Jodi Hildebrandt pleads guilty to child abuse

Posted at 1:22 PM, December 27, 2023

ST. GEORGE, Utah (Court TV) — In a shocking twist, Jodi Hildebrandt pleaded guilty at what was previously scheduled to be a preliminary hearing.

Jodi Hildebrandt stands in court

Jodi Hildebrandt pleaded guilty in court to four counts of child abuse. (Court TV)

Hildebrandt pleaded guilty to four counts of felony child abuse nine days after her friend and former business partner, Ruby Franke, pleaded guilty to the same charges.

Hildebrandt and Franke were arrested in August after one of Franke’s children escaped from Hildebrandt’s home with obvious injuries and asked a neighbor for food and water. Another of Franke’s children was found emaciated inside Hildebrandt’s home after police were called.

READ MORE: YouTuber Ruby Franke pleads guilty to child abuse charges

Hildebrandt used single-word answers to respond to the judge, saying “guilty” for each of the four counts of abuse as they were read in court.

Her attorney said that while there are some issues in the factual basis of the plea agreement with prosecutors, he specified that the plea was guilty and not an Alford plea, in which a defendant pleads guilty without admitting wrongdoing.

Outside of the courthouse following the hearing, Hildebrandt’s attorney told media that his client pleaded guilty because she wanted to take responsibility, and that she had decided to plead guilty before Franke signed her own plea agreement.

Ruby Franke Jodi Hildebrant

Ruby Franke, left, and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, right, made first appearances in a Utah courtroom Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. (Scripps News Salt Lake City)

Like Franke, Hildebrandt was not offered a guaranteed sentence as part of the plea agreement. Both women are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20 at separate hearings. At the time of both guilty pleas, attorneys for Franke and Hildebrandt confirmed that their clients had accepted a yet-unknown prison term as part of their sentences.

The attorney representing Franke’s estranged husband, Kevin, told Court TV’s Vinnie Politan that the couple had gone to Hildebrant, who is a licensed mental health counselor, for help with their marriage. The attorney said that Kevin was forced out of the house and into isolation before the abuse began.

Hildebrant’s license to practice in Utah was limited after her arrest, and she is not allowed to practice until the charges have been resolved. She has been licensed for more than 20 years, with no disciplinary actions visible in her public file.