A Utah mother of six who provides parenting advice on YouTube pleaded guilty to child abuse charges on Monday and will be sentenced to prison for attempting to convince her two youngest children that they were evil, possessed, and needed to be punished to repent.
Franke stood cuffed in gray and white jail garb, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath before pleading guilty to her first three charges. On the fourth, she fought back tears before declaring, “With my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and children, guilty.”
After accepting the plea agreement, Judge John J. Walton set a sentence for Feb. 20, describing additional allegations of the children’s mistreatment, including accusations that they were possessed. Franke consented to serve a prison sentence as part of the plea agreement, and the terms will run consecutively. The judge would be in charge of sentencing.
According to court records, Franke pleaded not guilty to two more counts and was released following the hearing.
Under Utah law, a person can be prosecuted with second-degree aggravated child abuse if they knowingly or intentionally inflict major bodily injury on a child or cause or authorize another to inflict serious physical injury on their kid. Each crime carries a jail penalty ranging from one to fifteen years.
According to a statement issued by Winward Law on Friday, the assault occurred while Franke was influenced by a relationship counselor who led her to a “distorted sense of morality.”
“Ruby Franke is a devoted mother and a woman dedicated to continuous improvement,” Winward Law stated in a statement. Franke first thought her co-defendant Jodi Hildebrandt “had the insight to offer a path to continual improvement,” but Hildebrandt “took advantage of this quest and twisted it into something heinous.”
Franke confesses in the plea deal that she tortured her son from May 22 to August 30 by subjecting him to hours of physical labor, summer work outside without appropriate water, and “repeated and serious sunburns” that blistered. He was refused food or given extremely simple meals, and he was secluded from the rest of the world, with no access to literature, journals, or devices.
After attempting to flee in July, his wrists and feet were frequently shackled, sometimes with handcuffs.
According to the plea agreement, ropes were used at times to tie together handcuffs that locked his hands and feet as he lay on his stomach, elevating his arms and legs off the ground and damaging his wrists and ankles.
“Acts of love”
According to the plea deal, Franke also admitted to kicking her kid while wearing boots, submerging his head in water, and suffocating his mouth and nose with her hands.
“He was also told that everything that was done to him was an act of love,” according to the agreement.
Franke admitted to similarly torturing her 9-year-old daughter by forcing her to work outside, run barefoot on dirt roads, and go without food and drink.
“She was also repeatedly told she was evil and possessed, the punishments were necessary for her to be obedient and repent, and these things were being done to her in order to help her,” according to the plea deal. According to the agreement, the girl “was convinced” that what her mother claimed was true.
According to the 911 call published by the St. George authorities Department, Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested on August 30 after Franke’s 12-year-old son fled from Hildebrandt’s house in the southern Utah city of Ivins and urged a neighbor to call authorities.
According to the caller, the youngster was thin and had duct tape around his ankles and wrists but refused to explain why.
“I think he’s been… detained,” the caller added, his voice cracking. “He’s obviously covered in wounds.”
The boy, as well as Franke’s daughter, who was discovered at Hildebrandt’s house, were sent to the hospital. Franke’s four youngest children were eventually brought into state custody.
Franke and Hildebrandt each face six felony counts of severe child abuse. They have been imprisoned since their arrests.
“She has actively engaged in an introspection that has allowed her to reset her moral compass and understand the full weight of her actions,” according to Franke. “Ms. Franke is committed to accepting responsibility for her role in the events that led to her incarceration,” the statement stated.
According to a search request, the youngster informed authorities that “Jodi” tied the ropes around his ankles and wrists and that they used cayenne pepper and honey to treat the rope wounds.
Authorities noted in the documents that the availability of treatment for the children’s wounds suggested Hildebrandt was aware of the abuse, according to KUTV.
While cayenne pepper has long been used for medical purposes, Mount Sinai advises against using it on split skin or open wounds.
Hildebrandt has agreed not to see patients until state licensing officials investigate the allegations. According to court records, her next court appearance is scheduled for December 27. Douglas Terry, her attorney, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the charges made against Hildebrandt in Franke’s attorney’s statement.
The Franks were chastised online for their “8 Passengers” video blog, which showed parenting practices such as barring their oldest son from his bedroom for seven months for pranking his younger brother. In previous recordings, Ruby Franke discussed refusing to take a kindergartener’s lunch because she had forgotten it at home and threatening to cut the head off a young girl’s plush toy to punish her for cutting things around the house.
In one video, Franke stated that she and her husband informed their two youngest children that they would not receive gifts from Santa Claus that year because they had been selfish and were not responding to punishments such as being held home from school and cleaning the floorboards.
The YouTube channel, which began in 2015, was shut down after seven years.
Kevin Franke, Franke’s husband, has filed for divorce.
Franke’s sisters posted films in September explaining her absence from her family and their efforts to reconnect with her children. Julie Griffiths Deru and Bonnie Hoellein stated in their own YouTube videos that they were unaware of their sister’s behavior.