Former family vlogger Ruby Franke, known for her YouTube channel “8 Passengers,” has been apprehended on aggravated child abuse charges in Springville, Utah. Alongside her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, co-founder of the parenting advice and counseling YouTube channel “ConneXions,” Franke was arrested at 9:33 p.m. yesterday. They both face two counts of second-degree aggravated child abuse, whether intentional or unknowing.
Ruby Franke gained nationwide attention due to concerns raised by viewers of the now-deleted “8 Passengers” YouTube channel, which she operated with her husband, Kevin Franke. The Mormon couple’s once-popular family vlogging account had nearly 2.5 million subscribers before it was removed from the platform. Speculations about mistreatment of their six children fueled controversy surrounding the channel.
The Frankes’ eldest daughter, Shari, had previously hinted at family issues on social media in 2022, fueling further online speculation. Following Wednesday’s arrest, she shared a photo on her Instagram story showing a police car outside a residence, captioned “finally.”
Who is Ruby Franke?
Ruby Franke is a Utah mother of six and a former prominent family vlogger on YouTube. She was a central figure in the “8 Passengers” YouTube channel, which once attracted millions of views and followers but faced widespread criticism for her parenting choices. The criticism intensified when Franke co-founded the “ConneXions” parenting advice and support program, which has been criticized online as resembling a “cult.” Many found the parenting style advocated by the pair to be overly strict, with the frequent inclusion of comments deemed homophobic, racist, and transphobic further damaging their reputation.
One particularly contentious statement made by Franke was her assertion that children do not deserve and should not receive unconditional love.
What is 8 Passengers?
“8 Passengers” was a YouTube channel initiated in 2015, chronicling the lives of parents Ruby and Kevin Franke and their six children: Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell, and Eve. At its peak, the channel boasted 2.5 million subscribers and was renowned as one of the most famous (or infamous) family video channels. However, the channel was removed from YouTube earlier this year, with Kevin continuing to post on a separate, less popular channel.
The Frankes’ content had attracted controversy for several years, but the last three years were particularly damaging as viewers began circulating petitions and reporting evidence of child abuse and neglect to local authorities. Notable incidents included Franke refusing to provide food to her 6-year-old daughter who had forgotten her lunch, one son claiming to be forced to sleep on a beanbag after pranking his siblings, and Christmas being taken away as punishment for a child’s perceived selfishness. In many instances, Franke was seen threatening to withhold food or employing punishments deemed excessively severe by viewers.
“8 Passengers” became emblematic for activists highlighting family vlogging channels that potentially left children unprotected and vulnerable to exploitation. In response, Illinois recently passed legislation aimed at introducing protections for minors appearing on their parents’ monetized social media.
Why was Ruby Franke arrested?
According to local affiliate Fox 13, arrest documents revealed that a child escaped from a residence belonging to Jodi Hildebrandt around 10:50 a.m., seeking food and water from a neighbor. The neighbor discovered duct tape on the child’s wrists and ankles and promptly alerted the police.
Upon police arrival, they encountered a child described as “severely emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds.” Subsequently, another malnourished child was discovered inside the home. During a search warrant execution, evidence consistent with the markings on the juvenile was found in the residence. The documents also indicated that Franke had been filming in the home days prior, implying her awareness of the children’s condition.
Ruby Franke is currently being held without bail at the Washington County Jail. Her eldest daughter, Shari, expressed relief and satisfaction with the arrest, stating that they had tried for years to alert the police and CPS about the situation. She also encouraged individuals with links or recordings of “questionable or concerning” videos from “8 Passengers” or “ConneXions” to share them on a Google doc compiled as evidence.