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YouTube mom Ruby Franke pleads guilty in child abuse case

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(NEW YORK) — Ruby Franke, the popular YouTube celebrity, pleaded guilty Monday to four of six charges against her in connection with a child abuse case that has garnered national attention.

Franke pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse, all felonies, at the Washington County 5th District Court in Utah. The other two charges were dismissed, according to the Washington County Attorney’s Office.

“With my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and my children, guilty,” Franke responded on the final count.

Franke’s business partner and mental health counselor Jodi Hildebrant also faces six counts of aggravated child abuse. Both women were arrested Aug. 30 after Franke’s 12-year-old son, who had been staying at Hildebrandt’s house, climbed out of a window, ran to a neighbor’s home and told the neighbor that he had been abused.

Hildebrant has not yet entered a plea to the charges.

Franke is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20, and will remain in jail until that date. She has agreed to serve a prison term, the Washington County Attorney’s Office said. She faces 1 to 15 years in jail, prosecutors said.

Franke also agreed to testify against Hildebrant, prosecutors said.

The Santa Clara-Ivins police in Utah said in a statement that the child “appeared to be emaciated and malnourished, with open wounds and duct tape around the extremities.” Upon searching the home, police said they found Franke’s 10-year-old daughter in the same condition. All of Franke’s four minor children were placed into state care, according to police.

Search warrants obtained by ABC News allege Hildebrandt used cayenne pepper and honey to dress the children’s wounds.

Both women have remained in custody since their arrest.

In a statement Saturday announcing Franke would plead guilty, her attorney, LaMar Winward, described Franke as a devoted mother committed to constant improvement. He said his client was a victim of “manipulation.”

“Initially, Ms. Franke believed that Jodi Hildebrant had the insight to offer a path to continual improvement. Ms. Hildebrant took advantage of this quest and twisted it into something heinous. Over an extended period, Ms. Hildebrant systematically isolated Ruby Franke from her extended family, older children, and her husband, Kevin Franke. This prolonged isolation resulted in Ms. Franke being subjected to a distorted sense of morality.”

Ruby Franke’s attorneys say that since her incarceration, she has been “actively engaged in an introspection that has allowed her to reset her moral compass and understand the full weight of her actions.” She is “committed to taking responsibility for the part she played” in the events that led to her arrest, and she is already communicating with family members “to mend relationships and contribute positively to the healing journey of her family,” according to the statement from her attorneys.

Franke and Hildebrandt were business partners in ConneXions, an organization that promises to “encourage healing and facilitate personal growth through impeccable honesty, rigorous personal responsibility and vulnerable humility,” according to its website. Hildebrandt is listed as the founder while Franke is listed as “a certified mental fitness trainer.” Franke also operated “8 Passengers,” a now defunct YouTube channel that offered parenting advice.

Attorneys for Hildebrandt and Kevin Franke did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.

Kevin Franke filed a petition for divorce last month. In an interview with “Good Morning America” in September, an attorney for the husband said he had been separated from his wife for over a year and had no knowledge of the alleged abuse.

 

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