Annie Elise and Emily D Baker are two prominent true crime YouTubers (Pictures: AP / Youtube / Emily D Baker / Annie Elise / Getty)
Netflix documentaries like Making A Murderer and Don’t F**k With Cats and podcasts like Serial and In The Dark have kept many of us hooked, but there’s a whole other avenue of true crime you may not have tapped into yet.
True crime YouTubers have risen in popularity in recent years as viewers become increasingly gripped by high-profile cases, such as the explosive Hollywood libel trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard and the tragic murder of aspiring YouTube blogger Gabby Petito.
However, it’s the murder of four Idaho students that has sent shock waves throughout the true crime community over the past year.
Xana Kernodle, Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen were stabbed to death in their beds after returning home from a night out and Bryan Kohberger is the accused suspect who is due to stand trial.
The horrific nature of the crimes has left not only America stunned but the world. Why would someone commit such a heinous crime and how did they seemingly leave very little DNA at the scene?
Annie Elise and Emily D Baker are two of the most prominent true crime YouTubers covering the Kohberger case as well as many others. They’ve spoken to Metro.co.uk about how they navigate the complex world of true crime, the emotional toll of covering the most harrowing cases and why it’s not entertainment…
Emily D Baker boasts over 700,000 subscribers (Picture: Emily D Baker)
They may be in the same industry but Annie and Emily approach their coverage of true crime from two different perspectives; Annie simply has a passion for true crime while Emily is a lawyer who has been involved in the prosecution of countless criminals.
Their viewers know exactly what they get with each channel as Annie uploads pre-recorded deep dives into specific cases along with regular updates from an emotive angle, while Emily hosts live streams where she breaks down the bare bones of the facts from legal documents, while still being sensitive to the victims involved.
They’re two very different styles but proof that the appetite for true crime is bigger than ever.
Annie, whose husband first encouraged her to start covering true crime on TikTok, now runs the popular channel 10 To Life.
She told us: ‘I had no plans to turn it into a career so I started posting on TikTok and it blew up overnight. Then a lot of people were giving me feedback that they wanted to learn more about these cases and more details that I couldn’t share in a little 60-second quick video.
‘That’s when YouTube came to mind, not even knowing that there was a true crime community on YouTube. I had never followed any YouTubers either. Then I started doing 10-minute case recaps and then it became its own thing and evolved.’
Annie’s most popular video has amassed a staggering 2.4million views in the past year – it covers the gruesome case of Taylor Parker, the Texan woman who was convicted of killing her friend and unborn baby. Annie has also earned millions of views from various uploads about Kohberger and 1.2million for one video covering highly-publicised familicide killer Chris Watts and his former mistress.
The YouTuber isn’t entirely sure what has drawn so many viewers to her channel but she’s proud of the ‘very friendly, warm and inviting’ audience she’s built.
In particular, she’s found the Idaho case to be ‘one of the most polarising’ over the past year and found it ‘a little unnerving to know that there was this serial killer that was out there preying on these girls and Ethan.’
‘I still have a lot of thoughts to myself about why the four of them were victims, my personal opinion is that I don’t think that was the plan,’ she said. ‘I don’t think that was what he intended to do, I think he was caught off guard. The information that’s out there right now, it’s really hard to know what is true and what’s not based on the YouTubers and people covering.’
Details are few and far between on the Idaho investigation with the judge placing a gagging order on authorities involved with the case and the media. Kohberger, who faces the death penalty, has pleaded not guilty to the murder charges.
However, the detailed affidavit shed some light on what led to Kohberger’s arrest, including his DNA being found on the knife sheath left behind at the scene and how the intruder was seen by one of the two surviving roommates after committing the atrocities.
It’s these kind of factual details that lawyer Emily solely focuses on with her channel.
She explained: ‘Until there was an arrest I did not cover this case at all. I waited until there were court documents which is generally what I do in these cases, because otherwise, until then, it’s all just speculation.
‘I like to stay in my lane.
‘I don’t want to be covering rumours that might be proven to be untrue down the road because it is a tonne of work.’
Both Annie and Emily plan on sending a member of their teams to Idaho to cover the case, especially if the judge rules no cameras are allowed, which is currently being decided by the court.
