The neighbors of recently-arrested YouTube family vlogger Ruby Franke were reportedly not surprised to see her Utah home swarmed by police. Some were just happy that the authorities weren't pulling bodies from the house.
“Everyone is just breathing a collective sigh of relief because we thought they were going to come out of that house with body bags,” one of her neighbors told NBC News.
Ms Franke, a 41-year-old mother-of-six, was arrested this week and charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse after one of her sons escaped her home and sought help.
The child, aged 12, was reportedly suffering from malnutrition and had evidence of duct tape on his limbs and lacerations from being restrained, according to police. When officers arrived at the home, they found another child in a similar condition.
Ms Franke became popular online for her “8 Passengers” family YouTube channel, which had 2.5 million subscribers at its peak, according to USA Today. She eventually partnered with fellow family influencer, Jodi Hildebrant, joining her “Connexions” life counseling service.
Both Ms Franke and Ms Hildebrant have been charged with six felony counts of aggravated child abuse. Ms Franke was arrested on 30 August.
Neighbours said that Ms Franke frequently butted into their lives. One recalled Ms Franke giving them a lecture for having photos of women modeling in shorts hanging inside their garage.
They also accused Ms Franke of punishing her children by withholding food as a punishment. She also allegedly cancelled the childrens’ Christmas one year.
“I remember that she took away their Christmas one year,” a male neighbor told NBC News. “And she would say things like ‘They’re not repenting correctly,’ which is a Mormon term for ‘they’re sinning.’ Just complete insanity.”
Despite the extreme control she seemed to want to exert over her children, neighbors said that she would regularly disappear for weeks at a time, leaving the children home alone.
"In early 2022, it started getting weird," a neighbor told Rolling Stone. "People were concerned because Ruby completely stopped her YouTube stuff. And then it just kind of turned dark. She taped up paper over all of her windows. She would disappear for weeks at a time and there's all these little kids just left alone in this house."
Her youngest daughter, Eve, aged 10, would allegedly be left to wander the neighbourhood to look for friends.
“She would just knock on your door and say, ‘Hi, can your kids play?’” the neighbor said. “And we’re like, ‘Well, they’re at school. They won’t be home for three or four hours.’ And she’d be like, ‘I’ll wait.’”
The man said that "she's like this lost child," and said it seemed as though she wasn't enrolled in school.
Police reportedly found a 10-year-old girl malnourished and suffering similar restraint lacerations as the 12-year-old who escaped.
The Independent has contacted Ms Franke for comment.
Neighbors said they tried to get police to intervene but that past welfare checks were rejected by Ms Franke.
The family vlogger gained notoriety for the severity of the punishments she would dole out to her children.
One video showed an exchange between her and one of her older sons, who she said had been sleeping on a beanbag for months as a punishment for pranking his younger brother.
In another video, Ms Franke's daughter forgets to pack a lunch for school. Ms Franke goes on to explain that not only will she not take her a lunch but that she does not want anyone to help her daughter, in hope that the pain of being hungry will teach her never to forget her lunch again.
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