Kevin Franke’s wife, Ruby Franke, was charged after neighbors found one of her sons with duct tape on his ankles and lacerations that authorities believe were from being tied up with rope. Another child was described as being malnourished.
Randy Kester, Kevin’s attorney, denied the children’s father had any role, saying he was not living in the house where the alleged abuse occurred.
“Mom had the kids for the summer and went out of the county with the kids, and if he had known of or thought there was abuse going on, he would have been all over it,” Kester said Tuesday on News 2’s sister station, NewsNation. “(The alleged abuse) happened in a house that was a couple hundred miles away from where Mr. Franke was.”
Ruby, a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, is a mother of six from Utah. She and her husband ran a YouTube channel called “8 Passengers” about life with their children, who currently range in age from 10 to 20. At the peak of the channel’s popularity, the family had more than two million followers.
8 Passengers garnered controversy for showing the children in vulnerable moments and for what Ruby called her strict parenting style. Those who spoke out against the channel said she was openly abusing her children. The channel was removed from YouTube this year.
After the channel was removed, Ruby launched a new one with a business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, called ConneXions Classroom, focused on mental health and counseling. Hildebrandt has also been charged with child abuse.
Police said Hildebrandt’s neighbors called 911 after Ruby’s 12-year-old son escaped from a window of her house. The child was taken to a hospital for treatment “due to his deep lacerations from being tied up with rope and from his malnourishment,” according to an arrest record.
When police went to the Hildebrandt home, they found Ruby’s 10-year-old daughter, who was described as being malnourished. Ruby’s two other minor children were located at the Franke home and all four children were placed under the custody of family services.
It is not clear why Ruby and two of the children were staying with Hildebrandt.
Kevin has not been charged, and police have not disclosed whether he was living in the home at the time. Kevin’s attorney said he wasn’t.
In a statement to Page Six last week, Kester said Kevin’s goal is to keep the children together.
“If the allegations are true, my client has never supported, condoned or even acted in a physical way toward these kids,” Kester told NewsNation. “He’s a good dad, he’s a very humble guy, and he needs to get these kids back to be able to kind of get them out of the media and get their lives back to normal. That’s his objective.”
NewsNation digital producer Stephanie Whiteside contributed to this report.