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This is a Law and Crime Network presentation.


This podcast explores themes of child abuse and trauma. Please listen with care.


Honestly, my My biggest fear ever since I started blogging was, what if I wake up and my children are just staring at a wall all day and there's nothing to film? My gosh, you guys. Having kids is so much fun.


Hi, guys. I'm Kevin. I'm Ruby. We're the drivers of the eighth Passing News.


Let the madness begin.


Her rise to Fame really started by publishing constantly about her family Insides and outs on YouTube. And that is why her channel amassed over 2 million subscribers.


My dream was to be a stay at home mom and to make dinner for my family and to have lots and lots of babies.


She always had this saying that said, motherhood is powerful. Eve, give it back.


Thank you. If you're going to film, you got to film it.


It was like, you're in her household. You're going to play under her rules. If she's recording, you're going to be there.


When your child falls down and gets hurt or crashes on their bike and the kid's getting up for help, and the first thing they see is a camera stuck in their face to get the views.


9, I'm on the address of your emergency. I just had a twelve Our old boy still up here at my front door asking for help. We need to come see as soon as possible.


My kids are literally starving. I hesitate to say this because it's going to sound like I'm a mean barbarian. But I told the kids, I said, I'm not even going to let you eat breakfast until you get your chores done.


They can only keep up those appearances and put on the mask for the camera or for the public for so long. Finally, it's like the lid's going to come off of this and all of this that's hidden is going to come out.


I'm Paula Barros, and this is the Rise and Fall of Ruby Franke, presented by Law and Crime.


What are we doing?


What is this?


It's a cake, and inside is the color of the baby. Meet the Frankies. They call themselves the 8 Passengers. Ruby is the blonde, beautiful, and high-energy mom. Kevin is the bald, handsome, fun-loving dad. And Baby Number 6 is on the way to round out their team. By all appearances, they're your stereotypical American-Mormon family, wholesome, charming, and full of a lust for life and gratitude to their creator. They love to go to church, play sports, and practice their musical instruments. Oh, and by the way, they're filming all of it.


They're very much in the way that a lot of Normands present themselves online, very cookie cutter. All of the children are blonde. They go to church every week. They're very active within their ward communities. They had a a lot of contact with their extended families who would often appear in their blogs. The children were very well-groomed. The children were polite.


That's Alice Dawes, a history teacher who wrote her thesis on Christian fundamentalist families in the midwestern US. She's been following the Frankies from the beginning. It's 2015 in their Springville, Utah home. The five Frankie children and a glowing and visibly pregnant Ruby are gathered around the Kitchen Island preparing to cut into a cake. It's a gender reveal party, and Kevin is gleefully filming his family as they embark on what will be a seven-year journey to Internet stardom. Every moment, big and small, will be blasted out to their subscribers on their YouTube page.


So we're going to find out if it's pink or if it's blue. Kevin. I'm nervous. Guys, can you hold this? It's pink.


It's going to be a girl.


This is the first video Ruby and Kevin Franke post on their new family vlog, 8 Passengers.


Chad, what do you think?


I thought for sure it was a boy.


Chad, staring at it won't make it turn blue, pal.


Brian Schnee is a reporter from KUTV in Salt Lake City, Utah.


2015 is when Ruby started really publishing a lot of content on her A Passenger's page, and it just grew exponentially from there. Obviously, a lot of it was family-focused, really inside baseball to her family. I mean, something that people don't typically show of their lives, the disciplining, the tears, the hard conversations.


Carl Andreessen, a documentarian and ex-mormon vlogger based in Utah, met Ruby and Kevin at a YouTube convention.


There's different types of content creators on YouTube, and some of them, they approach it in a daily vlogging manner, which means they wake up every morning and all of their activities from doing breakfast all the way until they tuck their kids into bed, is what their content is.


In their second video, viewers get to meet the entire Frankie bunch. Of course, there's Ruby and Kevin, center stage as they often are, but also there's six children, Sherry, age 11, Chad, age 10, Abby, age 8, Julie, age 6, Russell, age 3, and Baby Eve, who's now one.


