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New evidence shows severity of abuse in Franke and Hildebrandt case

In February, Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt were each sentenced to four 1–15-year terms in prison.
New evidence shows severity of abuse in Franke and Hildebrandt case
Posted at 4:03 PM, Mar 24, 2024

Warning: The content in this article is graphic and depicts injuries consistent with abuse. Viewer discretion is advised.

One month after former YouTube influencers Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt were sentenced to prison for child abuse charges, evidence released Friday depicts the severity of the abuse.

Perhaps most startling of the evidence released were the words directly from Franke and Hildebrandt, recorded during phone conversations each had while in the Washington County Jail.

"Adults have a really hard time understanding that children can be full of evil and what that takes to fight it," said Franke during one call. “And so I don’t know any other adults who are going to see the truth.”

In a call to an unidentified person, Hildebrandt seemed incredulous that what she had done should be considered abuse.

“So now, it’s abusive to make a kid sleep on the floor,“ she was recorded saying. “It’s ridiculous. You can’t even raise your kids anymore.”

In February, Franke and Hildebrandt were each sentenced to four 1–15-year terms in prison, one for each of the four counts of child abuse to which they pleaded guilty.

Their arrests came after one of Franke's children escaped Hildebrandt's home in August and knocked on the door of a neighbor in Ivins, asking for food and water. The neighbor noticed duct tape on the child's ankles and wrists and took action, calling the police.

SEE MORE: YouTube mom Ruby Franke sentenced for child abuse charges

Child escapes for help

In newly released video, doorbell footage captured a child ringing the doorbell before walking away as nobody answered. Shortly before leaving the property, a neighbor answered and asked what the problem was.

"I was just wondering if you could do two favors?" the child asked.

"Well, what are they?" the neighbor responded.

The child then asks if they could get in touch with the nearest police station.

"What's going on, son? Have a seat there," the neighbor says as the child sits in a chair on the front porch.

"It's personal business," the child is heard saying.

Documents detail how the neighbors gave the child food and water as they alerted authorities. As an ambulance responded, the neighbors gave the child some sandals and food before they were examined.

"We need the police here now," the neighbor said in the video. "They're on their way," the other neighbor said.

Photos, videos, police reports, journal entries, phone calls, and more were released as part of the evidence by Washington County officials that shows the gravity of the children's injuries.

"How'd you get the ropes on you? Who did them?" a police officer is heard asking the child. "You're not in trouble with me [redacted], we're just trying to figure out what's going on. Our main focus right now is you, okay?"

The child is heard speaking back to the officer, although their answers were redacted by officials. They were taken to the hospital and treated for deep cuts found on their wrists and ankles, as well as severe malnourishment.

While being treated by medical teams, a police report notes plastic wrap, duct tape, and bandages on the child, covering deep wounds. Documents state the skin came off the child while the duct tape was removed.

"I asked child 1 how long the plastic wrap and duct tape were on his legs and wrists," the documents state. "He said since last night. I asked him why they were put on, and he said because the gashes were there and it was supposed to help."

The child also told police that Franke and Hildebrandt had tied him to the ground with ropes "to help him with what he has been choosing." He also said they had covered his wounds in cayenne pepper and honey.

SEE MORE: Utah mom Ruby Franke to remain in jail following 1st court appearance

Police enter Hildebrandt's home

After initially responding to the child, officers are seen on body camera footage discussing what to do next.

"We need to identify the house; if there's two other kids there, we need to go through a security sweep of the house and help them," one officer is heard saying.

Once police entered Hildebrandt's home, they discovered a child sitting on the floor in a closet.

"I don't mean to hurt you at all," a police officer said to the child, who remained silent. "I'm not going to hurt you, I promise. See this right here; it's a badge. I'm telling you, I don't hurt people; I'm just trying to make sure you're okay."

Then the officer sits on the floor with the child, saying it's okay if they don't want to talk.

"I'll just sit here with you," the officer says.

An EMT also went to the room and spoke with the child, to which they responded that they were "nervous" to talk.

Officers brought a meal of pizza and a drink to the child and set it on the ground as they waited. In a video, the child is seen not touching the food for some time before cautiously opening the pizza box and taking a bite of the food.

A police report details that after four hours of the sergeant sitting with the child in the home, they agreed to be transported to the hospital, where they were treated for malnourishment.

Police conduct interviews

As an investigation began, detectives and officers interviewed Hildebrandt, Franke and Franke's husband, Kevin, among others.

