The sisters of Ruby Franke — the YouTuber mom of six from Utah who was arrested on child abuse charges — claim they had no knowledge of the events that police say went on in her Utah home.
The controversial vlogger was known for disciplining her six children in an unusually harsh manner, such as denying them Christmas presents and food. Some of these punishments unfolded on the family’s former YouTube account “8 Passengers.”
Earlier this month, Franke was arrested and charged with six counts of child abuse.
On September 13, Ruby’s sisters Julie Griffiths Deru and Bonnie Hoellein released separate YouTube videos alleging they were not aware of Franke’s actions, as their sister had cut ties to her extended family. The sisters also criticized Franke’s business partner Jodi Hildebrandt, a clinical mental health counselor who was arrested with Franke, for having what they said was a negative influence on their family.
Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested on August 30, after the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department received a call about a minor who “appeared to be emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities,” according to a press release. “The juvenile was asking for food and water.”
Police found another minor “in a similar physical condition of malnourishment” in a nearby home. The release stated that four other children were taken in by The Department of Child and Family Services.
Both Ruby Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested and charged individually with six counts of aggravated child abuse, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Hurricane, Utah.
Franke’s sisters, Deru and Hoellein, expressed anger in their videos.
“What my family and I have gone through the last couple of weeks is the worst thing that has ever happened to us,” Hoellein said in her video titled “I am not my sister. I am not my sister’s crimes.”
“The more I learn, my feelings are turning more to anger. I am mad at what has happened,” she continued. “I am beyond disgusted.”
“We did not know what they were doing because like we said, we were cut off,” she said. “We did not have access to anyone.”
Hoellein referred to Ruby and her husband Kevin Franke and Hildebrandt’s now-deleted YouTube channel ConneXions, on which she and Ruby Franke would appear to give parenting advice, as “bull crap” and a “complete indoctrination of this thing that they created.”
“I don’t agree with how extreme they are on everything — I knew they were weird, I knew that they were off — those are the things that we kept quiet about, because what was I going to say?” said Hoellein. “I was not going to come out and publicly say that I don’t like my sister and I don’t like what she’s doing and I think she’s weird. That is what we kept quiet about.”
It wasn’t until about a year ago, said Hoellein, when the extended family re-connected with Franke’s eldest adult daughter and learned more about how their nieces and nephews lived.
Hoellein addressed people who accused her family of not doing more to help Franke’s children, claiming they had no legal recourse.
“For those that were saying that they’d go in and bust down doors and do whatever it took — to end up in jail? Because from jail, I can’t do anything,” she said.
Hoellein said Ruby’s husband, Kevin Franke, was the appropriate person to intervene.
“We had zero contact with him,” she said. “It was Kevin’s job to check in on things and he did not.”
TODAY.com reached out to Kevin’s attorney for comment and did not immediately hear back.
Ruby Franke’s other sister, Julie Griffiths Deru, also posted a YouTube video titled “My Side of the Story Concerning my Sister Ruby Franke.”
Deru explained that she believes Franke’s family was functioning until three years ago when they entered counseling. She said that ConneXions was “not a great resource,” in her opinion.
“We all felt weird about this Jodi lady, we weren’t comfortable with it … we didn’t like the teachings Ruby was bringing to the family functions,” said Deru. “We were this close to telling (Ruby), ‘If you come to our family events … we do not want to hear what you are learning through ConneXions because we don’t like it.'”
According to the ConneXions website, the service offers paid courses “to help treat those lost and stranded in the darkness of distortion — which addictions, fear, sadness, and all other self-destructive behaviors derive from.”
Deru said her sister soon cut off their family and wouldn’t return her text messages or emails.
“We are in complete shock still, as to what she had done,” said Deru. “I had no idea what was happening.”
Deru and Hoellein did not immediately return TODAY.com’s requests for comment.
During a September 8 virtual hearing, a judge ruled that Franke and Hildebrandt would remain incarcerated without bail until their next court hearing; according to NBC News, the women will next appear in court on September 21.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com
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