True Crime

New True Crime Podcast Unpacks "The Rise & Fall" Of Parenting Vlogger Ruby Franke

The new podcast follows Franke’s rise to fame via her 8 Passengers YouTube channel to her 2023 arrest on felony child abuse charges.

Ruby Franke, a momfluencer known for harshly punishing her six children on camera, was sentenced to four to 60 years on Feb. 20 for four counts of felony child abuse after two of her children were found malnourished and physically abused. A new podcast, The Rise and Fall of Ruby Franke from Wondery, explores the vlogger’s rise to prominence and fall from grace over the course of the limited series. The first episode, “Meet the Frankes” is available now and here’s what we learned so far.

Franke met her husband Kevin when she was just 18.

Franke and Kevin, then 21, met when the two were studying at the Utah State University. Within two weeks, the pair were engaged and married months later in December 2000. Franke gave birth to six children between 2004 and 2014: Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell, and Eve. During this time, Kevin worked as an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Brigham Young University.

Franke’s extended family were also influencers

The podcast notes that “momfluencers” and family blogs/vlogs are somewhat of a cottage industry among Mormons like the Frankes, especially in Utah. In fact Franke was not the first member of her family to have an online presence. Her sister Bonnie was the first to become an influencer, and Franke along with sisters Ellie and Julie followed suit, though Franke would surpass them all in popularity. Even Franke’s parents, Chad and Jennifer Griffiths, had a channel called Grandma and Grandpa Griffiths, which boasts more than 200,000 subscribers. (As of press time, it has not been updated in five months.)

Franke started her 8 Passengers YouTube channel in 2015.

Filming five days a week, the channel took the form of a day-to-day video journal for the family, granting viewers and intimate look at Franke family life. Within a year, it had earned 100,000 subscribers. By 2018, the channel had more than 2 million subscribers and was pulling in six figures thanks to various sponsorships. The family was able to take grandiose family vacations to Hawaii, and even buy a bigger house in Springville, Utah.

Viewers became concerned by Franke’s parenting style.

The first episode of the podcast ends with viewers becoming increasingly concerned with Franke’s harsh child-rearing style. Franke routinely disciplined her children on camera. When viewers began to express objections to he parenting style, the podcast shares, discipline was frequently done off-camera but still recounted on the channel. The extreme nature of the punishments doled out to her children — more often the younger children— included (but were not limited to)...

  • Denying her children food (“the privilege to eat dinner”).
  • Forcing her 6-year-old to do up to 50 push-ups.
  • Refusing to bring her then-kindergarten aged daughter Eve the lunchbox she’d forgotten at home with the intention of teaching her a lesson through hunger.
  • Threatening to decapitate her small daughter’s stuffed animal.
  • Making a child who wet the bed sleep on the bathroom floor.
  • “Cancelling” Christmas for her two youngest children for not being “grateful” enough while the rest of the family received presents.
  • Taking away “room privileges” and making Chad sleep on the living room floor for seven months because he’d pranked his younger brother.

Franke received threats and harassment regarding how she parented her children, and the police were called to her home more than a dozen times, with the Division of Child and Family Services present during at least four. This public outcry reached fever pitch in 2020, when multiple petitions urged authorities to look into Franke’s treatment of her children.

Two more episodes of The Rise and Fall of Ruby Franke are forthcoming on Wondery or wherever you get your podcasts. Episode 2, “#FreeChad” is available early on Wondery+.