Two sisters of Ruby Franke, the family vlogger charged with six counts of felony child abuse, said in video statements Wednesday they were unaware of her alleged behavior.
Julie Deru, who has a family channel called “Deru Crew Vlogs,” and Bonnie Hoellein, also a vlogger, published separate videos on their respective channels saying they had been out of touch with Franke for several years.
Franke and her husband, Kevin, had amassed 2.5 million subscribers on their now-removed family channel, “8 Passengers.” The channel featured vlogs with their six children.
Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt, Franke’s business partner and regular collaborator, were arrested Aug. 30 and charged with six counts of felony child abuse by the Washington County, Utah, Attorney’s Office.
Law enforcement officers found one of Franke’s children with open wounds after the child escaped from Hildebrandt’s home. One of Franke’s other children was found in similar malnourished condition at Hildebrandt’s home. Four of the six children are minors and have been placed in the care of Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services.
“We did not know what they were doing because like we said, we were cut off,” Hoellein said in her video, titled “I am not my sister. I am not my Sisters Crimes.” “We did not have access to anyone.”
Deru similarly said she had lost touch with Franke, saying that three years ago, the last time they spoke, “things seemed to be fine.”
“The past few weeks have been extremely hard,” she said. “We are kind of in complete shock, still, as to what she had done, because we had no idea of what was happening. I had no idea what was happening.”
Deru and Hoellein, as well as lawyers for Franke and Hildebrandt, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Deru said that the last time they were in touch, Franke had been getting therapy counseling for the family. Deru said she was skeptical of Hildebrandt and ConneXions, her life coaching service.
“We all felt weird about this Jodi lady,” Deru said in her video, titled “My Side of the Story Concerning my Sister Ruby Franke.” “We weren’t comfortable with it. We didn’t like it. We didn’t like the teachings Ruby was bringing to the family functions. And we were this close to telling her, ‘If you come to our family events anymore, we do not want to hear what you are learning through ConneXions, because we don’t like it.’”
Franke abruptly stopped responding to outreach attempts, Deru said.
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Franke “started all of her lies then” and got “rid of all her friends and family,” she said.
In her video, Hoellein said she disagrees with what she described as Franke and Hildebrandt’s “extreme” parenting tactics.
“I knew they were weird. I knew that they were off. Those are the things that we kept quiet about, because what was I going to say?” Hoellein said.
However, she added, “I was not going to come out and publicly say that I don’t like my sister and I don’t like what she’s doing and I think she’s weird.”
About a year ago, Hoellein said, she reconnected with one of Franke’s daughters, who is now an adult. That’s when she said she learned more about her sister’s alleged behavior.
Deru also said in her video that she and also reconnected with one of Franke’s daughters once she was an adult, and that they have formed a “close, strong relationship.”
Hoellein had published a video on her channel titled “My Statement on My Sister Ruby Franke,” in which she wrote in the description: “It feels like a weight has been lifted as we now know our nieces and nephews are safe.” A link to the video, which was posted Sept. 1, is now unavailable.
In both videos, she said they did “as much as we could legally” to help her nieces and nephews, without elaborating.
Franke and Hildebrandt are being held without bail until their next scheduled court appearance.