Hi, guys. I'm Kevin.


I'm Ruby.


We're the drivers of the eight passengers. We're mom and dad. We thought it would be fun to just say hi and introduce our family.


And if you're not good, I will turn this car around and we will go home. Seriously. Behave.


My associations and affiliations with the Franky family had to do mostly as family content creators and YouTubers in the same niche and category going up through the area through Idaho and Utah. We all knew each other.


Intending for this vlogging lifestyle to become the new normal for their family, Ruby celebrates her 33rd birthday with beat Internet as she's being filmed blowing out the candles on her cake.


Happy birthday, dear Ruby Monde.


Happy birthday to you.


Some families, content creators, they wake up and no matter what, whether your kids are hurt or going to the hospital or whatever, their goal is to not miss a day.


Ruby and Kevin have been married for 15 years. They met when Ruby was just 18 years old. She had finished high school and was beginning College at Utah State, and her new apartment was hosting a meet and greet. Kevin was 21 years old and also attending Utah State, working on his degree in Civil Engineering.


I saw her and I thought, Well, she's pretty, so I want to talk to her. And so as I talked to her, she was flirty with me. And so I took that as a sign as she likes me. And so I came to discover a little bit later that she's just flirty with all the boys, which is another funny part of the story. But I don't know, there's just something about Ruby. She was the hottest hot dog at the Social at the hot dog party.


They have one of their first dates at Olive Garden, and within days, they're introducing one another to their parents. Just two short weeks after meeting, Ruby and Kevin are engaged. They set a date for just a few months later, tying the knot in December 2000. Ruby wore a big, white, modest dress. Kevin wore a tux. Their official wedding portraits are snapped outside in the Utah winter. The couple bundled up under a blanket.


It's because of you that I have been able to live my dream. My dream was to be a stay at home mom and to make dinner for my family and to have lots and lots of babies. That has always been my dream, and to take care of them. And you have always followed through and come through and provided for us. And I know that's not easy. Thank you.


Oh, come here, you. Come here, you.


Oh, Thank you. I love you. I love you. Kevin works as an assistant professor at Brigham Young University in Utah, commonly referred to as BYU, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.


Over the course of their relationship, they've moved from Washington State to Idaho before finally settling back in Utah. The Frankies purchased their Springville home in 2012. A four bedroom, three bathroom, 3,000 square foot home with a finished basement.


That's your picture perfect location for so many people that move or want to settle in Utah. You'd like a little bit of both. You're close enough to the main access points, but you're just far enough out of town where you've got a nice mountain view. There are temples there. There are meeting houses there. I would say there is a lot of Latterday Saint faith in Utah County. Specifically, Springville has lots of homes, lots of big families.


Ruby and Kevin create their YouTube page with a pie in the sky mentality. The 8 Frankies want their fans, their subscribers, to come along for the ride as they celebrate their highs, their lows, their firsts, their hurts, and everything in between. And hopefully, they make some money along the way.


Ruby's sister, Ellie, was the first one to really go online and do the family daily vlogging stuff. And then her sisters, Bonnie and Ruby and the rest of the family, when they saw the success, they jumped on board, started YouTube channels, likewise. And then the success of Ruby and Bonnie's channels actually took over, and they got bigger, faster than Ellie, their sister.


Yeah, tell me what you're doing.


You're on photo, not video.


No, I'm not. I'm on video. What's going on? What are you doing?


I'm trying to eat sushi for the first time. I'm going to try a piece of wasabi with it.


Okay. Tell me how it is. You know you're eating raw fish right now, right?


It's not all adventures. Most of the time, it's just the basics. It's their everyday lives. The kids are all extremely active and involved in extracurricular activities. Chad plays basketball, a fixture on their driveway, shooting hoops.


It's January, and there could be snow on the ground, and he's out here every morning shooting hoops.


The girls do arts and crafts and try out wearing makeup.


I am in the kitchen and I am playing with clay, and I am trying to make a teapot.


