Ruby Franke virtual court hearing on child abuse charges is derailed by tech issues as over 1,000 people join

Each of the child abuse counts carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted

Kelly Rissman
Friday 08 September 2023 22:04 BST
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YouTuber Ruby Franke and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, were supposed to appear in court in St George, Utah on Friday afternoon over child abuse charges, but the proceeding was delayed as tech issues plagued the virtual hearing.

Both women were ordered to be held without bail; their bond hearings are slated for 21 September. Ms Franke has reportedly been relocated to the medical unit of the jail, but the reasons for her move are unclear. The Independent has reached out to the attorneys representing the women.

Over 1,000 people tuned in — and have been told to quiet down numerous times — to see what happens to the women, who have both been charged with six counts of felony child abuse. Each of the child abuse counts carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted, according to the Washington County Attorney’s Office.

“There are two juvenile victims in these cases, and each defendant is accused of causing or permitting serious physical injury to the victims in three different ways: (1) a combination of multiple physical injuries or torture, (2) starvation or malnutrition that jeopardizes life, and (3) causing severe emotional harm,” the county attorney said.

The pair were arrested on 30 August after Ms Franke’s 12-year-old son climbed out of a window and pleaded for neighbors to give him food and water, court documents showed.

After a neighbor noticed that duct tape covering the boy’s ankles and wrists, prompting the neighbor to notify law enforcement. In a chilling 911 call, the neighbor can be heard describing the boy: “He is emaciated. He’s got tape around his legs. He’s hungry and he’s thirsty.”

His voice shaky, as if holding back tears, the neighbor told 911, “This kid has obviously... he’s been detained. He’s obviously covered in wounds.”

Following the call, officials determined the 12-year-old to be severely malnourished, and transferred the child to a nearby hospital. The 12-year-old was placed on medical hold after it was discovered that he was also suffering from “deep lacerations” due to “being tied up with rope,” arrest records said.

Ruby Franke’s court appearance is postponed as the hearing has been disrupted by tech issues and loud participants
Ruby Franke’s court appearance is postponed as the hearing has been disrupted by tech issues and loud participants (Law & Crime / screengrab)

When police arrived at the home, they also found Ms Franke’s 10-year-old daughter who appeared to also be malnourished, authorities said. The two children were taken to a hospital for medical treatment, court documents said.

The Utah Division of Child and Family Services had custody of four of Ms Franke’s children.

According to theSalt Lake Tribune, police determined that Ms Franke’s two kids had been staying with Ms Hildebrandt, but it’s unclear for how long they had been there.

An affidavit noted that “Ruby Franke was seen on a YouTube video filmed in Mr Hildebrandt’s downstairs” just two days prior to the incident, showcasing that the women were “present in the home and having knowledge of the abuse, malnourishment, and neglect.”

When police arrived at the home to arrest Ms Franke, the influencer “requested a lawyer” and refused to speak with police, the affidavit stated.

Ms Franke’s family has said that behind closed doors, they expressed their worries about her children. Since her arrest, Ms Franke’s family has not been shy about speaking out.

Ms Franke’s estranged 20-year-old daughter, Shari, rejoiced at her mother’s arrest on social media, writing “finally” over a video capturing the arrest.

“Today has been a big day,” she wrote in a separate post. “We’ve been trying to tell the police and CPS for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up.”

Ms Franke’s three sisters have also come forward on social media in defence of her children. Bonnie Hoellein, Julie Griffiths Deru and Ellie Mecham posted a joint statement on Instagram, writing that although they haven’t posted publicly about their concern, in private, “we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe.”

They added that they won’t be commenting on the arrest further.

“Ruby was arrested which needed to happen. Jodi was arrested which needed to happen,” they wrote. “The kids are now safe, which is the number one priority.”

Ms Franke’s claim to fame was her “8 Passengers“ YouTube channel, in which focused on her — and her now ex-husband’s — lives with their six children in Utah. Some viewers accused her of being too strict and controlling of her children.

In one video Ms Franke said: “My kids are literally starving. I hesitate to say this because this is going to sound like I’m a mean barbarian, but I told the kids, I said, ‘I’m not even going to let you eat breakfast until you get your chores done.’” But now all of Ms Franke’s videos have been removed from Youtube.

Ms Hildebrandt invited Ms Franke to join her Connexions life counseling service, where they gave daily advice to viewers.

According to The DailyMail, Ms Franke appeared in juvenile court on Thursday via video call regarding a shelter hearing for four of her children, who are minors. At the hearing, she made a shocking allegation: the influencer said said that one of her children had been sexually abusing a younger sibling for years. Ms Franke added that her child, according to the Mail, confessed to sexually abusing 20 people in May.

In response, the judge said the alleged abusive child “will then need to be placed in a home with no other children.”

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