Ruby Franke: Parenting advice YouTuber pleads guilty to child abuse

A Utah woman who ran a popular parenting advice YouTube channel has pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse.

Ruby Franke, 41, who came to a plea deal with prosecutors faced accusations of starving and abusing her children after her son escaped a Utah home.

Franke said she pleaded guilty “with my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and my children”.

She will testify against a former business partner and collaborator.

The former YouTube star – who once boasted more than two million subscribers for her parenting blog – wore a white and grey-striped jail jumpsuit as she entered her guilty plea on Monday.

Franke is scheduled to be sentenced on 20 February 2024.

She was arrested in August at the home of her former business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, after her malnourished son’s escape from the house in Ivins, Utah and asked a neighbour for food and water.

Ms Hildebrandt, 54 was also arrested and charged with child abuse. Franke appeared in YouTube videos posted by Ms Hildebrandt – a counsellor and life coach – on her site, ConneXions Classroom.

In a statement shared with US media, a lawyer for Franke cast blame on Ms Hildebrandt, alleging she had led Franke “astray”.

“Over an extended period, Ms Hildebrandt systematically isolated Ruby Franke from her extended family, older children, and her husband, Kevin Franke,” Winward Law said in the statement. “This prolonged isolation resulted in Ms Franke being subjected to a distorted sense of morality.”

Winward Law, Ms Hildebrandt’s attorney and prosecutors did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Franke’s 12 year-old-son told officers that Ms Hildebrandt put ropes on his ankles and wrists before he escaped her home in August, according to court records.

The boy had to be taken to the hospital “due to his deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment”, officials said at the time.

A second child, Franke’s daughter, was also found malnourished and taken to a hospital once authorities were involved. Ultimately, four of her children were placed in state custody.

Franke became YouTube famous in 2015 for her channel called 8 Passengers that discussed the parenting of her six children. The channel was deactivated earlier this year.

As her fame grew, Franke faced a backlash over her strict parenting measures. She described withholding meals as a disciplinary measure, and her son claimed to have slept on a bean bag for months as a form of punishment.

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