Ruby Franke was an influencer, mainly on YouTube. She called her channel 8 Passengers and she documented the life of her family in Utah. By 2020, she had 2.5 million subscribers.
In August 2023, Ruby and her colleague Jodi Hildebrant were arrested and charged with felony child abuse.
Ruby was born in 1981 or 1982 to Chad and Jennifer Griffith. Some reports online say that Ruby was the oldest of five children.
Ruby was very close with her family growing up. In one video she said that her mother was the best person she could have hoped to have as her caretaker. She also said that each and every effort of her mother to make her happy, including her habit of taking her out shopping on her birthday, made her realize the role a mother should play in a family.
Ruby eventually married Kevin Franke who was an engineering professor at Brigham Young University. The couple had six children (hence the 8 passengers name). The children are Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell and Eve.
Ruby started her YouTube channel in 2015. Her first video was titled ‘The Making of Eve’, which documented her youngest daughter Eve. In the clip, it showed how Eve got along with the rest of her family.
Ruby would post her videos five days a week, at 6am. She homeschooled the kids for a point and would often post videos about that, as well as things like cooking for them. Basic day to day stuff.
Ruby and her family are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and she told local TV station KSL in 2016 that 8 Passengers had allowed them to share Mormonism “in a way that they normally wouldn’t in Springville, Utah.” Ruby also told KSL that filming the YouTube show was “a reminder to let my heart rate come down and to just enjoy being with the kids as they are right now.”
By 2020, Ruby’s parenting had become controversial.
A change.org petition was established, asking authorities to investigate the family. It got almost 18,000 signatures.
The petition mentioned a number of videos that Ruby had uploaded on her family’s “8Passengers” page. One video shows footage from when Ruby’s son Chad says his mother took his bed away from him for for seven months after he played a prank on his sibling. “I was sleeping on a beanbag since October,” Chad can be seen saying in the footage, and Ruby can be heard laughing.
He said he lost his room after playing pranks on his little brother, Russell, including getting him to pack a suitcase for a fake Disneyland trip and hanging him from a basketball hoop. He was living in the same room as Russell but was taken out on a therapist’s recommendation, giving him the option to sleep on a pullout guest bed or an inflatable mattress, or somewhere else in the house.
Kevin said the decision to evict Chad from his own room came amid “years of physical and emotional damaging behavior” that Chad was participating in with his siblings and classmates that ended up getting him suspended from school. This was also why he was sent to the Anasazi Foundation’s Wilderness Therapy Program, which says it provides “intervention services for troubled teens,” for 10 weeks.
When Chad eventually got his room back, Ruby told Business Insider “He had done a bedroom reveal where he was excited that he put LED lights up in his bedroom and he was hanging puzzles on his wall that he had put together and glued. It never occurred to him that it would turn on us.”
Kevin and Ruby said at the time that Chad chose the beanbag because he found it the most comfortable. He also removed the doors to the room in an effort to be transparent and help regain his parents’ trust, they said.
“I said, ‘Well, if that’s your choice, I’ll support you in that,’” Ruby said. “‘But at any point, you can move around. You just can’t be sleeping with your brother.’”
Ruby said that as soon as Chad’s behavior changed, he would be able to go sleep in his new room — something “he knew the whole time.”
“It just happened to take seven months for him to make that choice,” she said.
Ruby apparently asked Chad if he wanted to share the whole story on social media and he agreed that she could. “He said, ‘No, I am open to sharing this,’” she said, though she added that if she “had foreseen the anger,” she probably would have cut it out.
CPS visited the Franke house and after, Ruby said, “What people aren’t understanding is that we give our children choice in everything. We are teaching our children to be self-governing, so it was always very open with our son that he gets to choose how long he’s separate from his brother, dependent upon his behavior.”
Kevin spoke about the CPS visit. He said workers visited with each of the children individually over the two hours they were there.
“When they walked in unannounced, Eve and Ruby were baking bread together and doing a puzzle,” Kevin said. “Hardly the evidence of an abusive home.”
A letter from DCFS seen by Insider said the case, which alleged that Ruby was the perpetrator, was closed because the claims were unsupported.
Kevin said the workers said they were embarrassed they had to visit at all and apologized for the stress inflicted on the family.
In a 2020 interview following the CPS visit, Kevin said Chad was in a “wonderful place right now,” with a good group of friends and a healthy outlook on life where he “holds high standards and high boundaries.”
