September 05, 2023
Ruby Franke, known for her online presence under the "8 Passengers" channel, has been a controversial figure in the YouTube sphere for many years now, with her controversial parenting advise often sparking debate and criticism online. "8 Passengers," a Utah-based family YouTube channel created in 2015, boasting millions of subscribers, was home to hundreds of vlog-style family videos in which Frankie discussed the personal details of family life through a traditional and spiritual lens. The channel starred Ruby Franke, as well as her husband, Kevin Franke, and their children Chad, Russell, Shari, Eve, Abby, and Julie.
Viewers watched the Franke children grow up before their eyes, and although often monotonous, now, and again the blog showed the family hitting milestones, the children learning and experiencing new things for the first time, and most controversially- the children being punished for what many subscribers considered minor infractions, with the punishments more often than not, heavily outweighing the crimes.
In a now deleted video titled: "What we haven’t told you," Franke revealed to the viewers that her oldest son (who was 15 years old at the time) had not had a bedroom, nor a bed, to sleep in for several months as a form of punishment for a prank he pulled on his younger brother (then 8 years old). The son told subscribers that he had been sleeping on a bean bag chair on the living room floor as a punishment for pranking his younger brother about going to Disneyland when that was not the case. The video received so much backlash that it was eventually taken down.
The children’s cell phones had also been confiscated as punishment for such lengthy stints, that the children admitted they weren’t able to maintain friendships because of it, and as a result had no friends.
Franke was also heavily criticized for allowing her then 6-year-old daughter to go hungry at school, as a punishment for the child forgetting to pack her own lunch in the morning. Teachers contacted Franke to ask her to make sure her child had food to eat while at school, to which Franke argued that it was a punishment, and that the teacher would just have to "be uncomfortable" with it. She also added that she hoped no one gave her food.
The question of children’s involvement in content without their consent is a big topic of debate online, and never is the subject more discussed when it comes to the personal moments and meltdowns of YouTube kids who put up resistance to vlogging cameras being thrust in their face during moments of upset.
Franke eventually stopped posting family vlogs and began working for ConneXions, a company fronted by her friend and business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt. On Hilderbrandt’s social media profiles and website she introduces herself as a “mental fitness and relationship expert.” Her introduction on the ConneXtions website states:
“My style is compassionate yet direct and clear, of what is necessary to fully change, and champion any addictive or self-destructive behavior, whether it be ravenous addictions, feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy, conflicts in relationships, intimacy problems, communication breakdowns, and frankly any block that prevents having and creating peace and joy. I have counselled thousands of individuals and families of all ages and situations with my unique style of educating about the power of choice and the need for impeccable honesty, rigorous responsibility, and vulnerable humility the which have empowered souls to heal and grow.”
According to Hilderbrant’s own website, she received a Bachelor's of Art degree in English with her graduate work in Educational Psychology, eventually earning a Master's of Science. She writes that she worked at the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, Cirque Lodge, before starting ConneXions.
The 8 Passengers YouTube Channel has been taken down this week following Franke’s recent arrest. Franke also shared a joint YouTube channel with Hildebrandt, who was also arrested on child abuse charges.
The pair hosted a podcast together, also called ConneXions, this channel has also been removed from the platform and Franke is prohibited from creating any new channels in the future.
The arrest came after a 12-year-old child who appeared severely malnourished and with injuries, escaped Jodi Hildebrandt’s home in Ivins, Utah and knocked on a neighbors door asking for food and water. The child had reportedly escaped from a window and crawled to the nearest property for help. He had been duct taped at the wrists and injuries to his body indicated that he had been bound or tied up. The event happened at around 11pm on the night of August 30, 2023.
Police arrived at the scene and located the child’s home, where they found another malnourished child inside, a 12-year-old girl, who displayed similar injuries with open wounds and duct taped extremities.
The probable cause statement regarding Ruby Franke’s arrest states that both Franke and Hildebrandt had been filmed two days prior to the arrest in Hilderbrandt's basement. Since the lacerations to the child from being tied up were deep, it was presumed the child had been restrained for a long period of time. The probable cause statement also described the child’s malnourishment and injuries as "severe."
When questioned about Hildebrandt’s residence, neighbors admitted that they weren’t familiar with the owner, and that all they knew of her was that she had partnered with a popular youtuber and the two seemed to be in business together.
Franke and Hilderbrandt were arrested on two counts of child abuse. Media outlets report that the division of child and family services took in a total of four minors following the incident.
Washington County officials have said that the charges, which include the physical abuse, emotional abuse and malnourishment of the child victims, could carry a sentence of 10 years and a fine of $10,000.
Franke's own sisters, who are also social media personalities, seemed to be in support of Franke and Hilderbrandt's arrests, releasing a statement in which they said the arrests "needed to happen" and that the "kids were now safe."
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