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Child who climbed out window for help leads to arrest of '8 Passengers' mother

Police say children were found with 'severe' malnourishment, neglect, abuse
Posted at 9:14 AM, Aug 31, 2023

IVINS, Utah — After a YouTube star was arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse, new information shows that a child climbed out of a window to get help, which led to the discovery of abuse.

Ruby Franke, known for her Youtube channel "8 Passengers," which garnered the attention of millions of people around the world, was arrested Wednesday on two counts of second-degree felony aggravated child abuse.

Arresting documents detail that the arrest was made after a child climbed out of the window of an Ivins residence at around 10:50 a.m. Wednesday and ran to a neighbor's home for help.

The home belonged to Jodi Hildebrandt, who is involved with a parent counseling service called "ConneXions" and was also arrested in relation to the case.

The child knocked on the door and asked for food and water but the neighbor noticed duct tape on the child's ankles and wrists and called police, documents state.

"The calling party stated the juvenile appeared to be emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities," a statement from local authorities reads.

Police described the wounds, neglect and malnourishment of the child to be "severe," arresting documents state, and the child was taken to the hospital for treatment.

After the first child was taken to the hospital, another child was discovered in the home and was found to be malnourished as well, officers reported.

A search warrant was obtained by police and, "during the search of the home, evidence was located consistent with the markings found on the juvenile," authorities said in a statement.

Arresting documents state Franke was seen on a Youtube video filmed in the residence just days before the incident, which "adds to Ms. Franke...being present in the home and having knowledge of the abuse, malnourishment and neglect," documents state.

Franke did not speak with police and instead requested a lawyer, arrest information reports. She was ordered to be held without bail in the Washington County jail.

"The Department of Child and Family Services was contacted," a statement from the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department reads, "and in a joint effort with the Springville Police Department, four minor children were taken into the care of the Department of Child and Family Services."

Franke's oldest daughter, Shari Franke, had made a post on her Instagram account with a photo of police captioned "Finally."

She would later add another story with the following statement:

"Hi all. Today has been a big day. Me and my family are so glad justice is being served. We’ve been trying to tell the police and CPS for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up. Kids are safe, but there's a long road ahead. Please keep them in your prayers and also respect their privacy."

According to Prevent Child Abuse Utah director Laurieann Thorpe, 90 percent of child abuse cases are perpetrated by people they trust.

“I think it's really important to understand that Children on average will disclose abuse three times before they get help or before they're believed," said Thorpe. "So it's really on us as adults who may be receiving this information to trust that a child is not making this up.”

Katie Paulson, another YouTuber, spoke with FOX 13 News about the case.

“This is to a level that I don't think anyone understood," Paulson said. “She was saying how she would send her daughter to school with no food... It was almost like she was bragging about it.”

She recalled another time when Franke's son openly talked about his punishment on the channel.

“He was talking about how he had been sleeping on the floor on a beanbag chair and how his mom had taken away his bed and taken away his door and how he had been sent away to this, like, wilderness camp.”

She wasn't the only one who noticed concerning interactions in the videos. Diane Nevins remembers being horrified at what she was watching on YouTube.

“It was kind of like every video, there was something to be shocked about," Nevins said. "Her son couldn't walk until he was, like, two-and-a-half years old and she never got him any help, and she admitted that ... at one point, he had fallen off the couch or she dropped him but he had gotten no physical therapy, anything.”

Nevins said when she commented her concerns, she was blocked by Franke.

Paulson also said when she did a report on what Franke and her kids were saying in the video, Franke's lawyer threatened to sue her.

In an email from 2020, the attorney wrote: "We represent family vlog channel “8 Passengers,” who continue to be harmed by defamatory videos uploaded to YouTube by your client. In addition to reputational and financial damage to my clients, the videos uploaded by your client have resulted in harassment of my clients, and even inspired a baseless Child Protective Services visit to their home which traumatized their children."

“They always say if you see something, say something, and in this case, when people said something, they were threatened... So many other people besides me receive letters from those attorneys," said Paulson. "I think it's heartbreaking for the community that watched this family, knew that something was wrong.”