Utah mommy blogger Ruby Franke, who made a living creating lifestyle and parenting videos on YouTube with her business partner Jodi Hilderbrandt, appeared in court for the first time on Friday after she was charged with six counts of child abuse last week.
Franke and Hildebrandt ran a popular parenting and lifestyle advice blog on YouTube called ConneXions Classroom, and both mothers have been charged with six counts of child abuse each in connection with the alleged abuse of two children.
The women were arrested on Aug. 30 after Santa Clara police received a dispatch call around 10:50 p.m. regarding a juvenile asking for help, police said in a press release.
Judge Eric Gentry during the Friday court hearing ordered Franke and Hilderbrandt to remain in jail without bond until a bail hearing is held on Sept. 21.
Franke and Hilderbrandt appeared at the virtual hearing from jail and wore orange striped uniforms.
One of Franke’s six children apparently escaped Hildebrandt’s residence in Ivins through a window and asked a neighbor for help, court documents show. The neighbor saw “duct tape” wrapped around the minor victim’s “ankles and wrists” and contacted law enforcement, according to a probable cause affidavit from the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department.
Upon arrival at Hildebrandt’s residence, police noticed that the child had “wounds” and was severely malnourished, so they took him to a nearby hospital for treatment. He “was placed on a medical hold due to his deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment,” the affidavit states.
Law enforcement located one of Franke’s children — also malnourished — inside Hildebrandt’s home after the first child contacted police. The child “initially refused medical” assistance but was later taken to the hospital, the affidavit states.
Police rescued a total of six children from Hildebrandt’s Washington County home.
“Ruby Franke was seen on a YouTube video filmed in Jodi Hildebrandt’s downstairs, which was posted two days [prior to their arrest],” the affidavit says. It further states that Franke was “present in the home and having knowledge of the abuse, malnourishment, and neglect” of her two children at Hildebrandt’s residence.
Franke immediately “requested a lawyer” and refused to speak with police at the time of her arrest, according to the affidavit. Her attorney did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Fox News Digital.
Police requested that Franke and Hildebrandt be held without bail.
In one of Franke’s parenting videos, she discusses her decision to withhold Christmas presents from her two youngest children to teach them a behavioral lesson. In another, she threatens to cut off a doll’s head.
Internet sleuths on TikTok and YouTube quickly descended upon Franke’s and Hildebrandt’s social media pages following their arrests to uncover alarming statements made by the two influencers on their public platforms.
“My kids are literally starving,” Franke, wearing red lipstick, said in one video in front of a Christmas tree. “I hesitate to say this because this is going to sound like, I’m, like, a mean barbarian, but I told the kids, I said, I’m not even going to let you eat breakfast until you get your chores done.”
Franke and Hildebrandt’s charges include “causing or permitting serious physical injury to the [two juvenile] victims in three different ways: (1) a combination of multiple physical injuries or torture; (2) starvation or malnutrition that jeopardizes life; and (3) causing severe emotional harm,” according to the Washington County District Attorney’s Office.
Franke’s daughter, Shari Franke, posted a photo to her Instagram Story last week that showed a police car parked on a suburban street with the caption “Finally.” In another Instagram Story that followed, Shari shared a statement.
“Hi all. Today has been a big day,” she wrote. “Me and my family are so glad justice is being served. We’ve been trying to tell 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.”
Both women are currently in custody at the Washington County Jail in Hurricane, Utah.
Fox News’ Emma Colton contributed to this report.