Positioning herself as an authority on parenting and motherhood, Ruby is most insistent on illustrating how close-knit they are as a family. We see them spending time together, everyone playing musical instruments from the violin to the piano and even the harp. Viewers are soon completely immersed in every moment of the family's home life. Sometimes, it feels like you're actually there.


Let's hear it. One, two, three, four. I can't believe it. I can't believe it. That's amazing. You are doing the right rhythm. I noticed.


The entire packaging of their channel and their entertainment is wrapped around what they did as a family and the dynamics of that.


Okay, well, I'm just going to end the vlog here. Thanks for watching. I know that I'm just learning how to use the camera. I'm learning... I know that the videos are choppy, and I'm learning how to take better videos. No, not the cereal. Not, no.


A as the subscriber numbers grow, Ruby and Kevin don't shy away from sharing their deeply personal decisions or stories with the world. The family and everything that comes with it is the main source of content for the platform, after all.


Her mantra that motherhood is powerful really became the focal point of her life and wanted to be able to, or she purported to want to be able to coach other mothers and families through the issues that might be having with their teenagers and be to point to her own family and say, Hey, look how well I've done here.


Some people go even farther where they try to portray a certain message or teach a certain message or sell certain classes and things like that and try to make themselves up to be an authority on family or parenting or marriage, and they start giving out advice in that aspect.


In 2015, Ruby makes the announcement that 10-year-old Chad will now be homeschooled.


The big project that What I have been working on has been, I am homeschooling Chad this year. You excited?


Ruby says she's identified certain areas he needs to work on, and he just won't get the one-on-one attention he needs at school.


Chad, he's a great kid, and there were some needs that were not being met at school, and I think can be better met at home. And then we'll try school again next year. And so last year, when we were having a rough year, I offered a few suggestions, and I said homeschool can be an option that might address-The first one that came out of my mouth was yours. Yes, you We're really excited. So today is day one.


She's so happy with this decision, in fact, that she tells her viewers she intends to homeschool each child for one year so that they can get alone time with her, which is a rarity in a family of eight.


A lot A lot of kids. Okay, so every kid I have decided has something that they struggle with.


8 Passengers is soon posting content five days a week.


They were very focused on that YouTube channel. So a lot of the parenting tactics, a lot of the kids, you almost saw grow up in that YouTube channel.


Ruby seemingly has the camera rolling at all times, even when they thought an animal broke into their home and died, but the sewer actually flooded their basement and stunk up the whole house. This is around the same time that their potty training Eve. What happened? Eve pooped in the chair. What the heck?


Turn around. Turn around.


Oh, my gosh. This night is getting worse and worse and worse. Those are my favorite shorts on him. Eve pooped on the chair and you sat on it. It looks like barf.


It looks like barf.


That might be half of the show. This is the nastiest night ever.


Relatability and candor are very important to the Frankies. In 2015, as the subject is becoming less taboo in American culture, Ruby reveals her personal experience with miscarriages.


Eve is our little sweetheart. She is the baby of the passengers. She came to our family because we felt like our family wasn't complete. Eight. Maybe we really were meant to have a sixth baby. And so we tried again and got pregnant very quickly and easily. And we were very excited and just knew that she was... Well, we actually thought it was going to be a boy. We really thought he was the caboose. But then we lost that baby, too, which actually made for five miscarriages for us, not in a row, but those two were right in a row. And I was really discouraged. And I thought that she just wasn't going to be here.


Alexis Anderson found the 8 Passengers YouTube page when she was in the ninth grade.


I began watching Ruby Franky, actually from her sister, Ellie Meekam. I was diagnosed with endometriosis in high school, so I was googling and looking at all these different people on YouTube. And it comes to find out that Ellie had a lot of miscarriages at the beginning of her family.


Fans like Alexis are already well aware that Ruby is not the only member of her extended family who's a vlogger. Ruby's own parents, Chad and Jennifer Griffiths, run the YouTube channel Grandma and Grandpa Griffiths. Their bio reads, With five married children and 22 grandchildren, we know firsthand the work and worry of raising a family.


Hi, everybody. I am at my daughter Ruby's home from 8 passengers. You might have heard of them. I'm staying with her children while her and her husband are on a vacation in Thailand.


