An Ivins, Utah resident who lives nearby the family, and asked not to be named for privacy, tells Rolling Stone that he and other neighbors have called the police on Franke multiple times out of concern for the children, and notes there were weeks at a time where the children appeared to be left home without an adult present. The Santa Clarins-Ivins Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.
“In early 2022, it started getting weird,” the neighbor tells Rolling Stone. “People were concerned because Ruby completely stopped her YouTube stuff. And then it just kind of turned dark. She taped up paper over all of her windows. She would disappear for weeks at a time and there’s all these little kids just left alone in this house.” Franke and her husband Kevin Franke did not respond to Rolling Stone’s requests for comment.
“The cops were called, you know, several times, they would come and they’d knock on the door and nobody would open up,” the neighbor adds.
Franke’s sisters Ellie Mecham, Julie Deru, and Bonnie Hoellein — who are also family content creators — called the YouTuber’s arrest something that “needed to happen,” and said keeping Franke’s children safe is their only priority.
“For the last 3 years, we have kept quiet on the subject of our sister Ruby Franke for the sake of her children. Behind the public scene we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe,” the Instagram statement read. “We wouldn’t feel right about moving forward with regular content without addressing the most recent events. Once we do, we will not be commenting on it further. Ruby was arrested which needed to happen. Jodi was arrested which needed to happen. The kids are now safe, which is the number one priority.”
Franke’s eldest daughter Shari, who is estranged from her parents, also spoke out about the arrest on her Instagram story on Thursday. “Me and my family are so glad justice is being served,” Shari said. We’ve been trying to tell the police and CPS for years about this, and so glad they finally decided to step up. Kids are safe, but there’s a long road ahead. Please keep them in your prayers and also respect their privacy.”
Franke is best known for her YouTube channel “8 Passengers,” where she documented her unique and strict parenting style as she raised her six children. Many of her videos focused on discipline and often received pushback from her audience for being overly harsh — like withholding lunch, removing bedroom doors, and threatening to throw away toys and clothes with sentimental value as punishments for minor infractions. The channel, which was removed from YouTube earlier this year under unknown circumstances, had over 2.3 million followers. The channel was regularly plagued by accusations of abuse, all of which Franke denied.
On Thursday, Franke and her business partner Jodi Hildebrant were taken into police custody after a child escaped through Hildebrant’s window and asked neighbors for food and water. According to a police report obtained by Page Six, neighbors called police after they noticed the child had remnants of duct tape wrapped around their arms and legs and looked “emaciated, malnourished”, and had “open wounds.” It is unclear whether the child was one of Franke’s six children. While police were examining Hildebrant’s home, authorities reportedly found another “emaciated child,” who was also taken to the hospital, Page Six reports. According to AP, the child who escaped has been identified in a police affidavit as Franke’s 12-year-old son, and her 10-year-old daughter was also found malnourished in the home. Franke and Hildebrant are being held under suspicion of two counts of aggravated child abuse. (Hildebrant could not be reached for comment.) An attorney for her husband Kevin Franke did not respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.