Ruby Franke, Jodi Hildebrandt sentenced for child abuse charges

Posted at 11:21 AM, February 20, 2024

ST. GEORGE, Utah (Scripps News Salt Lake City) — Former YouTubers Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt were sentenced Tuesday after both women pleaded guilty to several counts of child abuse.

Franke appeared before the judge first and received four 1-15-year sentences in prison, one for each of the four counts of child abuse to which she pleaded guilty in December. She will serve each sentence consecutively, as determined by her plea agreement.

Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt appear in court.

Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt appear in court. (Scripps News Salt Lake City)

Hildebrandt received the same sentence as Franke, four 1-15 year sentences in prison to be served consecutively for each of the four counts of child abuse to which she pleaded guilty.

During Franke’s appearance, LaMar Winward, her lawyer, as well as a tearful Franke delivered statements to the judge and courtroom.

Winward said his client has expressed remorse since being in custody and was indoctrinated.

“Ruby Franke has become a serious student in her own actions,” he said in part. “Ruby Franke is a delightful, respectful and responsible person.”

Then, Franke delivered a prepared statement, crying as she read.

“My charges are just, they offer safety to my family, accountability to the public and they did show mercy to me.”

She expressed sorrow to her family, including her husband, children, parents and siblings.

“For the past 4 years, I have chosen to follow counsel and guidance that have led me to a dark delusion.”

Franke additionally thanked detectives, local law enforcement and medical professionals for their work since her arrest.

“The moment she handcuffed me was the moment I gained my freedom,” she said.

Shortly after Franke’s sentencing, Hildebrandt appeared before the judge to be sentenced.

The prosecution called Hildebrandt a “risk to the community” and said she had shown no remorse for her actions.

Hildebrandt and her lawyer, Douglas Terry also delivered statements during the hearing.

“My experience with Ms. Hildebrandt is she is not the person she has been portrayed to be,” Terry said, claiming his client showed accountability when entering into the plea agreement.

Hildebrandt then delivered short remarks, with her lawyer clarifying afterwards that his client recognizes her and Franke’s actions harmed the children.

“I sincerely love these children,” Hildebrandt said tearfully. “I desire for them to heal physically and emotionally.”

The judge remarked that due to Hildebrandt’s specialized training as a therapist, her conduct was especially harmful.

“Your conduct in this case was disastrous for the children,” the judge said in part. “In this case, you terrorized children and the results have been tragic.”

Housing developments are shown in Ivins

Housing developments are shown in Ivins, Utah, on Wednesday, May 3, 2023.  (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Prison time was inevitable for Franke and Hildebrandt, who both pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse in their respective plea deals, admitting to abuse of Franke’s two youngest children.

When she pleaded guilty in December, Franke called the abuse her children faced, “acts of love.”

As part of the agreement, Franke admitted to isolating her son, binding his hands and feet with rope and forcing him to do physical labor in the sun for hours without food and water.

Franke’s plea deal stipulated she would serve all four sentences consecutively. Each of the counts brings a prison sentence between 1-15 years; however, those terms are flexible and up to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.

A few days later, Hildebrandt also entered a guilty plea, agreeing to serve a prison sentence as part of the deal.

As part of her plea agreement, Hildebrandt admitted to coercing Franke’s 9-year-old daughter to jump into a cactus multiple times and helping Franke physically and mentally torture her youngest son.

Franke was an internet star through her family’s YouTube channel, “8 passengers.” The social media platform terminated her channels in the aftermath of her abuse allegations.

Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested in August after one of Franke’s children escaped Hildebrandt’s home knocked on the door of a neighbor in Ivins and asked for food and water. The neighbor noticed duct tape on the child’s ankles and wrists and called police, according to court documents.

Police later found one of Franke’s daughter’s emaciated inside Hildebrandt’s home.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Salt Lake City, an E.W. Scripps Company.