A trial date is yet to be scheduled as Kohberger waived his right to a speedy trial, but it likely won’t be a quick one due to the complexities of the case and there being four victims, meaning Annie, Emily and their teams might have to uproot their lives for several weeks or even months – an insight into how serious they take their careers as true crime YouTubers.
For Emily, it was the unbelievably complicated case of Alex Murdaugh which drew her into true crime.
Murdaugh, an accomplished lawyer, was convicted of the murders of his wife Maggie and son Paul but his family, a powerful dynasty of prosecutors in South Carolina, were accused of other crimes too. At the time of his death, Paul was charged over the death of Mallory Beach in a boating accident while the family’s nanny, Gloria Satterfield, also died in suspicious circumstances at their home.
Annie Elise has surpassed the one million subscriber mark (Picture: YouTube)
In recent weeks, Murdaugh has pleaded guilty to stealing money from clients at his law firm and faces many other charges.
It’s easy to see why such cases – ones that are stranger than fiction – entice a wide audience.
Mainstream channels such as CourtTV and Law & Crime Network broadcasting every minute of live trial footage right into people’s living rooms only adds to the fascination of the legal process.
However, at what point does it become entertainment?
True crime content has always been accused of exploiting victims with consumers picking apart all the tragic details. But others would argue though that the true crime community serves a purpose in highlighting cases that would otherwise not be platformed and helps the victims’ families keep the spotlight on their loved ones.
After all, if Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu can release true crime documentaries to acclaim, why can’t YouTube creators delve into the facts of cases without being accused of exploiting victims?
The heartbreaking case of Gabby Petito, the van life blogger who was murdered by her fiance Brian Laundrie who then took his own life in 2021, is proof that social media can truly help.
As the case went viral in the news, online and through true crime channels, a YouTuber couple who were in the area at the same time as Petito and Laundrie realised they had footage of their van parked at the side of a road, which in turn helped the authorities locate her body.
Defending the content, Emily said: ‘I can’t ever speak for an entire community of creators and I wouldn’t try to. I know for me that there is a tremendous benefit in the public understanding how the law works and learning to find compassion in a case, even when feelings are running high.’
She added: ‘There are those who are very frustrated with my coverage of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard case, but when I was working as a DA [district attorney], there were people who were frustrated with me doing my job as well.
‘If people are frustrated and just want to be frustrated, there’s not much I can do to change their opinion of me and I don’t fight with people’s opinion of me. All I really try to do is help people understand the law and treat the cases even with a little bit of cheekiness but also with dignity.’
Emily rose to prominence covering the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard libel trial
Emily noted there are rules in her live chat where viewers are not allowed to make fun of the parties involved.
On her YouTube channel, Emily’s viewing figures are impressive – she rose to prominence while covering the Depp v Heard trial last summer and has amassed millions of views with her coverage of that trial (which doesn’t exactly fit into the true ‘crime’ realm but was still a trial nonetheless).
On the topic of exploitation, it might come as a surprise that 10 To Life’s Annie somewhat agrees with the critics.
‘I would say that they’re right,’ she stated. ‘I would say there are different pockets in the community that are very exploitative whether that is pushing a false narrative because you want something clickbaity, you want those clicks.
‘There are certain creators – and I would hope to consider myself as one – who cover these cases with just a little bit more respect and not trying to sensationalise it or share every single salacious detail you can but there are definitely areas that can be like that and I can understand why the true crime community has gotten kind of a bad wrap over the years because there are unfortunately people like that out there and I’m not one to say anybody’s right or wrong in their coverage.’
The creator added: ‘We choose our cases based on what the purpose could be from that people can gain from it. I would say the public isn’t necessarily wrong in that.’
Emily and Annie might cover true crime differently but they are united in one thing – they try to avoid murder cases involving children as both are mothers and it’s too close to home.
By day, the YouTubers try to shed light on those victims whose cases might be forgotten, but by night, they are switching off with their families.
Annie explained: ‘When I go home I really do try to just shut off and be present with my kids and my husband and not carry the weight of these cases on me but it’s really hard. Especially the children’s ones when I see my kids at home, I just give them extra love and kisses.
‘I’m trying to figure out how to decompress all the time because it can be heavy.’
Emily shared what the future of her channel looks like and said: ‘YouTube has been a great place for me to build a really wonderful and unique community and I’ve been very happy doing it. So I think that’s what the future will continue to hold.’
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These content creators have built followings of millions – but what’s the price?