What To Make Of Ruby Franke

Sheldon Demke | Credit: AP
Sheldon Demke | Credit: AP

I have become fascinated with the Ruby Franke case. I have not publicly discussed the case because when the story broke months ago, I was not convinced that more commentary would be beneficial to add to the discussion, namely because this story was quite dark. However, the statement she gave in her recent court appearance was unexpected.

A Utah-based family, the Frankes became quite popular several years ago via their “8 Passengers” YouTube channel that had over two million subscribers. They fit into the YouTuber families who look like the perfect family — well-dressed, church-going (Mormon), wife, husband, six children. But by June 2020, some of those subscribers started to take note of some strange happenings in the family. Followers began criticizing Ruby Franke’s punishing techniques, they noticed the degree to which she allowed her children to prank one another, and then they realized one of her children was sleeping in a beanbag.

Viewers’ concerns escalated, and some reached out to the local Children Protection Services and went so far as to begin a petition that forcing a child to sleep in a beanbag was too harsh of a punishment. But when Franke was asked about it, she simply said the kid loved it. In 2021, Ruby and Kevin, her husband, began going to counseling with Jodie Hildebrant, a business partner who became her mentor and counselor to her children.

In August of 2022, Franke faced more criticism, this time over a lunch debacle. Her six-year-old daughter had packed a lunch but forgot it. Franke refused to take the lunch to her daughter and let her eat — a punishment obviously way too harsh for a six-year-old.

Police visited the home a few times, but it was not until August of last year when everything exploded. Franke and Hildebrant were arrested after Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped from Hildebrant’s house, ran to a neighbor, and called 911. The boy was entirely malnourished, his limbs had been duct taped, and he had visible injuries.

WATCH: Candace Owens

Hildebrant had allegedly become a counselor to the children; however, the son later told investigators that Hildebrant put cayenne pepper and honey on wounds he had from being tied with a rope. When the Department of Public Safety arrived at the residence, they found another child, her daughter, in comparable condition who had been subjected to the same mistreatment and abuse. As more details unfolded, more abuse came to light. The mother was apparently telling her children they were possessed, and the children believed their mom. Franke told her daughter that to be absolved from possession, she must be subjected to such treatment.

This entire situation is absolutely infuriating. It involves children. Precious, innocent children. It also involves a parent with a warped brain.

This week, Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrant were sentenced to 30 years in prison — and Franke’s not fighting it. That’s what has made this case so interesting. Typically, lawyers work to get a sentence reduced, but part of the reason this court case has moved so quickly is because she is not fighting the charges. Franke gave a rather surprising statement in front of the court — surprising in that it is uncommon — saying she believes she deserves to go to prison for what she has done.

In her statement, she explains how she got to her delusional way of living, coming to believe the church was against her, the government was against her, and in order to “save” her children, she must inflict these punishments on them. She was working with an exceptionally dark and disturbed woman, Hildebrant, but Franke says it was her own choice to believe what she heard. She apologizes to her husband, thanks the police officers, addresses her parents with sincerity, and pleads to God, saying her greatest desire is to one day stand in God’s courts, spotless and confident. She ends by confirming she knows this is “a necessary step” to learn until she is “ready to re-enter as a contributing member of our beautiful society.”

What Ruby Franke did is horrible. What her children have experienced is an absolute tragedy. Even with cases such as these, we are conditioned to watch people commit atrocious crimes and then explain why we should understand they committed them.

Everyone looks for an excuse and for understanding. But not Franke. Her response is surprising because people don’t take accountability anymore. They do not admit wrongdoing. They do not ask for healing, own their faults, and admit they deserve every single thing thrown at them.

To be clear, regardless of her statement, the victims are the children and that fact can never be removed. But it is a response worth discussing. What an interesting conclusion — and one we never see.


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