Ruby's three younger sisters, Ellie, Julie, and Bonnie, also have their successful YouTube channels. Just like their big sister, they publish videos about raising their families and what it means to be a Mormon mommy vlogger.


This is not unique to Ruby in the family. It's almost like she was just following the family trade by being a YouTube vlogger and really showing some of the more vulnerable parts of their family's daily lives. But this is something that is rooted in the Frankie family or the Griffiths family with her maiden name.


It's very common for YouTubers, especially up through the Salt Lake Valley in Utah, to YouTubers to get together that are members of the Mormon Church and try to collaborate and affiliate with one another. There's even specific conventions that were held in Provo, Utah that were built around that Mormon influence and Mormon content creators. While There was other YouTubers and content creators that did attend and come as featured creators. Most of it was centered around that Norman focus and emphasis as family content creators in the Utah Valley representing that image to the public.


Norman families are overwhelmingly wealthy. They're overwhelmingly white. They're overwhelmingly educated, all of which looks good on screen. Their families are generally exceedingly nice people. Even if their politics or their values aren't exactly what everyone would aspire to, they're definitely palatable to a wide, wide community, which I think helps their popularity. And so when you see a family who seems to have it all together, who are beautiful to look at, who have polite, well-dressed children, it's going to be something that is a bomb that sooths what might otherwise look like a country or a town or a city that feels fragmented. I think that's also part of the appeal.


By June of 2016, a year and a half after its launch, 8 Passengers hits 100,000 subscribers. By summer 2017, the YouTube page is a certified sensation. As their popularity grows, the Frankies are able to secure sponsorships from brands, from hair care companies to photography storage systems. It's all going according to plan.


Okay, you guys, we are almost ready to go. Jcpenney is sponsoring the kids back to school clothes. I am so excited. We just hit 900,000 subscribers. We are almost at a million, you guys. And I thought to celebrate, we need to do something big. So we are going to go shopping for 10 girls and 10 boys in need and buy them a full outfit, a jacket, a pair of pants, underwear, socks, backpack shoes. The works.


By the end of 2018, the channel has racked up 2 million subscribers. To celebrate the momentous occasion, Ruby and Kevin fly the kids to Hawaii for Christmas. With a steady stream of income generated from their platform, Ruby is able to get more help around the house. And before you know it, Ruby is announcing she's even writing a book. The sponsorships keep rolling in. It's at this time that they move into a new, larger home. Everything's coming up roses for the Frankie family.


Certainly, she was earning the most out of her siblings at that point from blogging. Social Blade, at the time, which rates different YouTube channels or different social media sites, gave her an A plus rating at this time. Her sibling Teams didn't have that. At one point, they had over 2 million views. They were raking in a lot of money. Her husband, Kevin, said at one point that she was earning over six figures and certainly earning more than him as a professor of engineering at BYU.


But there's something simmering under the surface. Loyal fans of the 8 Passengers page have been picking up on something startling over the years.


People started to question some of the strategies that she was using, and those comments became more and more prevalent as opposed to the ones that were praising what she was doing or were overwhelmingly positive. That's when she would either begin to hide a lot of those strategies. And you see in a number of blogs where she says the discipline happens off camera. And that's true for a lot of these families who vlog their children, is the discipline will happen off camera, or she will go into detail in a talking head segment where she will speak to the camera about exactly what happened and how she dealt with the situation, usually after the fact.


The biggest difference I think I found between Ruby and her sister's Ellie and Bunny, and even Julie, is her willingness to corporal punishment on camera. You could tell that sometimes her girls were uncomfortable even when she started talking about menstrual stuff. They were uncomfortable, and they act to not be fammed, and they were still fammed through it all. Bunny's channel, for example, now that her kids have gotten older, we don't hardly see them. If they choose to not be there, they just aren't there. But that didn't really seem to be an option with Ruby. It was like, you're in her household, you're going to play under her rules. If she's recording, you're going to be there. From the very beginning, you could always tell that there was something off with her that you just couldn't quite put your finger on. I have to figure out what is going on.


