8 Passengers? More like 4-30 in prison…

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A drawing of a blonde staring through bars at two children who are smiling and playing outside. One child is playing with an airplane and the other is playing with a doll. The blonde seems aghast at the children’s freedom.
Makes Coraline’s button-eyed mother seem tame... MiluCernochova via Pixabay, manipulated by lee lim

Following up on the February 20 sentencing of family vlogger

Last time we chatted about Ruby Franke, Jodi Hildebrant, and ConneXions was in late September of 2023. Since then, a lot has happened, including for Franke and Hildebrandt. 

To recap, Ruby Franke is a 42-year-old woman who used to run a family vlog channel called 8 Passengers with her husband Kevin. The channel ran from 2015 to 2022.  

Ruby and Kevin Franke share six children together. Two adult children: 20-year-old Shari and 19-year-old Chad, as well as four minor children who will only be referred to as their initials in this article, 16-year-old AF, 15-year-old JF, 12-year-old RF, and 10-year-old EF. Ruby and Kevin are 42- and 45-years-old respectively.  

During the end of the channel’s life and following its death, Franke ran an online parenting advice group called ConneXions with a woman named Jodi Hildebrandt. Hildebrandt started her career as a porn addiction therapist working under the Mormon Church before she started ConneXions. 

In mid-December of 2023, Franke and Hildebrandt pled guilty as part of a plea deal with the State of Utah. Franke pled guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse, a second degree felony that comes with 1-15 years in a Utah State Prison and a series of fines including $10,000, a 90 per cent surcharge, and court security fees costing $53. 

Aggravated child abuse in the second degree states that the perpetrator “intentionally or knowingly, inflicted upon a child serious physical injury or, having the care or custody of such child, caused or permitted another to inflict serious physical injury upon said child.” 

It was in this plea deal that a large amount of information regarding Franke’s actions toward her children were revealed. RF had to do physical labor for days on end including wall-sits, working outdoors in the Utah summer heat with no shoes, and carrying boxes up and down stairs.  

While working outside, he had to stand in direct sunlight with no heat protection, causing his skin to blister. While he worked he was not allowed water and, if he secretly had water, he was punished.  

He rarely got sufficient food and the food he did get was things like rice and chicken when everyone else in the house got proper meals. He had no access to other people or any sort of entertainment.  

Prior to RF’s successful escape in August after trying to escape in July, he was often bound hand and foot with handcuffs and rope. When the bindings cut through the skin, the injuries were covered in duct tape and the bindings put back on. During this period, RF was 11-12 years old. He was waterboarded by Franke as well as kicked, and had his oxygen cut off. 

While RF was experiencing all of that abuse, he was told he was evil and possessed. That what was happening to him was because it was needed for him to be able to repent and if he only obeyed, he wouldn’t be punished. 

EF suffered similarly to her older brother RF. She wasn’t waterboarded or kicked, didn’t have her oxygen cut off, nor was she bound, but she suffered the same exhaustive physical labor and inability to access food and water. EF was nine-years-old during this period. 

Hildebrandt’s plea deal had no notable differences.  

On February 20, Franke was sentenced. She was given four 1-15 year sentences that would be served consecutively, meaning she would serve 4-60 years in prison for her child abuse.  

But, because of a law specific to Utah, consecutive sentences cannot extend more than 30 years, so Franke will spend 4-30 years in a Utah State Prison. Hildebrandt received the same sentence. 

During the sentencing hearing, Franke stated, “For the past four years, I’ve chosen to follow counsel and guidance that has led me into a dark delusion. My distorted version of reality went largely unchecked as I would isolate from anyone who challenged me.”  

For those who knew of ConneXions before the arrest, you would know that the main principle of ConneXions was that everyone lived in distortion and had to be removed from it, but in Franke’s own words, she was the one living in distortion. 

It is unclear where the minor children are now, though one of Franke’s sisters has stated that they are safe. Kevin Franke is reportedly attempting to regain custody of all four children and has officially filed for guardianship of AF. 

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