Ruby Franke, the Utah mom behind the now-defunct family YouTube channel "8 Passengers," was arrested Wednesday on child abuse charges after authorities found a malnourished minor with open wounds and duct tape on their extremities, officials announced.
Franke's business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, was also arrested on the same charges. The two regularly collaborate on relationship and parenting advice videos for Hildebrandt's life counseling service ConneXions. ConneXions has been criticized in the past for its teachings about parenting, including prioritizing the organization's "principles of truth" over a person's children.
The Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department said in a press release Thursday that it received a report about a juvenile in need of help at 10:50 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The juvenile was described as "emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities."
"The condition of the juvenile was so severe that they were seen by Santa Clara-Ivins EMS and transported to a local area hospital," the press release said.
Evidence led officers to a nearby home where another juvenile was found in similar condition and taken to a local hospital for treatment, the release said. Four minors were taken into the care of the Department of Child and Family Services following a search of the home where the emaciated juveniles were found.
Franke and Hildebrandt were then arrested in connection with the incident, the release said. The two are still in custody, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department.
Representatives for Franke and Hildebrandt did not immediately respond to NBC News requests for comment. The Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department and Washington County Sheriff’s Department also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Franke rose to prominence in 2015 through the 8 Passengers YouTube channel, which featured her husband Kevin and six children. The channel had a following of nearly 2.3 million subscribers before it was taken down earlier this year. It’s unclear why the channel was removed from YouTube.
The Frankes' strict parenting style has led some viewers to report them to authorities. In June 2020, some viewers called local child protective services on the parents after their then-15-year-old son Chad said in a video that he had slept on a beanbag for seven months, according to Insider. Ruby Franke told the outlet at the time that the sleeping arrangement was Chad's "choice" after being removed from his shared room with his younger brother for behavioral issues.
Ruby Franke has also faced backlash for videos in which she refused to bring her then-6-year-old lunch after the child forgot to pack food and threatened to throw away her children's prized possessions.
Eldest daughter Shari Franke, 20, posted about her mother's arrest to her Instagram Story on Wednesday night. Shari Franke, who previously posted that she was not in contact with her immediate family, shared an image of police officers with the caption, "Finally."
In another Instagram Story post, Shari Franke wrote, “Hi all. Today has been a big day. Me and my family are so glad justice is being served. 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," she continued in her post. "Please keep them in your prayers and also respect their privacy."
She also posted a request to her followers to share "any questionable or concerning ConneXions or 8Passengers videos" with her on Thursday. Shari Franke did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Elle Mechem, Julie Griffiths Deru and Bonnie Hoellein, three women who say they are Ruby Franke’s sisters and who are also family influencers, shared a joint Instagram post saying her arrest “needed to happen.”
“For the past 3 years, we have kept quiet on the subject of our sister Ruby Franke for the sake of her children,” the post read. “Behind the public scene we have done everything we could to try and make sure the kids were safe.”
Mechem, Deru and Hoellein did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In Utah, aggravated child abuse is defined as an act that "inflicts upon a child serious physical injury" or "causes or permits another to inflict serious physical injury upon a child."
CORRECTION (Aug. 31, 2023, 3:45 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the name of an agency. It is the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department, not Santa Clara-Ivans Public Safety Department.