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Utah police discover ‘panic room’ inside abusive mommy blogger accomplice’s $5.3M desert home

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Utah authorities found a so-called “panic room” in parenting blogger Jodi Hildebrandt’s $5.3 million desert home in Ivins, where fellow blogger Ruby Franke sent her children to stay, according to a trove of documents released over the weekend.

Franke, a 41-year-old mother of six, and Hildebrandt, a 45-year-old mother of two, ran a joint parenting and lifestyle YouTube channel called ConneXions Classrooms. They both pleaded guilty to four of six counts of second-degree aggravated child abuse in a St. George courtroom in December 2023.

“The investigation found that religious extremism motivated Ms. Franke and Ms. Hildebrandt to inflict this horrific abuse,” the Washington County Attorney’s Office said in a March 22 statement. “The women 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.”

On Aug. 30, 2023, Utah police responded to a residence in Ivins after one of Franke’s young sons escaped from Hildebrandt’s home through a window and sought help from a neighbor, who said the boy appeared severely malnourished and had duct tape on his ankles.

YOUTUBE MOMMY BLOGGER RUBY FRANKE, CO-HOST JODI HILDEBRANDT SENTENCED FOR CHILD ABUSE: ‘DARK DELUSION’

Utah police found a “panic room” inside Jodi Hildebrandt’s $5.3 million Ivins home, where Ruby Franke sent her children to stay with Hildebrandt. (Washington County Attorney’s Office)

“Mrs. Hildebrandt answered the door, and we asked her to step out. Mrs. Hildebrandt was on the phone with her lawyer,” a police report released by the Washington County Attorney’s Office states. She informed police that there was a second juvenile inside her home.

Another police report states that “a security sweep was conducted on the home” that day.

UTAH MOMMY BLOGGER RUBY FRANKE PLEADS GUILTY TO 4 COUNTS OF AGGRAVATED CHILD ABUSE

The exterior of Jodi Hildebrant's $5.3 million Ivins, Utah, home

Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt abused Franke’s two children in Hildebrandt’s Ivins, Utah, home. (Washington County Attorney’s Office)

“[T]here was still one missing juvenile. I was tasked to conduct a secondary sweep to locate the missing juvenile. As officers searched for the missing juvenile, a warrant was drafted for the home due to the home having a ‘panic room’ that we could not make entry or contact with anyone on the other side.”

“[W]e could not make entry or contact with anyone on the other side.”

— Police report

A separate police report said the “safe room” was located in the basement of Hildebrandt’s home with a “safe door.”

Photos and police body camera footage show the bare room hidden behind a vault-like door beneath Hildebrandt’s basement. There, a small room contained a Murphy bed, cabinets, a refrigerator, a sink and some cleaning supplies.

Police found Franke’s daughter in a closet in Hildebrandt’s bathroom. 

YOUTUBE MOMMY BLOGGERS ARRESTED ON ALLEGATIONS OF CHILD ABUSE: ‘FINALLY’

Ruby Franke family

Ruby Franke used to run a YouTube channel called 8passengers, representing herself, her husband and their six children. (Moms of Truth/Instagram)

Police offered pizza to the girl, who also appeared malnourished and emaciated, and one officer noted that she ate an entire small pie and then asked for more.

In an Aug. 30 dispatch call also released by the Washington County Attorney’s Office, an officer can be heard saying, “There’s a panic room inside the garage, downstairs and beneath the garage. He’s calling it a safe room.”

911 CALL REVEALS SHOCK OF UTAH MOMMY BLOGGERS’ ALLEGED CHILD ABUSE: ‘SHE’S A BAD LADY’

Other audio and video recordings, phone calls and documents paint a dark picture of the abuse that Franke’s children endured under the two parenting bloggers’ care “in a work-camp like setting.”

The abuse included forcing her children to do physical labor, restricting food, binding one child’s hands and feet, and emotional harm. Franke and Hildebrandt told Franke’s children that they were evil and needed to be punished.

RUBY FRANKE’S HUSBAND WANTED OLDEST DAUGHTER CHARGED WITH BURGLARY AFTER MOTHER’S ARREST

After rescuing Franke’s youngest children from Hildebrandt’s home Aug. 30, police from Springfield and other local agencies began to search for her other four kids, who were not with Hildebrandt at the time. They made contact with the two eldest children, Chad and Shari Franke — both living away from home at the time of the incident — in an effort to find the other two juveniles.

Authorities eventually located the two children at another adult’s residence in American Fork, Utah.

Ruby Franke (right) and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt (left)

Ruby Franke and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt were arrested and charged on Aug. 30 after Santa Clara police received a dispatch call around 10:50 p.m. asking for help. (Instagram/moms_of_truth)

In dozens of YouTube videos and social media posts, Franke and Hildebrandt coached parents in calm voices from a living room couch on how to raise their children in “truth.” In a video posted just before their arrests, Hildebrandt said pain can be a good thing for children of a certain age.

“Now, it’s abusive to make a kid sleep on the floor,” Hildebrandt can be heard saying to an unknown person in one phone call released by the attorney’s office “It’s ridiculous. You can’t even raise your kids anymore.”

“You can’t even raise your kids anymore.”

— Jodi Hildebrandt

In another call, Franke says adults can “have a really hard time understanding that children can be full of evil and what that takes to fight it,” and she doesn’t “know any other adults who are going to see the truth.”

Ruby Franke appears with her husband in a YouTube video

In earlier videos without Hildebrandt, Franke complains about her children’s school using TikTok to teach dances, the dangers of sleepovers, bullying, and other topics. Some of her videos include her husband, including a “live couples workshop” about managing finances. (YouTube/ConneXions)

In a July 2023 journal entry, Franke called children “spawns of Satan.”

“The good works needs to be painful — otherwise the service becomes another feel-good-distraction,” she wrote. “A day of fasting and prayer for me after learning my children have been spawns of Satan. R has been out of control. Pee, poop, lie, steal, run away. E crying, whaling (sic), you could not know what this has been like unless you were here.”

“[M]y children have been spawns of Satan.”

— Ruby Franke

The documents and videos also reveal that Kevin Franke, Ruby’s husband, had been separated from his wife beginning in July 2023, about a month before his children were found at Hildebrandt’s residence.

Jodi Hildebrandt in court

Jodi Hildebrandt pleaded guilty to four of six counts of aggravated child abuse. (Sheldon Demke/St. George News/ Pool)

He told police that he loved and trusted his wife, and they had separated because of “addictions,” including “pornography.”

“I know nothing that’s going on in their lives or anything going on,” Kevin Franke says in an interview with police.

Franke previously ran a blog called 8Passengers, representative of her family of six children and two parents, for years before she stopped posting on the page amid backlash stemming from some of her controversial videos. In one such video, Franke told her followers about her and her husband’s decision to withhold Christmas presents from their two youngest children as punishment for what she described as selfish behavior.

Ruby Franke in St. George, Utah, court

Ruby Franke pleaded guilty to four of six counts of aggravated child abuse. (Sheldon Demke/St. George News/Pool)

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“My kids are literally starving,” Ruby 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.”

In other videos, Franke discussed withholding food from her children, making her son sleep on a beanbag chair instead of his bed for an extended period of time as punishment for pulling a prank on his younger brother, and other forms of discipline for what she deemed bad behavior.

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