Ruby Franke sentenced to prison in child abuse case

Ruby Franke was sentenced on Tuesday after she and her business partner admitted to physically and emotionally abusing Franke’s children. 

Franke was a once-popular YouTube creator known for her channel "8 Passengers" which was centered around content that gave parenting advice. 

Judge John J. Walton has accepted plea agreements from both women in which they agreed to serve prison terms and described their offenses in detail. 

FILE - Former YouTuber Rube Franke in court during her sentencing.  (LiveNOW from FOX)

Both Franke and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, are set to serve one to 15 years in prison for four counts of aggravated child abuse, the judge said. 

The sentences will be served consecutively. 

In back-to-back sentencing hearings in southern Utah, Franke and  Hildebrandt, a mental health counselor, could speak for the first time since they each pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse for trying to convince Franke's two youngest children that they were evil, possessed and needed to be punished to repent. 

"I take full accountability for my choices and it is my preference that I serve a prison sentence," Franke said on Tuesday prior to her sentencing. 

Franke also thanked the officers involved in the investigation, stating that they saved her children. 

"I’ll never stop crying for hurting your tender souls," Franke said to her children, who were not present at the sentencing hearing. "My willingness to sacrifice all for you was masterfully manipulated into something very ugly. I took from you all that was soft and safe and good."

What did Ruby Franke do to her kids? 

Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped on Aug. 30, 2023, through a window of Hildebrandt’s house in the southern Utah city of Ivins and asked a neighbor to call the police, according to a 911 call released by the St. George Police Department. The boy was thin, covered in wounds and had duct tape around his ankles and wrists. 

He told investigators that Hildebrandt had put ropes on his limbs and used cayenne pepper and honey to dress his cuts, according to a search warrant. 

The two women were arrested at Hildebrandt’s home and were each charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse. Franke pleaded guilty to four of her six charges and not guilty to two at a hearing on Dec. 18, 2023. Hildebrandt also pleaded guilty to four counts, and two counts were dismissed as part of her plea deal. 

Franke admitted in her plea agreement to kicking her son while wearing boots, holding his head under water and closing off his mouth and nose with her hands. She and Hildebrandt said they also forced the boy into hours of physical labor in the summer heat without much food or water, causing dehydration and blistering sunburns. 

Hildebrandt admitted to coercing Franke’s youngest daughter, who was 9 at the time, to jump into a cactus multiple times and run barefoot on dirt roads until her feet blistered. The boy and girl were taken to the hospital after the arrests and placed in state custody along with two more of their siblings.

Franke and her husband, Kevin Franke, launched "8 Passengers" on YouTube in 2015 and amassed a large following as they documented their experiences raising six children.

 The YouTube channel has since ended and Kevin Franke has filed for divorce.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.