Ruby Franke case: Jailhouse calls show how Franke turned against Hildebrandt, as both women blamed ‘the devil’ for their arrests

Franke shifted from defending Jodi Hildebrandt to calling her a liar, and predicting her own release may come first while Hildebrandt stays in prison.

On the day after she was arrested in August for aggravated child abuse, Ruby Franke complained about her emaciated son and daughter being hospitalized — calling it “weird,” “not necessary” and objecting that authorities were “trying to exaggerate this.”

In another phone call the next day, she added: “The most upsetting thing is that I am completely misunderstood.” And she defended Jodi Hildebrandt, in whose Ivins home the children had been staying. “... And poor Jodi, they misinterpret her, they misunderstand her. She puts her neck out on the line for people, and they get mad at her.”

But months later, Franke seemed to have turned against her former business partner, saying on a call on Dec. 28 — the day Hildebrandt entered a guilty plea — that “she knew she was lying the whole time.”

Recordings of calls made by Franke and Hildebrandt were released Friday by the Washington County Attorney’s Office along with videos, a journal and other documents. The calls reveal some of what the two women told people from Purgatory Correctional Facility, near St. George, between their August arrests and their sentencing in February to at least four years’ prison time each.

Franke and Hildebrandt were arrested for aggravated child abuse after police said Franke’s 12-year-old “emaciated” son escaped Hildebrandt’s home on Aug. 30 and asked a neighbor for help. Responding officers soon found Franke’s 10-year-old daughter also malnourished inside Hildebrandt’s home.

[Read more: Ruby Franke videos: What police saw after Franke’s son escaped Hildebrandt’s home]

Hildebrandt, in her phone conversations, often referred to God and the devil. “I woke up,” she said in a call recorded on Oct. 18, “and the spirit told me, ‘It’s all the devil.’”

And in a call recorded on Feb. 5, just over two weeks before the women were sentenced, Hildebrandt quoted the Bible, Mark 13:12: “Now the brother shall betray the brother to death. And the father, the son. And the children shall rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death.”

Hildebrandt told the person at the other end of the phone call, “That statement right there is what’s going on with me.”

The Frankes talk after the arrest

The 10 recordings released Friday are brief. One with Franke lasts nearly 20 minutes. The rest range from 40 seconds to about 7 minutes. Often the brevity is a result of Purgatory’s automated phone system cutting off calls after a set time limit. Some recordings also were redacted.

The first two, chronologically, were recorded on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, just one and two days after the arrest, between Ruby and Kevin Franke, who were separated at the time.

Largely they talk about practical matters, like how Franke had asked Kevin to cosign a loan so Franke could buy a house “maybe to use as an Airbnb or to rent out” to earn some money during the couple’s separation.

Franke also mentioned putting money in a bag, and Kevin asked if the police took the bag. “I don’t know what the police took,” she replied. “I have a feeling we might need that money,” Kevin said.

On the Aug. 31 call, after Kevin told Franke that their son and daughter would likely be hospitalized for three days, she responded, “So weird. It’s just not necessary. They’re trying to exaggerate this.”

“This is a witch hunt,” she added. “The devil’s been after me for years.”

On the call the next day, Franke described the sound of other inmates in the Purgatory jail as “upsetting.”

“But the most upsetting thing is that I am completely misunderstood,” Franke continued. “That is the most horrible feeling. Like, my own family misunderstands me, they misinterpret me. And poor Jodi, they misinterpret her, they misunderstand her. She puts her neck out on the line for people, and they get mad at her. It is horrendous.”

She cited Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, saying that “every wonderful man of God has had to be misunderstood.”

She expressed confidence that “I’m going to get out of this. Who knows? Maybe in 10 days I’ll get out of this, if truth prevails right now. Or, who knows, like, in 20 years? I don’t know. I don’t know how long.”

Kevin told Franke in the Sept. 1 call that he was on his way to a hearing where custody of the children might be discussed. Kevin said his attorney, who he said has 35 years’ experience, told Kevin that “even if [Franke is] acquitted and released, they will place legal restrictions on your access to the under-18 children.”

Franke offered to give Kevin full custody of their house — and promised that she would stay away — if it meant Kevin could have the children live there with him.

“Satan has taken everything away from me that I love,” Franke said, through tears and sniffles. “And I’m a good woman. I don’t do naughty things. I don’t do naughty things. I’m a really good girl.”

Kevin reassures her: “You keep truth in our family, and I’m committed to our family. I’m committed to you and our marriage, no matter what happened. I will be here to support you in any way that I can.”

In a later recording, Franke told an acquaintance that the Sept. 1 call was one of the last times she spoke to her husband.

[Read more: Ruby Franke case: Police records, personal journal detailing child abuse released]

Hildebrandt’s ‘crazy’ feeling

Hildebrandt, in an Oct. 17 call, said someone from a nearby Latter-day Saint ward gave her a blessing shortly before her arrest, and told her, “What you’ve been doing is going to change. You’re going to be teaching differently in the next little while.”