No, Ruby Franky isn't your average mom. Viewers are actually starting to wonder Is she something much worse? Her curious parenting style moves many people to speak out in the comment sections across social media. One video where Ruby's disciplinarian parenting style is on full display goes viral.


I just got a text message from Eve's teacher, and she said that Eve did not pack a lunch today, and can I bring a lunch over to the school? This happens quite often when you're having raising children because I know that her teacher is uncomfortable with her being hungry and not having a lunch, and it would ease her discomfort if I came to the school with a lunch. But I I responded and just said, Eve is responsible for making her lunches in the morning, and she actually told me she did pack a lunch. So the natural outcome is she's just going to need to be hungry. And hopefully, nobody gives her food, and nobody steps in and gives her a lunch.


Long-time fans are now conflicted and voicing their anger. What is going on in that home? Is Ruby abusing her children?


Some days you will watch her videos and you're like, Oh, she may be just a tab bit normal. And then another day you'll watch something and her parenting choices would be just so strange.


My bedroom was taken away for seven months, and then you give it back a couple of weeks ago. I don't think our viewers know that. She was sleeping on a bean back.


I was sleeping on a bean back. They gave my broom back two weeks ago.


It's interesting because they had been positioned themselves authorities on parenthood. They had six children, well-behaved, well-presented, well-spoken children. So when you see the flip side of this in their punishment methods, I don't think she had done something as serious as taking away her child's bed for seven months until this point. This is a step in a direction that I didn't see this family going.


In one video, brothers Chad and Russell are seen play wrestling on the floor before dinner. Ruby is annoyed like any mother would be. But it's what she believes to be a fitting punishment that sends fans into a tailspin.


Torturing him. Stop it. I know you're not, but it looks like you are. Because he's screaming. Okay, Russell. I'm only going to say it one more time, and then you're going to lose the privilege to eat dinner.


It did become to a point where it was like, well, maybe I need to read through the comments to make sure that I'm not the one that's thinking above this.


Ruby even instructs her youngest daughter to sleep on the bathroom floor after accidentally wetting the bed.


At about 2:00 this morning, she's like, Mom, I peed the bed, which is not like her. She pees the bed maybe once every eight months. It's been a very long time since she wet the bed. I was like, Oh, darn it. That's all right. Just go sleep on the floor in the bathroom.


Within these types of parenting strategies, they were asserting their power as the parent over a child. And obviously, within a legal sense, a parent has guardianship and legal responsibility for their child. But what they were doing was taking that into the home and using it to elicit a certain type of behavior. When that behavior wasn't what they wanted, and usually wasn't immediately when they wanted it, that's when the punishment would occur.


In another video posted to the 8 Passengers YouTube, Ruby broadcast that her son, Russell, has forgotten his socks outside. The punishment for him this time?


You see, now I'm using bad language. That's how bad of a mood I'm in. You get your socks picked up and don't you leave your stuff out anymore. Right over there. Run and go pick them up. And then give me 10 pushups. Put them in your pocket so you can take them down to the hamper and drop and give me 10.




Put your hands straight out. They're in. They're not supposed to be out. Shape your hands forward. There you go. One, two, down further. Bring your butt down.


One has nothing to do with the other. Because he left socks in your yard, your punishment is to do pushups It just never made sense to me.


Russell would get punishments like 50 push-ups, and we are talking 50 push-ups. He would have been at the time about six or seven years old. Ruby's strategy was punitive. So usually there would be a consequence that wasn't working to restore the relationship, that wasn't working to help the child understand or make the right choice.


Viewers are now so concerned, they take to social media to raise the alarm.


There are ones that people really keyed in on and started speaking out, at least loudly on the Internet, to some extent.


I think the audience and the subscribers were more keen on that. I think there was more criticism coming from the fan base and the general audience noticing patterns. And the things that I saw were off camera. They were all the stuff at parties. They were just patterns of behavior, saying things like, My Kids won't go to bed. I just give them Tylenol PMs every day, like adult medications and things for kids and stuff, and just certain things off the cuff.


