A US mother who used to give parenting advice to more than two million subscribers on YouTube has pleaded guilty to child abuse after starving two of her children.
Ruby Franke, a mother of six from Utah, has admitted four counts of aggravated child abuse.
She was arrested in August after her emaciated 12-year-old knocked on a neighbor’s door asking for food and water, showing signs that he had been restrained.
Her controversial YouTube channel, called 8 Passengers, had nearly 2.3 million subscribers and focused on parenting style and discipline.
Wearing gray and white prison clothing, Franke pleaded guilty to each of the first three charges individually in court today and on the fourth said: “With my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and my children, guilty.”
Judge John J. Walton accepted a plea agreement and scheduled sentencing for 20 February.
The agreement leaves the sentencing up to the judge and does not rule out prison time, Franke’s lawyer, LaMar Winward, acknowledged.
Franke was arrested on 30 August when her 12-year-old son escaped from her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt’s home after climbing out of a window, and asked a neighbor to call the police.
Franke’s lawyer said she was influenced by Hildebrandt, a relationship counselor, who led her to “a distorted sense of morality”.
A statement from her lawyer said Franke initially believed that Hildebrandt “had the insight to offer a path to continual improvement,” but added the counselor “took advantage of this quest and twisted it into something heinous”.
Hildebrandt “systematically isolated Ruby Franke from her extended family, older children, and her husband, Kevin Franke,” the statement added.
Hildebrandt, who was also arrested on 30 August, will not see patients until the allegations are addressed.
Her next court hearing is set for 27 December, according to court records.
Meanwhile, Kevin Franke has filed for divorce.