“I know this sounds crazy, and I still can’t put my finger on why it feels this way,” Hildebrandt told an acquaintance in that recorded call. “But it feels like I was being set up to end up here. … I shouldn’t be here. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Hildebrandt continued: “Everything got taken out of the house and put in a storage unit so I could come to jail. I know it sounds crazy, but to me it feels that way. I don’t know if I’m going to be some kind of example. But when I get out of here, I have a story to tell, and I’m going to try to do everything I can to protect the children. Because that’s what’s happening, is that kids are being absolutely, horribly abused.”

In a call the next day, Hildebrandt talked about her attorney. “He doesn’t seem really animated. He seems, like, ‘The pictures are going to destroy you.’ I’m, like, ‘We didn’t do that. We didn’t do that.’ The pictures, we did not do. He did that to himself.” It’s not specified who Hildebrandt was talking about, and the recording cuts off abruptly.

In a second recording on the same day, Oct. 18, Hildebrandt talked about the devil coming for her.

The devil, Hildebrandt said, “he uses these kids, and he uses all of us as the adults, the parents who won’t hold these kids accountable. So now it’s abusive to make a kid sleep on the floor. It’s abusive. It’s abusive. So, you know, that’s ridiculous. You can’t even raise your kids anymore.”

Franke’s ‘miraculous intervention’

In two calls, dated Oct. 27 and Dec. 2, Franke talked about faith, and she had a different view on her arrest.

“I really did feel like the arrest was, like, a rescue,” Franke told a man and a woman on Oct. 27. “I just felt so many angels around. It was really kind of surreal, kind of strange.”

Franke mentioned a talk that President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave that month at the church’s General Conference, to “think celestial.”

“He’s given a lot of context about how small this life is,” Franke said. “How many people have gone to the grave and not woken up? I want to use this time, and I am using this time to change. … to do what I can to let the world know I love [God] and my family.”

On Dec. 2, Franke again talks about God. “I could not come out of this without his grace, without his mercy, without his help. This has been the strangest and the most miraculous intervention. It put everybody where they needed to be.”

This conversation indicated a cooling of the friendship between Franke and Hildebrandt. The intervention, Franke said, “separated me from Jodi, so I’m not hearing her. I think [her] just being gone and [me] not hearing her has cleared a lot of things up for me.”

Franke then started to talk about “the kids,” when an automated voice cut off the call for exceeding the time limit.

In a Dec. 28 call, she told an acquaintance that the scene around Hildebrandt’s house on the day of their arrests “looked like the movies.” When Franke drove up to the house, she said, “there was a red firetruck. There was a black van with tinted windows. There were two ambulances. There were 20 cop cars.”

Franke talks about Hildebrandt

The longest jailhouse call the Washington County Attorney’s Office released, at more than 19 minutes, is time-stamped Dec. 28 — the day Hildebrandt entered her guilty plea, and 10 days after Franke entered hers.

Talking to a woman about Hildebrandt’s guilty plea, Franke called it “a big relief. … Had she not pled guilty, there’s enough evidence that she would have been convicted for life. That would have been messy.”

Franke noted that the prosecutor in Washington County agreed, in her plea bargain, to “stay neutral” when Franke’s opportunity for probation eventually comes up — meaning the prosecutor won’t urge the parole board to keep Franke in prison. “For [Hildebrandt], he’s not going to stay neutral,” Franke said. “So we can come up to probation, and I can get off on probation and she may not.”

The last time Franke and Hildebrandt spoke, Franke told the woman on the phone, was when they were arrested.

“We didn’t say a whole lot,” Franke said. “We hummed a couple of hymns. She was still justifying the whole time. She was, like, ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry. We’ll have our day in court.’”

Franke said that Hildebrandt’s plea deal proved to her that “she knew she was lying the whole time.”

Franke employed a scatological metaphor. “It’s like a little kid who doesn’t know it’s wrong to pee in their underwear. Like, they don’t know. They’re not embarrassed by it. It’s, like, ‘Ooh, I was supposed to pee in the toilet? Oh, oops,’” Franke said. “But you get a six-year-old who knows they’re supposed to pee in the toilet, and they’re peeing down the heating vent, they’re going to try to hide it.”

The guilty plea, Franke said, was “when I realized she knew all along, and she’s hiding it. … What else has she been lying about? Where else have I been deceived? It was the little string that started pulling apart this fabric.”

Hildebrandt cites scripture

The most recent recordings have Hildebrandt talking to a man on Feb. 5 — 15 days before she and Franke were sentenced.

In her jail cell, Hildebrandt said, “I’m begging God: ‘Please help me understand why I’m in this. It doesn’t make any sense.’ And he gave me some information yesterday, and then today really sealed it with some scriptures.”

She cited Luke 21:12-16, when Jesus described a future of war and disaster. “But before all these things, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. … And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.”

Hildebrandt also cited Mark 13:12: “Now the brother shall betray the brother to death. And the father, the son. And the children shall rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death.”

“That statement right there is what’s going on with me,” Hildebrandt said. “I cried for an hour straight. Just everything clicked. And I said, ‘I’m happy to go to prison.’”