“He’s definitely not chained in our basement,” he said.
In another clip, Ruby recorded herself talking about not providing her daughter with food. She said “I just got a text message from Eve’s teacher, and she said that Eve did not pack a lunch today.” Ruby then says she told the teacher she’d refuse to bring her then 6-year-old daughter her lunch as a teaching lesson and that “she’s just going to need to be hungry.”
‘Eve is responsible for making her own lunches in the morning, so the natural outcome is she is just going to be hungry,’” Ruby said.
“Hopefully nobody gives her food and nobody steps in and gives her a lunch because then she’s not going to learn from the natural outcome,” Ruby said.
Ruby would later speak about the video and claimed that it didn’t take into account the fact that Eve’s school was 45 minutes away and that she only had two hours left of the school day. “My heart broke for her,” Ruby said. “And I told her, ‘Oh honey, my darling, I am so sorry. You’re going to be hungry. And I am so uncomfortable with this with you. I’m going to be uncomfortable alongside you because I know you are so capable of picking up your lunch off the front-door rug and taking it with you when you go get in the car.’”
Kevin said all the children were taught how to prepare lunch when they reached Eve’s age (6 years old). They go to the pantry and collect a food bar, a drink, and some other snacks; pick up a ready-made sandwich and piece of fruit from the fridge; then put it all in a bag and take it to school. This day, Eve simply forgot to pick hers up.
“She came home two hours later and had a wonderful, fulfilling snack,” Kevin said. “And you know what? She never forgot her lunch again. So it’s a way to teach our children how to live responsibly and to be masters of themselves rather than dependent upon somebody else to always take care of them.”
Some of Ruby’s other documented parenting techniques included threatening to behead a stuffed toy. Ruby also told two of her children that Santa would not be visiting them that year because they were too “numb” to respond to other punishments.
In another video, Ruby spoke about how her kids were starving. “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.’”
Ruby and Kevin were also accused of isolating their children from their friends as they were often not allowed phones or devices to communicate with. “Having that need for electronics is the introduction into disconnect,” Ruby said. “And that is why people are so uncomfortable with me showing a connected family. It rubs them against their shame, and they project what they’re seeing onto me.”
In another incident, during a toilet paper shortage (covid?), Ruby and Kevin installed a bidet in the master bathroom of their home and insinuated that the children would have to do chores to be able to use the bidet, even though they had no toilet paper for the other bathrooms.
“The master bathroom is off-limits to the kids, but they have five other bathrooms in the house that they have access to,” Ruby said. “And I had made a comment: ‘Well, you could do some extra chores around the house so that you can come and use the bathroom.’”
Ruby later spoke about how people took the comments out of context. “It was just so malicious,” she said. “They knew what they were doing was out of context. They were purely seeking to throw hate. That was their only objective. A reasonable person would not have seen that video and thought, ‘She is a child abuser.’”
Ruby also spoke about the toll that the backlash and criticism had taken on her and the family. “People who aren’t in a healthy mindset, it could drive someone to suicide, easily,” she said. “I can see now, having gone through it, that it could take your life.”
Ruby said the kids had told her that they prayed for everyone who was sending negativity their way. One of her daughters told her that people were spreading rumors only because they were looking for acceptance.
“My kids are so strong,” she said. “They are amazing. And they have come together and have even prayed for our enemies. These people who are hating on us, they pray that they will feel the love that they are searching for.”
There was another incident where she is talking with Russell on camera about a time when he and Eve were only supposed to use their iPads for school work but were doing other things on them.
In the clip, Russell looks so uncomfortable and broken. You can tell he does not want to be on camera and feels embarrassed. He also mentions not having friends.
In 2020, Ruby began working with Jodi Hildebrandt at ConneXions. Ruby was working as a mental health coach with the company, and Jodi was a counsellor.
By 2021, 8 Passengers had started to decline in popularity. Ruby claimed that she stopped posting content on the channel to protect her children. The channel ended up being removed by YouTube in 2023.
In 2022, Jodi and Ruby started a new instagram account and YouTube channel called Moms of Truth. They offered parenting advice.
ConneXions was a coaching service that focused on parenting and relationships. It was also known for its strict teachings on parenting. Some critics have found the lessons to be extreme, including one video in which Ruby and Jodi say a child who refuses to abide by their “principles of truth” does not love unconditionally and may be cut off from their families.
