The husband of infamous YouTube mom Ruby Franke says his wife’s co-defendant is to blame for the child abuse charges both women are now facing.
Randy Kester represents Kevin Franke, the estranged husband of Ruby Franke. The two have six children together. Ruby Franke is facing six charges of felony child abuse in Washington County, Utah, after two of her children were found starving and with duct tape on their extremities.
Ruby Franke, 41, started the YouTube channel “8 Passengers” in 2015 with her husband. In her videos, she featured the everyday lives of her six children, while giving advice about parenting, homeschooling, and marriage. At its height, the channel amassed more than 2.2 million subscribers.
Uploads to the channel stopped in 2022 and YouTube terminated the account earlier this year. While YouTube did not provide a specific reason for the removal, multiple fellow YouTubers have made videos calling out Ruby Franke for her strict parenting style and punishment tactics.
After she stopped uploading to “8 Passengers,” Ruby Franke began appearing in videos for ConneXions Classroom, a therapy company created by her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt.
According to the Santa Clara-Irvine Public Safety Department, police got a call just before 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 30 about a 12-year-old boy who showed up to a man’s home asking for food and water. The man told dispatchers that the child “appeared to be emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities,” police wrote in the release.
Investigators discovered the boy had left neighbor Hildebrandt’s home through a window. When police searched the home, they found the boy’s younger sister with similar wounds. Both were treated at a hospital. Ruby Franke’s other minor-aged children were taken into the care of child protective services.
Attorney Randy Kester spoke with Law&Crime’s Sidebar podcast about the charges against Ruby Franke, reiterating that his client had nothing to do with any abuse and is not charged in the case.
Kevin Franke was “completely shocked” by the allegations, Kester told Sidebar’s Jesse Weber. As of August, he and Ruby Franke have been separated for around 13 months. Kester says Kevin Franke was unable to see the children during that time.
Ruby Franke allegedly told Kevin Franke that the two needed to work on their marriage, but that things would be better if he wasn’t in the home and wasn’t communicating with the children. When asked what the catalyst was for the separation, Kester said it was private, and would only reveal that “they had a difference of opinion about their family parenting.”
According to Kester, Ruby Franke knew the police were coming to arrest her after the two children were found in serious condition at the Hildebrandt home on Aug. 30. Kevin Franke allegedly told his attorney that Ruby Franke texted him saying there was an emergency. When he texted back to say he was working, Ruby Franke responded that she needed to speak with him immediately. When they spoke on the phone, Ruby Franke allegedly told Kevin Franke he would need to take care of the kids.
Kester claims that Kevin Franke didn’t know that Ruby Franke had moved the children to Ivans, Utah, about 4 hours away from Salt Lake City.
“If you read everything that’s in the media, [Kevin’s] getting raked over the coals,” Kester told Weber during their interview. “But what people don’t understand is that he was trying to preserve his marriage. He was taking direction from her. She’s the one who asked him to leave the house and indicated that in order for him to be able to get back together with her and be a family, that she was requesting that he leave the home and that he not contact her or the children. She later told him that everything was blissful at home and it was so much better without him.”
“Emotionally, she was controlling him,” Kester continued. “Because she knew how much he valued their marriage and valued their family. And it was his desire to be able to get back with the family and preserve his marriage. Kevin never had any reason to believe that his children were being abused. And if he had even one inkling that his kids were being abused and that the separation wasn’t for any other purpose than to figure out a way between he and Ruby to reunite their family, he would have been down there in two seconds.”
Kevin Franke told his attorney the dynamic between him and his wife changed completely after Ruby Franke partnered up with Jodi Hildebrandt for business.
“[He says] she manipulated him in conjunction with Ruby, that she’s kind of the spearhead toward essentially destroying his life and destroying his family. We’re hearing other information that she’s done this to a number of families. And it wasn’t until all this came to light that Kevin came to realize that his family had also been victimized by Jodi.”
Weber questioned Kester about previous allegations of abuse made against the family as early as 2020.
“There hasn’t ever, ever been an allegation that Kevin Franke has ever physically abused his children,” Kester said. “And I think all these parents, all these parenting complaints, those were investigated. And I think it’s a subjective thing. Everybody says ‘no one’s ever written a perfect book on parenting.’ And so while there may be some criticism of their parenting as being too strict or too demanding, that’s been looked into and there were never any DCFS charges filed. There was never any criminal charges filed, in particular. And I want to emphasize this: Kevin Franke has never been accused of physically abusing anyone, including his children, nor have there ever been any allegations that he was doing that. He doesn’t condone that kind of thing. He’s a good dad. He just simply does not condone physical violence or that kind of treatment of children or anyone.”
Kester says Kevin Franke is working to get custody of his younger children, as Ruby Franke sits in a jail cell awaiting a bail hearing.
“He’s consulting with professionals,” Kester said. “We’re working in conjunction with the state of Utah, through the juvenile court, to take direction from them about what they feel would be necessary to heal his family, and try to figure out a way, if possible, to reunify the family.”
Kester ended the interview by highlighting his belief that Kevin Franke is also a victim in this.
“He’s getting raked over the coals by all of this, when in fact, he himself was to some degree a victim of these psychological and mental manipulations that were perpetrated against him and his family by Jodi. He’s just trying to restore some normalcy in his life,” Kester said. “This was his goal all along to keep this family together and make sure that they thrive and that they recover from this abuse.”
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