Ruby Franke, a once-popular YouTuber who gave parenting advice on her now-defunct “8 Passengers” YouTube channel, has been charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse, the Washington County Attorney’s Office in Utah said Wednesday. Franke and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, were arrested last week after Franke’s malnourished son ran to a neighbor’s house asking for help, authorities said.
The attorney’s office says Franke and Hildebrandt are accused of a combination of multiple physical injuries or torture; starvation or malnutrition that jeopardizes life; and causing severe emotional harm to two children. They each face six counts, which carry potential prison sentence of one to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The investigation is ongoing, the office said.
Franke’s YouTube channel followed her family of eight and is now defunct, the Associated Press reports. She was at Hildebrand’s home in Ivins, Utah, when the two were arrested last week.
Franke has appeared in YouTube videos with Hildebrandt that were posted by Hildebrandt’s counseling business, ConneXions Classroom, which Hildebrandt says helps people to improve their lives, according to the AP.
In a news release on Aug. 31, the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department said they received a call Aug. 30 about a child who appeared to be “emaciated and malnourished.” The child, who had “open wounds and duct tape around the extremities,” was asking for food and water.
This child was Franke’s 12-year-old, who climbed out of a window at Hildebrandt’s house and sought help at a neighbor’s house, according to an affidavit filed by an officer with the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department, the AP reports.
“The condition of the juvenile was so severe that they were seen by Santa Clara-Ivins EMS and transported to a local area hospital,” the department said in its news release.
Authorities soon found another child in a similar condition at a nearby home and took that child to the hospital.
Police obtained a search warrant and “evidence was located consistent with the markings found on the juvenile,” the department said.
Four other children were taken into the care of the Department of Child and Family Services and Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested in connection with the incident.
After her arrest, Franke’s sisters, Ellie Mecham and Julie Griffiths Deru – who have large social media followings – posed a joint statement on Instagram saying they had for years tried to make sure Franke’s kids were safe.
“Ruby was arrested which needed to happen. Jodi was arrested which needed to happen. The kids are now safe, which is the number one priority,” the statement reads. The sisters said they would not comment any further.
A lawyer for Kevin Franke, Ruby Franke’s husband, told CBS News last week he was representing Kevin Franke’s interests in keeping his children together and in his care and that he could not comment on Ruby Franke’s arrest.
A voicemail left with Hildebrandt’s counseling business seeking comment last week was not returned. CBS News has followed up with the business and is awaiting response.