Ruby Franke's Daughter "Petrified" to Leave Closet for Hours After Being Found, Police Say

In newly-released bodycam footage from Ruby Franke's child abuse case, the former influencer’s 9-year-old daughter took nearly four hours to leave a closet in Jodi Hildebrandt’s home.

By Olivia Evans Mar 26, 2024 9:12 PMTags
Watch: YouTuber Ruby Franke's Journal Entries Revealed

Content warning: The story discusses child abuse.

Another heartbreaking detail from Ruby Franke's child abuse case has been revealed.

A little over a month after the former YouTuber—who shares six children with estranged husband Kevin Franke—was given four consecutive one to fifteen year sentences (equivalent to four to 60 years), the Washington County Attorney's Office shared previously unreleased evidence from her case. 

Police bodycam videos show authorities discovering Franke's 9-year-old daughter, referred to by the initial E. in the case, sitting alone in an empty closet in the Utah home of Jodi Hildebrandt, Franke's business partner who was also convicted on child abuse charges and is serving the same sentence. Authorities described the young girl as "petrified" when they found her in a press release that accompanied the clips. 

In one video, police check rooms before finding E.—who wears jeans and an oversized light pink henley shirt in the videos—sitting cross legged in a low lit closet off of a bathroom on the morning of Aug. 30. 

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"You doing okay?" the officer asks her in one video, to no response. "You don't want to talk to me? That's okay. Can you come with me?"

When the girl continues to remain silent, the officer sits down in front of her. 

"You take your time," he tells her. "I'm a police officer. I don't mean to hurt you at all. Are you scared? Yeah?"

In another clip, time-stamped nearly two hours later, another officer comes in while playing "Payphone" by Maroon 5, and gives her a small pizza and a drink. E. sits in front of the food for a while without touching it. 

Washington County Attorney's Office

"You're more than welcome to eat," the officer tells her. "Eat all you want, sweetie. That's all you."

After being encouraged by the officer, the video shows E. helping herself to some of the pizza. In a later clip time-stamped at around 3:30 p.m. Aug. 30, about four hours after authorities initially found her, a woman EMT is seen in the closet and chats softly with the child, who appears to respond to her in redacted portions of the audio. 

"We helped your brother," the EMT reassures E. "We want to get you some help too." 

Finally, the young girl stands and walks out of the closet. 

The scene unfolded shortly after Franke's 12-year-old son escaped and ran to a neighbor's home for help—prompting her and Hildebrandt's arrest. In a case summary, the Washington County Attorney's Office says that Franke and Hildebrandt held the two aforementioned children in a "work camp like setting."

"The children were regularly denied food, water, beds to sleep in, and virtually all forms of entertainment," the summary reads, also describing physical abuse in graphic detail. "The children suffered emotional abuse to the extent that they came to believe that they deserved the abuse."


Indeed, authorities posited in the case summary that Hildebrandt and Franke—who each pleaded guilty to four felony counts of second-degree aggravated child abuse—"appeared to fully believe that the abuse they inflicted was necessary to teach the children how to properly repent for imagined "sins" and to cast the evil spirits out of their bodies."

In addition to the bodycam videos, the attorney's Washington County Attorney's Office released journal entries from Franke that referred to her 12-year-old son as a "demon," and her daughter as "sinful" as well as audio from a phone call with her estranged husband two days after her arrest. At the time, she maintained her innocence. 

E! News previously reached out to attorneys for Ruby Franke, Kevin Franke and Jodi Hidelbrandt regarding newly-released evidence for comment but did not hear back. 

Read on for a complete timeline of the case.

Aug. 30, 2023: Children Found Malnourished

Utah police received a call about a starved child being found, they shared in a press release. The minor—who appeared "emaciated and malnourished" with "open wounds and duct tape around the extremities"—was taken to the hospital in "severe" condition.

He was later identified as YouTuber Ruby Franke's 12-year-old son, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by NBC News. He had been at the home of Ruby's business partner Jodi Hildebrant and had climbed out of a window before going to a neighbor's house to ask for help, per the document.

