8 Passengers? More like 60 victim-blaming pages

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A drawing of a blonde woman 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 woman seems aghast at the children’s freedom.
Children deserve many things, like love and patience – not abuse. MiluCernochova via Pixabay, manipulated by lee lim

A chilling recount of the Franke child abuse case

If you’re a frequent reader of the Carillon, you might’ve seen the last two installations in the series covering the 8 Passengers case: “8 Passengers? More like 4-30 in prison…” and “8 Passengers? More like six charges of child abuse…” These articles covered the initial arrest of Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt, focusing on concerning content in the former 8 Passengers YouTube channel, and the plea deal that gave us a lot of new information, respectively.

Since these articles were released, the Washington County of Utah Government released 13 audio files, 9 documents, 295 photos, and 31 videos.

A quick recap for any new friends reading this as their first entry into this saga: Ruby Franke is a 42-year-old woman from Utah, the oldest of five kids. For many years she ran a YouTube channel with her husband Kevin called 8 Passengers, which was your typical family vlog channel.

She has six children. The eldest, Shari is now 21, followed by Chad, 19, and four younger siblings who we will refer to only by their first initial, following the standard set by the court. A is 16, J is 15, R is 12, and E is 10. R and E are the children discussed most frequently, and appear to be the ones who got the worst of the abuse. E was nine years old when her mother was arrested.

Jodi Hildebrandt was a licensed counselor in Utah. She specialized in porn addiction and sex addiction.

Together, Franke and Hildebrandt ran ConneXions, which was mostly a parenting advice service through YouTube and Facebook.

They were arrested on Aug 30, 2023 for six counts of aggravated child abuse each and sentenced 4-30 years in prison in February.

This is your official trigger warning, because some of the following is gruesome.

One of the videos released was when R escaped Hildebrandt’s home in Ivins, Utah to seek help from a neighbor. In the video, the child is clearly malnourished and very thin. Even though their face is censored, you can still see the duct tape on wrists and ankles.

They very politely asks the neighbor for two favors: to take them to a police station and to get them some food. R didn’t even want to tell the neighbor what was happening, claiming it was personal.

Bodycam footage shows the paramedic who treated R crying and an officer saying that once they cut off the duct tape, you could smell his flesh. The tape had melted into the wounds and the flesh was deteriorating.

Some of the pictures of the wounds were released, and I could only look at three before I stopped because they were so gruesome. The wounds were deep, and resulted from being bound. They had been treated by Franke and Hildebrandt with a mix of honey and cayenne pepper.

R told the police that their sibling E was still at Hildebrandt’s house, and police went to Hildebrandt’s to look for the kid. Bodycam footage shows police seeking a second child in the house, and looking for the little girl because they thought E was a boy when they found her sitting cross-legged in a bathroom closet. Hair shaved, emaciated, malnourished, and silent. It took the police sergeant nearly five hours to get E to leave the closet even after feeding her a personal sized pizza and half a large pizza.

When bodycam footage shows Franke entering Hildebrandt’s home, she is silent. Stoic, even. She says very little. In the interrogation room, all she says is a rejection of a water bottle and, “I’ll wait ‘til I have a lawyer,” even though they’re asking her questions.

When she’s getting arrested, she’s silent. Even when they read her the charges, she won’t respond, to the point she is asked by police if she’s okay and needs medical clearance. She does not show any concern for her children’s whereabouts.

Many images were released of Jodi’s home, showing evidence police found. In one photo, you can see a bathroom garbage can with plastic wrap, cayenne and honey on the inside, along with paper towels covered in the same substance. There’s even a safe room with additional disturbing evidence.

Handcuffs, chains, rope in drawers. Bandages, the bowl of mixed cayenne and honey, saran wrap listed as bandages in the detailed incident reports. And most disturbing of all, they found Franke’s journal.

The journal started about a month before the arrest, in July of 2023. She claims her children are satanic, that they are possessed, and her son has a “cold, dead, heart.” She writes about how R has been pooping and peeing himself; anyone who knows about child abuse can tell you that a child pooping and peeing themselves at the age of 12 is typically a clear sign of abuse.

She writes, “[R] told me he would rather have a glass of water than me as his mother,” which seems to show the neglect and abuse extended far before the pages of the journal were released to the public. On July 12, Franke writes that E keeps saying, “My mom starves me and calls it fasting.”

The children are aware that what is happening to them at this point is abuse.

R is punished for “stealing” water. A little boy, 12-years-old, is punished because he was dehydrated. She states that the “wicked spirits” possessing E and R were friends long before this life, and that God allowed her two children to be possessed because he knew that Franke would be able to handle it.

One of the more frequent punishments Franke writes about is what she calls “boxes,” where she would have her children carry heavy boxes of books up and down the stairs, over and over again. It details R’s first attempt to escape in July and how, afterward, he was tied to Franke by the waist and her sedating him.

Franke and Hildebrandt take E and R to Arizona. They have to clean out graveyards, of which there is video evidence.

One thing that Franke writes about E, very frequently, is how she screams. She is constantly writing about E screaming, for nearly a month. By the time August hits, Franke writes that E is numb.

E jumps into a cactus and has no reaction. She has her feet cleaned with hydrogen peroxide and is so numb she has no reaction. When she does start screaming again, three days before the arrest, she is whipped until she agrees to do what Franke says.

Much of the other evidence that has been released are videos, which are more difficult to summarize, but available on YouTube if you’re interested. Viewer discretion is advised if you choose to look up any of the details yourself. In many instances, they are graphic.

It is still unclear where the children are, but we can all hope that they are safe and healing.

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