A Utah mother who chronicled her strict parenting style on YouTube and other social media channels was arrested on suspicion of aggravated child abuse on Wednesday after a child was found malnourished with open wounds and duct tape on their extremities, officials said.
Ruby Franke and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt were arrested in Ivins, a city in southern Utah. Ms. Franke hosted the now defunct YouTube channel “8 Passengers,” where she posted videos about her parenting approach with her six children, including refusing them food as a form of punishment.
The Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department said in a statement that it had received a report about a child who appeared to be emaciated and malnourished and was asking for food and water. The child had duct tape on their ankles and wrists, as well as open wounds.
The police responded to a nearby home and found another child in similar condition. Both children were taken to a hospital.
The police contacted the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, and a total of four children were taken into its care.
Both Ms. Franke and Ms. Hildebrandt were arrested on suspicion of two counts of aggravated child abuse, though charges have not yet been filed, according to court records. A judge on Thursday denied bail for both Ms. Franke and Ms. Hildebrandt because of “the severity of the injuries of her two kids located in the home,” according to The Associated Press.
At one point, Ms. Franke had nearly 2.5 million subscribers to her channel, following the lives of her six children: Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell and Eve. In 2020, Chad Franke, then 15, told YouTube viewers in one family video that he had been sleeping on a beanbag for months and that he had lost his bedroom after playing a prank on his little brother, according to Insider.
In one video recorded by Ms. Franke and reposted to TikTok, she said her daughter Eve’s teacher had called her to say Eve had come to school without a lunch. Ms. Franke said the teacher was “uncomfortable with her being hungry” but that Eve was responsible for making her own lunch, and that “the natural outcome is she is just going to be hungry.”
“Hopefully nobody gives her food, and nobody steps in and gives her a lunch, because then she’s not going to learn from it,” Ms. Franke said.
The YouTube channel appears to have been taken down. A request for comment from Google, YouTube’s parent company, was not immediately answered.
Ms. Franke now appears on social media channels on behalf of Ms. Hildebrandt’s counseling business, ConneXions Classroom, which on its website claims to empower people by “educating them with principles of truth (learning to be honest, responsible, and humble).”
The two appeared frequently together on an Instagram account called “Moms of Truth.”
It was not immediately clear who was representing Ms. Franke or Ms. Hildebrandt. A lawyer for Mr. Franke did not immediately return a request for comment.
Shari Franke, now a junior at Brigham Young University, posted about her mother’s arrest on Instagram, saying “justice is being served.”
“We’ve been trying to tell the police and C.P.S. for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up,” she wrote, referring to the Division of Child and Family Services. “Kids are safe, but there’s a long road ahead.”
She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Elle Mechem, Julie Griffiths Deru and Bonnie Hoellein, who claimed on Instagram to be Ms. Franke’s sisters, said in a statement on Thursday that they had done “everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe” over the past three years. The sisters also document their own family lives on social media.
“Ruby was arrested which needed to happen. Jodi was arrested which needed to happen,” the statement said. “The kids are now safe, which is the number one priority.”