Police then searched a nearby home, where another child was found "in a similar physical condition of malnourishment" and was also hospitalized, per the press release.

Authorities later explained that they discovered Ruby's 9-year-old daughter "petrified" while sitting by herself in an empty closet in Jodi's house, per evidence released by the Washington County Attorney's Office.

Aug. 30, 2023: Arrest 

Ruby was arrested for aggravated child abuse charges in Utah along with Jodi, who in 2007 established a life coaching service called ConneXions, which former clients described to NBC News as a "cult-like" program based on principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Aug. 31, 2023: Ruby's Daughter Speaks Out

On Aug. 31, E! reported that Shari Franke, Ruby's estranged adult daughter, reacted to the news on her Instagram Story.

"Me and my family are so glad justice is being served," wrote Shari, who was born in 2003. "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."

Aug. 31, 2023: Ruby's Sisters React to Arrest

Ruby's sisters Ellie Mecham, Bonnie Hoellein and Julie Deru spoke out as well, saying the YouTuber's arrest "needed to happen."

"For the last 3 years we have kept quiet on the subject of Ruby Franke for the sake of her children," they wrote in a joint Instagram statement. "Behind the public scene, we have done everything to try and make sure the kids were safe. 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 any further."

The siblings said Ruby's kids are "now safe, which is the number one priority."

Sept. 6, 2023: Charges Filed

The former 8 Passengers YouTuber and her business partner Jodi were each formally charged with six counts of felony child abuse by the Washington County Attorney in Utah.

Sept. 6, 2023: Kevin Franke Breaks Silence

Ruby's husband Kevin Franke came forward to deny involvement in her alleged crimes. His lawyer Randy Kester told Good Morning America the spouses had been living apart for 13 months before the arrest.

"He is a good person, he's very gentle," the attorney said. "He's a very gentle guy. And no one has ever made any allegations that he's physically abused those kids or anyone else." 

Nov. 29, 2023: Kevin Files for Divorce

Kevin officially filed for divorce from the Utah influencer, according to a domestic relations injunction obtained by NBC News.

Dec. 18: Guilty Pleas

E! confirmed Dec. 18 that Ruby had entered a guilty plea for four of her charges. At the time, per the Associated Press, she stated, "With my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and my children, guilty."

Jodi would also plead guilty to four counts of second-degree felony aggravated child abuse.

Feb. 20, 2024: Prison Sentencing

Both women were sentenced to four consecutive one to 15 year sentences, which will be capped at the 30-year max in Utah.

Feb. 20, 2024: Ruby Apologizes

The parent vlogger apologized during her sentencing to her six kids and estranged husband.

"For the past four years, I've chosen to follow counsel and guidance that has led me into a dark delusion," she said in court. "My distorted version of reality went largely unchecked as I would isolate from anyone who challenged me."

She continued, "To my babies, you are a part of me. I believed dark was light and right was wrong. I would do anything in this world for you. I took from you all that was soft, and safe, and good."

March 25, 2024: Ruby's Diary Revealed

Prosecutors released her chilling journal entries, in which she wrote about her mistreatment of her children, including her "Satanic" tween son.

"He slithers & sneaks around looking for opportunities when no one is watching & then he scurries," she wrote in an entry from July 10, 2023, which was her son's 12th birthday. "If he wants to emulate the savior, he needs to be 100% obedient with exactness. No wavering, no hiding."

She wrote about punishing her children by beating them and withholding food and water.

March 25, 2024: Kevin's Interview With Authorities Becomes Public

Prosecutors released audio footage of Kevin talking with investigators after Ruby was arrested, in which he spoke about alleged restrictions he faced in their house.

"There were all these rules now placed on me, like I can leave when I want but I couldn't come back until Ruby gave me permission," Kevin said in an audio clip obtained by E!. "I couldn't come into the kitchen to eat until Ruby gave me permission and the upstairs where Jodi was was completely offline. I couldn't go upstairs anymore in my own house. And Ruby would dictate all of the terms of how our interactions would be, when we would talk. And that was hard."

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