8 Passengers? More like six charges of child abuse…

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, but abuse is not one of them. MiluCernochova via Pixabay, manipulated by lee lim

The YouTube family vlogging to court case pipeline grows ever stronger 

YouTube family vlogging channels are scummy, they just are. They make millions off exploiting their children while simultaneously putting their children in danger online, and there are rarely any repercussions for their actions. But, one mommy vlogger is facing legal charges for her actions. 

Ruby Franke, born Ruby Griffiths, was born to Chad and Jennifer Griffiths on January 18, 1982 in Utah. She has four siblings, Beau Griffiths, Bonnie Hoellein, Ellie Mecham, and Julie Deru, and all have their own YouTube channels they run. Franke was a stay-at-home Mom and family vlogger under her YouTube channel 8 Passengers that she ran with her husband Kevin Franke, a former professor of civil engineering at Brigham Young University.  

Ruby and Kevin share six children; the only two who will be named are the eldest two, Shari and Chad, who are 20 and 18 respectively. The other four, who are still minors, will only be referred to as their initials out of respect for their privacy in these matters. A is 16, J is 14, R is 12, and E is 10.  

Even before Franke was arrested, she had made several videos online that led people to question her parenting decisions.  

Franke frequently makes a point to say that the home the children live in is her home, not theirs, and she only allows them to live in it. Resulting from that, everything within the home belongs to Franke, and she decides if and when her children get to use things.  

She stated that punishments in which items were taken away from her children usually lasted a minimum of six months. The children could not use items such as phones, even as teenagers, if they did something that Franke saw as misbehaving. Her eldest son, Chad, had his bedroom taken away for seven months and he slept on a beanbag in the living room for that duration.  

In the video where this was revealed, Chad said it was because he woke up his little brother R at 2 a.m., telling the young boy that their family was going to Disneyland and he needed to pack for the trip. When Chad laughed about it, seven months after the incident, Franke said that if it was humorous, then the bedroom might need to be revoked again. Chad also spent several months living in a wilderness survival camp in the Arizona desert because his mother decided that he was not well-behaved enough.  

Franke’s children stated in multiple videos that they did not have any friends.  

When one of her daughters, who visually appears under the age of six, had been cutting items in Franke’s home, Franke held up a stuffed animal to the child and told her that if anything else got cut, she would cut the head off the stuffed animal, which caused her young daughter to start crying.  

One of the more famous clips of Franke’s questionable parenting was when E was in Kindergarten, she was expected to prepare and bring her own lunch for school. E forgot her lunch one day, her teacher texted Franke and asked for her to bring lunch which Franke refused. Franke said that her daughter would have to go without lunch for the day and she hoped that no other child would give her daughter food.  

Eventually, Franke moved on from the 8 Passengers YouTube channel to a new endeavor, a parenting advice page called ConneXions that she ran with a woman named Jodi Hildebrant. Hildebrant was originally a porn addiction therapist under The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

ConneXions, also called Moms of Truth, had one core teaching: “distortion.” Distortion is a state that you can be in and that everyone is always in distortion, but Hildebrant knows how to take you out of distortion, and so does Franke, once Franke joined ConneXions and Moms of Truth. You can be in distortion if you’re addicted to anything, this includes drugs or even your spouse, if you live in denial or shame, if you believe that you are “not enough,” if you act as a co-dependent in your relationships with others, if you are sexually attracted to your spouse, or if you control and manipulate those around you. You need three things to stay away from distortion: impeccable honesty, rigorous personal responsibility, and humility. 

In ConneXions videos, Ruby stated that she bolted the door of her then-three and five year olds’ rooms and expected that they were old enough to take care of themselves. She laughed about her then-six year old daughter praying for God to help her survive. Hildebrant stated that if a child doesn’t get out of bed, even if they state they are sick, that they should be kicked out onto the street. 

On August 30 in Ivins, Utah, a neighbour called the police after a child knocked on his door and asked for food and water. This child was Franke’s youngest son, R. According to the neighbor, R had duct tape on his ankles and wrists and he was later taken to the hospital. Arrest records state that the hospital found deep lacerations as a result of being tied up and that he was malnourished. R went to the neighbour’s house from Hildebrant’s home, where police later found another one of Franke’s children, also malnourished.  

There was evidence that Franke had recently been in the home through a ConneXions YouTube video. Hildebrant and Franke were initially charged with the second degree felony aggravated child abuse – intentionally or knowingly under statute 76-5-109.2(2)+(3A) of the Utah Criminal Code. They were later charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse. Each count holds from 1-15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.  

After the news came out, Shari Franke, the eldest Franke child, shared online a post saying “Finally” and that “justice is being served.” She stated that there had been attempts to get police and CPS involved for years, and asked for her siblings’ privacy to be respected. It is also alleged that Shari cut off her mother and other family members because of ConneXions. 

When the audio of the 911 call was revealed to the public, R stated that it was his own fault that he had been tied up.  

After a court hearing on September 8, 2023, both Franke and Hildebrant are being held in prison without bail and their next hearings are scheduled for September 21, 2023.  


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