Franke, Hildebrandt to spend years, maybe decades in prison for 'concentration camp-like' abuse - East Idaho News

Franke, Hildebrandt to spend years, maybe decades in prison for ‘concentration camp-like’ abuse

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ST. GEORGE — Almost six months after her son escaped from Jodi Hildebrandt’s home to call 911 from a neighbor’s home, Ruby Franke was sentenced to prison Tuesday for abusing her two youngest children.

Hildebrandt, Franke’s business partner, was also ordered Tuesday to spend time behind bars.

Fifth District Judge John Walton sentenced both Franke and Hildebrandt to four terms of one to 15 years in prison on four counts of aggravated child abuse, a second-degree felony. He said serving the sentences consecutively is appropriate, meaning each woman will serve between four and 60 years.

Franke, 42, of Springville admitted to four of the six charges against her on Dec. 18 as part of a plea deal, admitting to abusing her children who were ages 9 and 11 from May 22 until her arrest on Aug. 30.

Franke apologizes, says she was misled

At her sentencing, Franke said she was led to believe the world was evil, and her choice to believe the paranoia led to her criminal acts and created a vulnerability and blind spot in her. She thanked the police, calling them “angels” for saving her children, and said the community’s response to her actions has shown her how wrong she was in her beliefs.

“The moment (an officer) handcuffed me was the moment I gained my freedom,” she said.

She said she takes accountability, and chooses to serve a prison sentence.

The mom gained millions of followers on her “8 Passengers” YouTube channel about her family. The channel was taken down in 2023.

Franke admitted in her plea statement that her actions involved physically torturing her son, requiring him to do physical tasks like wall sits and carrying boxes full of books, physically restraining her son, holding her son’s head underwater, forcing her children to stand in direct sunlight resulting in serious sunburns, forcing her daughter to walk barefoot outside, and denying both children adequate water and food.

The plea statement said Franke sought to convince her children they were evil and possessed, and the punishments were necessary for their repentance.

Franke was arrested after her son climbed out of a window in Ivins, Washington County, and ran to a neighbor’s home seeking food and water. Investigators said they later discovered that the boy had been tied to the ground before escaping.

During her sentencing she called her children her “six little chicks” and said she was a mama duck bringing them to safety, but can see now she led them to danger.

“I was so disoriented that I believed dark was light and right was wrong. I would do anything in this world for you. My willingness to sacrifice all for you was masterfully manipulated into something very ugly,” she said.

Franke said she will never stop crying for hurting her children. She said her marriage ending is a tragedy, and apologized to her former husband for leaving him to finish what they started together.

“I’m committed to continuing my learning until all of my toxic layers are shed and I am ready to reenter as a contributing member of our beautiful society,” she said.

Although Franke and Hildebrandt were often seen together in YouTube videos on Hildebrandt’s Connexions Classroom channel and prosecutors described them as business partners, Franke said she was not employed by Hildebrandt and did not receive a paycheck from her or the company. She said Hildebrandt was employed as her son’s counselor beginning in 2019, and in 2020 Franke paid Hildebrandt to be her mentor.

‘I sincerely love these children,’ Hildebrandt says

Hildebrandt, 54, the founder of the Orem-based mental health company Connexions Classroom, pleaded guilty to the same charges and received the same sentence from Walton.

She said her “hope and prayer” is that the children move forward and live beautiful lives.

“I sincerely love these children,” Hildebrandt said before being sentenced.

Walton said she “terrorized” the children, and as an adult figure with specialized training, she should have protected them.

“What happened to these children and your philosophy in dealing with them frankly seems detached from reality or any objective standard of decency, or even common sense,” the judge said.

Hildebrandt’s attorney, Douglas Terry, said there are two sides to every story. He said his experience is Hildebrandt “is not the person that she has been portrayed to be.”

He said she agreed to four consecutive sentences and accepts the consequences.

‘Concentration camp-like setting’

Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke said the children were kept in a “concentration camp-like setting” for months. He said the severity of abuse in the case merits consecutive prison sentences.

He said the children were denied food water, beds, and “virtually all forms of entertainment.”

Clarke said both children had extensive injuries requiring hospitalization, and injuries to her then 12-year-old son were “particularly awful” because his hands and feet were regularly bound after he attempted to run away in July.

He said if the son had not escaped, “Heaven only knows how much longer he could have survived in that situation.”

The prosecutor said both children were emotionally abused, and believed to some degree that they deserved their abuse.

Although Clarke said it could be argued that Franke should receive a lighter sentence than Hildebrandt because of her remorse and cooperation, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole will have the ability to take that into account. Ultimately the board will decide how long the women will serve.

He said Hildebrandt shows “little to no remorse for her actions” and repeatedly says she is a victim and blames the children in jail calls he said she knows are recorded.

Clarke argued she she should serve consecutive sentences because of the severity of the abuse, because of Hildebrandt’s attitude that her actions were justified, and because of her aptitude for using online resources to convince others to follow her.