In his interview, Kevin Franke told police he and his wife had separated in July of 2023 and that although he had been financially providing, he had no contact with his wife or children.

"Mr. Franke informed me there was no court paperwork, but he and Ruby agreed that he would not contact her or the kids," the documents state.

During his interview, Kevin also told police he thought his family was still living in their Springville home and had no knowledge of the children being in Hildebrandt's residence in Ivins.

After police informed Kevin that two children were taken into custody of Child Protective Services, documents state he became emotional and said it was "time to get his kids back into his custody and take them back into his home to care for them."

Police said they had no indication Kevin was involved in the abuse in any way and he was released.

During an interview with Ruby Franke, officials summarized the interaction, saying that after they asked her a question, she did not respond and instead just looked at them.

"We informed Mrs. Franke we would not ask anything incriminating and just wished to get to know her," the documents state. "Mrs. Franke stated she still wanted a lawyer. We did not ask her any further questions."

Hildebrandt echoed similar sentiments, saying her attorney told her not to say anything to the police during the interview.

"I'm a little nervous," Hildebrandt said. "I've watched too many detective movies."

Hildebrandt did tell detectives she had lived in her Ivins home for about six years and lived in Utah County prior to that.

"Ms. Hildebrandt informed me she trusted her lawyer's judgment because he is a good guy, but she wanted to tell us everything so we could understand," documents report. "I informed Ms. Hildebrandt she was able to answer any questions she wanted as we were trying to understand the relationship between Ruby Franke and the kids. Ms. Hildebrandt again stated her attorney said not to say anything."

Nothing else was gathered by the police during the interviews, the documents state. Following the interviews, both women were arrested and handcuffed.

Franke and Hildebrandt arrested

As the children were given medical treatment, Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested and booked into jail on child abuse charges.

Video of their arrest shows each woman not speaking much to officers as they were handcuffed.

When Franke was read her charges, she did not acknowledge that she understood what the officer was saying.

"Are you okay?" a police officer asked. "I'm wondering if there's like a medical clearance; do you need medical attention before you go to the jail?"

"No," Franke responds.

"Have you ever been arrested before?" The officer asks in the video. Franke does not respond.

"I'm just concerned about you; I know you don't believe that," the officer continues.

Franke is then seen in the video looking away and staying silent, seemingly ignoring what the officer was saying.

Personal journal details abuse

Journal entries were also released by police that detail even more of what transpired in the months leading to Franke's and Hildebrandt's arrests. In total, 60 pages of journal entries were released to Scripps News Salt Lake City, with many pages partially or fully redacted.

On a page titled "Timeline," it states, "[Redacted] refuses to work. Screams. Has hair shaved off," with a date of July 14, 2023.

The journal has a full entry dated July 9 and 10, 2023.

"[Redacted] turns 12 tomorrow," the journal says. "I never envisioned him turning 12 and still pooping/peeing himself. Satanic choices lead to one becoming destitute, even in the most influential homes."

"...[Redacted] have been in so much deviant behavior, they won't control their bodily functions," the journal reads. "...their selfish, sinful lifestyle is being intervened upon. I told [Redacted] he emulates a snake. He slithers and sneaks around looking for opportunities when no one is watching and then he scurries. If he wants to emulate the Savior, he needs to be 100% obedient. With exactness. No wavering. No hiding."

The journal continues, "[Redacted] is better behaved with Jodi. She likes to think she can still manipulate me. I gave her a pixie haircut. All her long hair is gone. No more distracting with hair."

Journal entries further detail the abuse the children suffered throughout the months of July and August.

Days before their arrest, on August 27, the journal states the children were whipped.

"I whipped him with a belt yesterday, [Redacted] too. She peed all over Jodi's garage floor, screamed at her and lied to her," the journal reads. "She is out of control. [Redacted] seemed to give me her attention after the whipping."

Hildebrandt and Franke sentenced

County officials previously told Scripps News Salt Lake City that the case was one of the most severe instances of child abuse they had ever seen.

When she pleaded guilty, Franke called the abuse "acts of love." During her sentencing, Franke expressed her sorrow to her family, including her children and husband.

Similarly, Hildebrandt said during her sentencing that she "genuinely" loves the children and wanted them to heal in every aspect of their lives.

Both women are now serving four 1–15-year terms in prison, one for each of the four counts of child abuse to which they pleaded guilty.

This story was originally published by Melanie Porter at Scripps News Salt Lake City.

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