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YouTube vlogger Ruby Franke formally charged with 6 felony counts of child abuse

Former YouTube star Ruby Franke, pictured here in a video for her mental health counseling service ConneXions, was charged with six felony counts of child abuse.
Former YouTube star Ruby Franke, pictured here in a video for her mental health counseling service ConneXions, was charged with six felony counts of child abuse.

Ruby Franke, the family vlogger behind the now-defunct YouTube channel 8 passengers has been formally charged with six counts of felony child abuse by a Washington County attorney in Utah, court documents show.

Franke and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, were arrested last week after Franke's 12-year-old son climbed out a window and ran to a neighbor's house asking for food and water.

The neighbor, noticing duct tape around the child's ankles and wrists, called the police. The responding officer said the child appeared severely malnourished and had sustained "deep lacerations" from being tied up with a rope.

When police searched Hildebrandt's home, they found Franke's 10-year-old daughter in a similar condition and transported both children to the hospital for malnourishment. In total, the four Franke children still living at home were taken into the care of Utah's Child and Family Services. Her two other children are adults.

Hildebrandt was also charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse.

A local lawyer representing Franke did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment. Court documents do not list legal representation for Hildebrandt.

Both Hildebrandt and Franke were still in custody as of Wednesday, records for the Washington County Sheriff's office show. The pair are scheduled to appear in court before the same judge on Friday.

Franke rose to national fame with the launch of her YouTube channel in 2015. At its peak, 8 Passengers attracted nearly 2.3 million subscribers who followed along as Franke documented her life as a mother of six children and wife to her husband, Kevin.

The channel was taken down earlier this year amid a growing chorus of criticism over Franke's strict parenting tactics, which included threatening to take away meals.

In recent weeks, Franke had been collaborating with Hildebrandt on ConneXions, a mental health counseling service that also faced criticism for its parenting advice, including shame-based learning and shunning those who don't share your values.

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Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.
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