Family vlogger Ruby Franke and her business partner Jodi Hildebrandt will be held without bail until their next scheduled court appearance, Judge Eric Gentry said during a virtual hearing Friday.
Franke and Hildebrandt were each charged by the Washington County Attorney’s Office last week with six felony counts of child abuse. Each charge carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The two were arrested on August 30 after police found Franke’s emaciated 12-year-old son with open wounds and duct tape on his ankles and wrists after escaping from Hildebrandt’s home. Franke’s 10-year-old daughter was found in a similarly malnourished condition at Hildebrandt’s home.
Multiple media outlets reported that the livestream of the hearing, held in St. George, experienced technical difficulties after more than 1,000 people — including NBC News — tried to watch. The start time of the hearing was ultimately postponed.
John Walton will now oversee both Franke and Hildebrandt’s cases, according to Tania Mashburn, a spokesperson for the Utah State Courts. Their next hearing is scheduled for September 21.
Franke rose to fame in 2015 with the now-deleted YouTube channel ‘8 Passengers’, which featured her, her husband Kevin and their six children.
Four of the six children are minors and are now in the care of Utah’s Child and Family Services Department.
She regularly collaborated with Hildebrandt on parenting and relationship advice videos for ConneXions, Hildebrandt’s life coaching service. The agency has come under fire in the past for its extreme teachings, including rejecting children who do not adhere to their religious beliefs.
NBC News affiliate KSL of Salt Lake City reported that attorneys for Franke and Hildebrandt said they plan to file motions soon to address the decision denying them bail in the case.
Douglas Terry, the attorney representing Hildebrandt, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. A representative from the law firm of Franke’s attorney, LaMar Winward, declined to comment.
Police had visited the Franke household in September 2022 after a neighbor called to report that Franke had left her children alone for several days to spend time with Hildebrandt. A police officer noticed the children, but they refused to answer the door, according to a police report obtained by NBC News.
Police Lt. Warren Foster previously told NBC News that authorities have made several attempts to follow up on the allegations. He added that investigations by the Department of Youth and Family Services have yielded no results. DCFS was also reportedly called to the Franke household in 2020.
A DCFS spokeswoman previously declined to comment, citing confidentiality and privacy rules.
DCFS can be held accountable by an independent ombudsman who investigates child protection complaints against the agency. DCFS is also accountable to a review group made up of state lawmakers, the Child Welfare Legislative Oversight Panel, which can make recommendations.
Rep. Christine Watkins, chair of the panel, said Friday that she learned of the Franke case through news reports and plans to follow up with DCFS with her own questions about what happened.
“I was concerned when I heard about the case. Not only the neighbors called, but older siblings also called,” she added. “It sounds like those kids were in pretty bad shape. And it’s certainly something we have a right to address with DCFS to find out what may have gone wrong.”
She also wondered whether Franke’s status as a well-known YouTube vlogger and the outward appearance she presented about her family may have influenced child welfare investigations.
“If someone has the resources, they can cover up a lot of things,” Watkins said. “Even when children go to court, children may be told not to say anything. They can become intimidated by the situation.”
The Daily Mail reported that Franke appeared via video from a Utah jail on Thursday for a separate hearing in juvenile court.
Mashburn confirmed that the hearing took place but did not confirm details from the news report, telling NBC News that it was “a child welfare matter and the details are private.” According to KSL, the next hearing in juvenile court is scheduled for September 18.
This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com