Some of their other videos include Jodi and Ruby downplaying the seriousness of eating disorders, blaming rape victims, and criticizing U.S. immigrants.
In early 2023, Shari, Ruby’s oldest daughter who was 20 years old at the time, spoke on a podcast about the relationship she had with her family. She said it left her “spiritually drained.”
She spoke about the effect that ConneXions had her on her family. She said they joined it originally to help them become “growth-orientated.” At first, she said it was great and brought them closer as a family.
But over time, the group became more extreme and started equating their teachings with the Mormon gospel, which she said started affecting her relationship with her family.
Shari told the podcast that “some things within my family were happening” that she started to question, such as whether God would “support” ConneXions’ teachings and whether they were in line with her Christian values.
Shari said on the podcast that it led to a period of around seven months in her freshman year of college where she struggled to follow the gospel while also being able to honor her family.
“I want to honor my family, we’re supposed to honor our parents, and I felt that to disagree with them was sinful and that God would be mad at me too if I did that,” she said.
Later in the podcast, Shari said that she had originally given “no indication” to her family that she disagreed with what was going on because she wanted to still be included. But, she added, spending time with them was taking a toll on her mental health.
“I noticed when I would leave my family, I would just feel spiritually drained,” she said on the podcast.
“I just wouldn’t feel great,” Shari added. “I would overhear conversations and find myself, internally, like this isn’t right, this isn’t OK.”
Shari said that she had cut ties with her family in 2022. Shari has a big social media presence with over 600k followers on instagram currently. She urged her followers to “please remember that this is my real family.”
“Despite good intentions, speculating, rumors, and gossip doesn’t help us. I’d like to ask for privacy for me and my family as we work through this very difficult situation,” she said. “Please know that many are working on this situation, and I hope one day we can be whole again. Please respect my privacy, as I work through my own healing as well.”
On August 30, 2023, one of Ruby’s children climbed out of a window of the home of Jodi Hildebrandt.
The 12 year-old child then ran to a neighbor’s house and “knocked on the door requesting food and water,” and the neighbor noticed “duct tape on (the child’s) ankles and wrists and contacted law enforcement”.
Officials determined that the child was severely malnourished, according to the probable cause statement, and was transferred to a nearby hospital. The child 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.
Info from the 911 call made ended up being released:
“I just had a 12-year-old boy show up here at my front door asking for help,” the neighbour says, according to a recording of the call obtained by ABC.
“And he’s said he had just come from a neighbour’s house and we know there’s been problems at this neighbour’s house.
“He is emaciated. He’s got tape around his legs. He’s hungry and he’s thirsty.
“He has duct tape around each ankle. There are sores around them. He has them around his wrists as well.
“This kid has obviously… he’s been detained. He’s obviously covered in wounds.”
“He says everything’s fine with them,” the caller told the dispatcher. “He says what’s happened to him is his fault.”
Police then searched Jodi’s house where they found a 10-year-old girl who was also allegedly malnourished and suffering from wounds. This child was also taken to the hospital.
Child protective services took them, plus two older siblings in their teens, into custody.
Both Ruby and Jodi were arrested and charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse, a felony. Both are being held without bail.
In Utah, aggravated child abuse is defined as an act that “inflicts upon a child serious physical injury” or “causes or permits another to inflict serious physical injury upon a child.”
Each of the charges carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted.
Shari made an instagram post when her mother was arrested. “Finally,” Shari, 20, wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of police at the home. “Today has been a big day,” Shari wrote in another post on Instagram that day. “Me and my family are so glad justice is being served. We’ve been trying to tell the police and CPS for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up.”
Elle Mechem, Julie Griffiths Deru and Bonnie Hoellein, three women who say they are Ruby Franke’s sisters and who are also family influencers, shared a joint Instagram post saying her arrest “needed to happen.”
“For the past 3 years, we have kept quiet on the subject of our sister Ruby Franke for the sake of her children,” the post read. “Behind the public scene we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe.”
Kevin came out and made a statement and said that he had been separated from Ruby for 13 months prior to her arrest.
His attorney Randy Kester, claimed that Kevin had not been able to see his children and wasn’t aware that Ruby had moved them to Ivans, Utah, about four hours from Salt Lake City, Law & Crime reported.
Kester claimed that Ruby had been ‘controlling Kevin emotionally because she knew how much he valued their marriage.’
‘It was his desire to be able to get back with the family and preserve his marriage,’ Randy told the media.
‘Kevin never had any reason to believe that his children were being abused.’
