Smiling as she walked into a Utah courtroom, Ruby Franke pleaded guilty Monday to multiple counts of aggravated child abuse brought against her earlier this year.
Franke and her attorney worked with prosecutors on a plea agreement that saw her plead guilty to four of the six counts against her, with two others having been dismissed. All of the counts are second-degree felonies.
When asked by the judge if she had read the agreement carefully, Franke replied, "every word."
"You don't need any more time?" the judge asked.
"I'm ready," said Franke.
The judge then went over each of the four counts, to which Franke replied guilty, except for on the final count, to which she said, "with my deepest regret and sorrow for my family and my children, guilty."
Following the pleas, the judge announced that sentencing will take place on Feb. 20. When Franke is sentenced, she will serve all four sentences consecutively, according to the plea deal.
Franke and her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt, were arrested in August after one of Franke's children escaped Hildebrandt's home, knocked on the door of a neighbor and asked for food and water. The neighbor noticed duct tape on the child's ankles and wrists and called police, according to court documents.
Police later found one of Franke's daughters emaciated inside Hildebrandt's home.
Both Franke and Hildebrandt were charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse. The two had previously collaborated on parenting advice videos for ConneXions.
In the statement Friday, Franke's attorneys appeared to place blame on Hildebrandt, claiming Franke is a "devoted mother" who was taken advantage of by a person she trusted.
"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," the statement reads.
Franke's lawyers say 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, shaped by Ms. Hildebrandt’s influence."
According to the Winward Law firm, Franke has "engaged in introspection" while in jail over the past several months and understands "the full weight of her actions."
This story was originally published by Jeff Tavss at Scripps News Salt Lake City.
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