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YouTube parenting advice influencer jailed for child abuse

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A prominent figure on YouTube known for her parenting advice, Ruby Franke, has been sentenced to a minimum of four years in prison for child abuse, a verdict that unfolded with tears and regret in a Utah courtroom. 

Franke, 42, who had previously pleaded guilty to the charges of starving and abusing her children, appeared visibly distraught as the judge handed down the sentence. Her former business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, 54, faced a similar fate.

In a statement during the sentencing, the judge declared four consecutive terms of one to 15 years each, representing the maximum penalty allowable under Utah law for each count. The duration of their imprisonment will be subject to the state’s parole board, granting Franke a 30-day window for a possible appeal.

Utah prosecutor Eric Clarke painted a grim picture of the conditions endured by Franke’s children, aged nine and 11 at the time of the abuse, describing their living environment as akin to a “concentration camp-like setting.” 

He labeled Franke as a “significant threat to the community,” citing instances where basic necessities such as food, water, and proper bedding were denied to the children.

In an emotional plea, Franke expressed profound remorse and acknowledged her misguided beliefs that led to the mistreatment of her children. 

She admitted, “I was so disoriented that I believed dark was light and right was wrong.”

“I was led to believe that this world was an evil place, filled with cops who control, hospitals that injure, government agencies that brainwash, church leaders who lie and lust, husbands who refuse to protect and children who need abuse,” she said.

The case came to light following a distressing incident in August 2023, when Franke’s malnourished 12-year-old son managed to escape from Hildebrandt’s residence in Utah, seeking refuge and assistance from a neighbor. 

The child bore visible signs of physical abuse, including lacerations from being restrained with rope.

Franke’s online presence on YouTube, particularly through her channel 8 Passengers, garnered attention and controversy. 

Allegations of neglect and abusive parenting practices surfaced in 2020, prompting investigations by Utah’s child protection agency. Despite Franke’s public image as a devoted mother, her children endured severe mistreatment, including physical beatings and forced labor.

During the trial, Hildebrandt, in a plea agreement, acknowledged either participating in the abuse or being complicit in its knowledge. She confessed to coercing one of Franke’s daughters into harming herself by jumping into a cactus multiple times.

Franke’s ex-husband, Kevin Franke, impassionedly urged the court to impose the maximum sentence, describing the abuse inflicted upon their children as “horrific and inhumane.”

 

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