The Rise and Fall of Ruby Franke

Law&Crime | Wondery

Ruby Franke, a Utah mom turned YouTube “momfluencer” who amassed 2.6 million subscribers, was known for her strict disciplinarian parenting style. But authorities now say that her "tough love" was actually child abuse. Ruby Franke's son escaped from the Utah home of her self-help business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt. The boy was reportedly starved and tied up with duct tape along with his 10 year old sister. As law enforcement dug deeper, they uncovered injuries, torture, and emotional harm inflicted by both Franke and Hildebrandt. Law&Crime takes you behind the scenes, from Ruby and Jodi's path to internet stardom, to the investigation that brought them down.

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Our Editor's Take

The Rise and Fall of Ruby Franke is a true crime podcast series that follows the former YouTube vlogger and social media mom Ruby Franke. Host Paula Barros narrates the disturbing true story of Ruby and her husband, Kevin. Paula is a voice actress, comedian, and host of several other podcasts.

The podcast introduces devout Mormon parents Ruby and Kevin and their Utahan household. In 2015, the couple created the YouTube channel 8 Passengers to document their lives. Ruby and Kevin called themselves the two "drivers." Their six children were their "passengers." Soon after its start, the vlog amassed millions of subscribers. The Franke children became as famous as their internet star parents. The channel tells the story of a stern, loving household bonded by their faith.

8 Passengers appeared wholesome and innocuous, but some moments caused widespread concern. In one video, Ruby jokes about "starving" her children until their chores are complete. Another video features Chad, the oldest son, stating that Ruby removed his bed for months. As the podcast shows, what seemed like stern parenting turned out to be felonious child abuse.

Over time, some of Ruby's disciplinary practices garnered advocacy action from worried viewers. Some people even signed petitions to have child protective services step in. In 2022, Ruby partnered with Jodi Hildebrandt on the parenting podcast ConneXions. Together, the two experienced even more internet backlash. Their controversial opinions on parenting raised more suspicions of abuse. Soon after, Ruby and Kevin separated, and she became more and more abusive toward her children. Then, YouTube banned 8 Passengers.

The police became involved when a starved boy arrived at a neighbor's home. The stories Ruby's children told were more horrifying than concerned subscribers imagined. Listeners will learn how Ruby's parenting style escalated from harsh to dangerous. The Rise and Fall of Ruby Franke is a seven-episode series with an eighth bonus episode. Fans of this short-form series may also like Cold Case Files. Paula also hosts that true crime podcast.

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