It 100 % felt like she picked on, I'm not going to even one child, I'm going to say a few of them over the others. Sherry always seemed to be the angel child, the mini ruby, as people would call her growing up. She just always seemed to be the one to be loved on more, to get more, that thing. Then it just went downhill from there. I mean, you could definitely tell those younger two had it much harder than the older ones.


Other punishments that Russell received and Eve as well, was they had their Christmas taken away because they weren't presenting as grateful to, well, Ruby and Kevin for what they had received in the lead up to Christmas. And so to teach their children or to give their children the gift of kindness for Christmas, they decided that the younger children would not receive presents while the older four did.


The online backlash against Ruby Franky reaches a boiling point in 2020. According to a Springville police report dated April 27, 2020, Ruby calls the police. She reports that she's been receiving threatening messages. One message read, I'm going to take your family down and there will be riots at your door when the world finds out the truth. Ruby tells police about another message she received, Leave her kids outside unsupervised, and that she should not post on her social media, or there would be trouble. Ruby doesn't know who is sending these messages, but she has their phone number. The officer calls the number but is unable to identify the person on the other line. When asked for their name, the woman on the line says, This is Ruby Franke, and hangs up.


Obviously, the disciplining is where it started to take notice. And in 2020, there were a few change. Org petitions that started coming out about the YouTube channel itself, about Ruby's parenting practices, about how she was actually treating her children, about disciplining her children.


The first petition received only a few hundred signatures, but another petition started just the next next day amasses thousands. All of the petitions are started anonymously by concerned citizens who've been watching the page for years and are worried about the Franky children's well-being.


If it looks like a half-hour long video and it's being posted every single day, you have to realize there's 10 hours of work and effort that everybody involved and around that are being subjected to in order to accomplish that. And then what's real and what's not real. When you're A child falls down and gets hurt or crashes on their bike and the kids getting up for help, and the first thing they see is a camera stuck in their face to get the views.


Just one week later, on June fifth, 2020, Ruby files another police report. Stating she's receiving more hateful messages on social media. Kutv's Brian Schnee obtained a copy of this report.


It says, All righty, you all, grab your pitchforks. We're going looting at the place that actually deserves it. And they actually traced the channel back to more than a thousand miles away. People were upset about whatever was happening on this channel.


Police are unable to gather enough information to issue a warrant for the threats. They close the case shortly after. Records show that between 2012 and 2020, when Ruby and Kevin were still living in their first home, the Springville Police Department were called to the Frankie Home twelve times. Once they were in their new home in Springville, records show that the police were called to the house nine times, with the Division of Child and Family Services assisting in four of those calls. Ruby doesn't feel like enough is being done to protect her. She takes matters into her own hands the only way she knows how through social media.


Online who hate me, who would like to cancel me, who would like to see me either burn in hell or disappear off the face of the Earth, And I'm not going anywhere. I do want to look at how I deliver my message.


But as everyone would later come to learn, this is only the beginning of the fall of Ruby Franky.


9, I'm on the address of your emergency.


I just had a 12-year-old boy still up here at my front door asking for help. We need the cops here as soon as possible.


You're going to realize how deep the rabbit hole goes. It's not good.


If you cut one more thing in my house, I'm going to take the scissors. Look at me. And I'm going to cut its head off.


How long has this been going on and who are the other adults that allowed it.


And my kids are literally starving. I hesitate to say this because it's going to sound like I'm a mean barbarian. But I told the kids, I said, I'm not even going to let you eat breakfast until you get your chores done.


I think anything you put online, there's going to be an element of performativity. But I also truly believe that she was incensed, enraged, and unable to control her emotions.


Welcome to district Court. We're here in the matter of State of Utah versus Franke, case number 231.


That's all coming up on the Rise and Fall of Ruby Franke. This has been a Law and Crime production. I'm your host, Paula Barrows. Our executive producer is Jessica Lauher. Our writer is Jennifer Tintner. Our editor is Brad Maby. Our bookers are Alyssa Fisher and Diane K. And special thanks to Sean Panzera for designing our key art.