“He is a good person,” the attorney told Good Morning America.
Randy also spoke about how Kevin’s marriage to Ruby had fallen apart after she became associated with Jodi. ‘[He says] she manipulated him in conjunction with Ruby, that she’s kind of the spearhead toward essentially destroying his life and destroying his family,’ Randy shared.
Kevin is apparently working to regain custody of the younger children who are currently in the care of the state.
Ruby appeared in court on September 7. She broke down as she made claims that one of her minor children sexually abused their sibling and molested several other family members and children in the neighborhood over the years.
She said in court that one of her children began looking at pornography at just three-years old.
She also claimed her two children played a ‘patting’ game with each other, but did not go into further detail.
Ruby said that in May her child confessed to sexually abusing 20 people, including cousins and neighbors.
She provided no proof of her allegations.
The judge then said that her alleged abusive child ‘will then need to be placed in a home with no other children.’
The media asked Kevin for a statement following Ruby’s court appearance. Keester said, ‘He’s been instructed by the court not to comment to the press. Out of the respect for the children involved we have no comment.’
Ruby’s sister in law Cynthia spoke to the media following her statements. “’I don’t know what to believe from her. I think she’s lying,’ Cynthia said.
‘She’s putting the blame on her two kids to validate what she did to her children. At this point I think she’ll say anything to save herself.’
Cynthia, who is the wife of Ruby’s husband Kevin’s older brother Alan, said: ‘we had no idea what was going on in the family.’
Jennifer Franke, 42, who is married to Kevin’s brother Aaron, said: ‘Ruby isn’t really my cup of tea. I’ve never really liked her from day one. She always thought she was better than anyone she’s around.’
‘If you look up narcissist in the dictionary, there will be a picture of Ruby.’
Jennifer also spoke about how Kevin and Ruby had originally gone to ConneXions for marriage counselling.
‘It was cult. Kevin was in a men’s group at ConneXions, he had a checklist of what he needed to do to be better and if you did they would praise you and if you didn’t they would chastise you,’ she said.
‘When Jodi moved into the family’s Springville marital home, one of the first things she did was separate Ruby and Kevin, it was almost like the movie War of the Roses.
‘Ruby was living on one side of the house and Kevin was living on the other. Kevin couldn’t talk to Ruby unless Jodi was present.’
‘Shari told us that Kevin was kicked out last July 2022, at the time we never knew about Jodi and the influence she would have on the family.
‘At the time Shari told us, ‘My dad wont talk to me. He wouldn’t take phone calls answer emails etc.”
She continued telling Jennifer, ‘My dad thinks he’s a horrible person, they (Ruby and Jodi) have him brainwashed believing he is a bad person.’
‘Shari tried contacting her father after he moved out, but he blocked everyone on social media, his cell phone, email.
‘I feel bad for Kevin, he’s like almost brainwashed. I feel sorry for him.’
Jodi’s niece Jessi Hildebrandt spoke to KUTV on Sept. 11. They alleged that their aunt had abused them while under her care for roughly a year when they were a teenager. Jessi alleged the abuse, which they alleged happened more than 10 years ago, was similar to the reported details about Franke’s children.
“The things that I experienced while living with Jodi — I experienced being tied, I experienced being duct taped, I experienced being blindfolded, I experienced severe isolation, I experienced severe emotional, spiritual and psychological abuse,” Jessi alleged. “I experienced being told I shouldn’t be around other people, being told that I was dangerous to be around. People were afraid of me to the point where I was afraid of myself.”
Jessi recalled they were “isolated for up to 12 hours a day” and were once “forced to sleep outside in the snow” while under Jodi’s care, as well as alleging that Jodi “accused me of being a sex addict” and “of being addicted to masturbation.” Jessi decided to speak out about their experience after reading a report last week about Franke’s claims of sex abuse within her family.
“I’ve never met Ruby … but the things that she is saying and regurgitating are very, very familiar to me,” Jessi said. “The philosophies and the therapeutic modalities that she is using are Jodi’s and these are not new. This is a pattern.
Ruby and Jodi were due back in court on September 21 but that did not happen.
One hour before they were due for a bail hearing in court, it got postponed until October.
The Utah State Court officials said they needed “additional time needed to review copious amounts of discovery,” according to local KUTV. Court documents say the hearing will be “rescheduled at the convenience of the Court on a date after October 5, 2023,” according to local Fox 13.