CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Son of Utah woman who gave online parenting advice says therapist tied him up with ropes

Sep 21, 2023, 9:00 AM

FILE - In this image made from video provided by the Utah State Courts, Jodi Hildebrandt is seen du...

FILE - In this image made from video provided by the Utah State Courts, Jodi Hildebrandt is seen during a virtual court appearance, Sept. 8, 2023, in St. George, Utah. Hildebrandt and Ruby Franke were charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse after their arrests on Aug. 30 at Hildebrandt's house in the southern Utah city of Ivins. They remain jailed without bail. A 12-year-old boy said Hildebrandt used ropes to tie him up, according to search warrants made public this week. Hildebrandt's attorney was out of the office on Wednesday, Sept. 20, and not available to comment on the boy's allegations. (Utah State Courts via AP, File)

(Utah State Courts via AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — The 12-year-old son of a Utah woman who once gave online parenting advice via a popular YouTube channel said his mom’s business partner, who is a licensed mental health counselor, used ropes to tie him up, according to search warrants in the child abuse case made public this week.

The emaciated boy, who escaped from Jodi Hildebrandt’s house on Aug. 30 and asked neighbors for help, told officers that “Jodi” put the ropes on his ankles and wrists and that they used cayenne pepper and honey to dress the wounds caused by the ropes, according to a search warrant filed that day.

Hildebrandt and the boy’s mother — Ruby Franke, who gave parenting advice via a YouTube channel “8 Passengers” — each face six felony counts of aggravated child abuse for injuries suffered by the boy and Franke’s 10-year-old daughter. They have not entered pleas and remain jailed without bond

Hildebrandt’s attorney, Douglas Terry, was out of the office Wednesday and not available to comment on the allegations contained in the search warrant. Franke’s attorney, LaMar Winward, is out of the country, his office said.

The boy, who showed up at a neighbor’s house in the southwestern Utah community of Ivins with duct tape on his ankles and wrists and asking for food and water, told an officer that two other siblings were at Hildebrandt’s house, according to requests for search warrants. Officers learned that Franke had left the three children in Hildebrandt’s care, a warrant request states.

Responding officers located a 10-year-old girl at Hildebrandt’s house, but did not find the 14-year-old, according to the application for a warrant. The two youngest children were taken to the hospital. The four youngest of Franke’s six children were eventually placed in the custody of child protective services, court records said.

In their initial sweep of Hildebrandt’s house looking for the boy’s siblings to see if they needed medical care, officers also found a locked potential safe room in the basement. A warrant was requested to search the house for any items, including rope and duct tape, that might be used to abuse a child. It also asked to search the locked room, but the returned warrant does not say what, if anything, might have been located in the room, or if it was opened.

In the search, officers found three ropes, two handcuffs, two bowls containing a paste of cayenne pepper and honey, bandages, plastic wrap, a journal and some paperwork.

Two other warrants allowed officers to seize laptops, cellphones, any video or audio recordings that might show any child abuse and any communications between Hildebrandt and Franke.

After Hildebrandt’s arrest, she said the two youngest children “should never be allowed around any other kids,” an officer wrote in a search warrant.

Hildebrandt has agreed not to see patients until the allegations are addressed by state licensing officials, state licensing officials said on Tuesday.

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Son of Utah woman who gave online parenting advice says therapist tied him up with ropes