodtcher is not facing any charges related to this case, and the Springville Police confirm that she has fully cooperated with their investigation.

While officers complete their search in Ivins, Hildebrandt and Franke patiently await the outcome. Surprisingly, neither woman inquires about the well-being of the children during this time. Bate, confident that her team has gathered sufficient evidence, proceeds to arrest both Franke and Hildebrandt. They are then transported to the police station for further processing.

However, just a few hours before, another individual had made their way to that particular station, inquiring about the whereabouts of the children.

According to Bate, Kevin Franke arrived at the police department on the same day that Ruby Franke and Jodi were taken into custody, in search of his children.

Kevin Franke appears to be in a state of disbelief as he asks, “I’m sorry, what?”

Kevin Franke, investigators discover, had relocated from the family residence and had not had any contact with his wife or children for over a year. According to Franke, it was at the behest of Hildebrandt that Ruby Franke requested him to vacate the premises in July 2022.

The investigators swiftly concluded that Kevin Franke was not a suspect in this case.

According to Clarke, the lack of evidence quickly cleared him of any suspicion. “We had a journal documenting everything that occurred in the Hildebrandt home during the summer, and there was no mention of him being present,” Clarke explained.

Kevin Franke, after nearly seven months, is now trying to regain custody of his four minor children. Additionally, he has also filed for divorce.

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MBS Staff
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