Two sisters of a former YouTuber who gave online parenting advice said they “did as much as they could” to protect her children before she was arrested on suspicion of aggravated child abuse.
Ruby Franke, whose now-defunct 8 Passengers channel followed her family, was arrested on Wednesday in Utah and taken into custody.
Franke’s 12-year-old son had climbed out of a window in the city of Ivins and ran to a neighbour’s house on Wednesday morning before asking for food and water, according to an affidavit filed by an officer with the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department.
According to the document, the neighbour saw duct tape on the boy’s ankles and wrists and called law enforcement.
The boy was taken to a hospital, where he was put on a medical hold “due to his deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment,” arrest records show.
Franke’s 10-year-old daughter was later found malnourished and was also taken to the hospital, officers said. Two other of Franke’s children were in the custody of child protection services, the affidavit said.
Franke was arrested alongside her business partner and collaborator, Jodi Hildebrandt, who is the founder of the controversial life counselling organisation ConneXions Classroom. The two women create advice videos that critics say promote a harsh style of parenting.
‘We did as much as we could’
After her arrest, Franke’s sisters have said they are “all on the same page” about their sibling and are glad that the children are now safe.
In a now-deleted YouTube video titled ‘My statement on my sister Ruby Franke’, Bonnie Hoellein, who is also a social media personality, said “we all did as much as we could, legally,” when speaking about protecting her niece and nephews.
“For the last three years, we have truly clung on to each other and offering support to one another, and I don’t think any of us could’ve seen this coming.
“I know that timing is everything, and I know that they will be taken care of. I know the kids will be OK and that our family will be OK.”
The day before Ms Hoellein posted on YouTube, Ellie Mecham, another of Franke’s sisters, said in a statement that they had done “everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe”.
Posting on Instagram, where she has over 500,000 followers, Ms Mecham said the family had kept quiet on the subject of their sister for the last three years, “for the sake of the children”.
On Thursday, a judge denied Franke bail after a detective cited “the severity of the injuries of her two kids located in the home,” and told the judge the Department of Child and Family Services had taken four of Franke’s children into custody with the officer yet to speak to two of them.
Who is Ruby Franke?
Franke and her husband launched their family YouTube channel, 8 Passengers, in early 2015. The channel chronicled the lives of the parents and their six children and had nearly 2.3 million subscribers.
As many family channels on YouTube do, 8 Passengers focused on parenting style, the children’s upbringing and discipline as the kids grew up in Utah. The parents, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (known as the Mormon Church), also shared their children’s home-schooling.
Although the Frankes grew a sizable following, the family became the subject of harsh criticisms in recent years.