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Mom vloggers known for parenting advice sentenced to prison for child abuse

By Melanie Uson Published Feb 21, 2024 11:48 am

Trigger warning: This article contains mentions of child abuse.

Vlogger mom Ruby Franke and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, known for their parenting content on YouTube, were sentenced to up to 30 years in prison for child abuse. 

According to a CBS News report, the two appeared before the court on Tuesday, Feb. 20 in Utah where they received separate prison sentences of one to 15 years but will not exceed 30 years.

Detailing the case, Franke was a mom vlogger in the now-deleted “8 Passengers” YouTube channel she created in 2015. In 2022, Franke faced criticism when she made one of her children sleep in a beanbag for seven months “because he pranked his younger brother.” This led her to end her YouTube channel in 2022. 

Hildebrandt, meanwhile, is a therapist who had an online counseling service ConneXions Classroom.  

The two collaborated on sharing parenting content on social media both on YouTube and Instagram under the user handle @moms_of_truth. 

BBC reported that the two were arrested in August 2023 after Franke’s 12-year-old malnourished son escaped Hildebrandt’s house through a window and ran to a neighbor’s house to ask for food and water. According to police records, the child was also found with lacerations from being tied up with a rope. 

It was found that two of Franke’s children were being physically abused. Apart from her son, her nine-year-old daughter was tasked to do “manual labor outside in the hot sun with no water or shoes," as stated in court documents.

The boy said that Hildebrandt often tied him up and "used home remedies to treat wounds caused by the restraints." She also "either physically forced or coerced" Franke's daughter to "jump into a cactus multiple times."

The children were being told that “they were possessed” and punishments were “necessary to help them.” 

According to Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke, the momfluencers’ crimes were a case of “religious extremism.”

“The defendants appear to have fully believed that the abuse they inflicted was necessary to teach the children how to properly repent for imagined 'sins' and to cast the evil spirits out of their bodies," Clarke said in a statement.  

"Hildebrandt regularly stated that God communicated directly with her and gave her directions. Franke accepted Hildebrandt as her leader and followed her instructions and guidance,” he added. 

During her sentencing, Franke apologized to her children, saying, “I was so disoriented that I believed dark was light and right was wrong.” 

"I was led to believe that this world was an evil place, filled with cops who control, hospitals that injure, government agencies that brainwash, church leaders who lie and lust, husbands who refuse to protect and children who need abuse," she added. 

For her part, Hildebrandt said she wanted the children to “heal physically and emotionally.” 

“One of the reasons I did not go to trial is because I did not want them to emotionally relive the experience which would have been detrimental to them. My hope and prayer is that they will heal and move forward to have beautiful lives,” she said, as reported by The Guardian. 

Both momfluencers pleaded guilty to charges of four counts of aggravated child abuse. Their exact prison time is yet to be determined by The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.