Machelle Hackney, known for the YouTube channel Fantastic Adventures, is in police custody in Arizona on suspicion of abusing her seven adopted children, the state’s Department of Child Safety said in a statement on March 20.
Fantastic Adventures was one of the most popular channels on the YouTube platform. At the time of writing the channel’s videos have a total of more than 250 million views.
The family-friendly clips feature siblings engaged in a range of seemingly innocent adventures including a ‘cookie capture mission’ and Nerf wars.
However, prosecutors allege, via KPHO-TV, that behind the cuddly image, the children’s step-mom Hackney, was carrying out vile abuse against the youngsters off-screen.
Here’s what you need to know about Machelle Hackney:
1. Police Listed A Range Of Abuse That Was Carried Out Against The 7 Children
Cops say that the youngsters were forced to endure abuse such as being pepper-sprayed and beaten with belts, brushes and hangers.
There are also allegations that the performing children were also forced to take ice baths and were required to stand with their arms raised above their heads from dawn until midnight. On more than one occasion, at least one of the boys bled when the tip of his penis was pinched, according to court papers.
2. The Charges Facing Hackney Including Unlawful Imprisonment & Child Molestation
The children’s step-mom was behind the abuse according to a statement of probable cause and she was arrested on Friday last week.
Hackney – who also uses her maiden name, Hobson, was arrested at her home in Maricopa, Ariz., along with her two biological sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney.
She was charged with molestation of a child, child abuse, unlawful imprisonment and child neglect. Meanwhile, her adult sons face charges for failing to report abuse.
The alleged abuse was reported by Hackney’s biological daughter earlier this month, according to court papers.
3. Authorities Claim That The YouTube Was The Reason For The Abuse
Police believe that the popular Youtube channel was the reason for the alleged abuse. They say that Hackney regularly meted out punishment when the children failed to remember their lines or otherwise didn’t perform as directed.
Ricardo Alvarado, a Maricopa police spokesman, said the seven adopted children ranged in age from about 6 to 15.
They were removed from Hackney’s custody by the state’s Department of Child Safety following a welfare check.
4. Hackney Denies The Charges Against Her
Hackney denies using pepper spray and ice baths to punish the youngsters. However, she told police that she spanked her children, grounded the youngsters and made them stand in a corner.
Police found two cans of pepper spray in her bedroom, according to the statement of probable cause.
Ryan Hackney declined to speak with police following his arrest. Meanwhile, his brother Logan Hackney admitted knowledge of the abuse and said he and his brother had discussed reporting their mother.
The adopted children said Ryan would sometimes sneak them food when they were locked in the closet, according to officials.
5. The Kids Claim That They Were Removed From School To Focus On The Videos
The youngsters told police that they removed from school several years ago as Hackney forced them to focus instead on the financially-lucrative YouTube videos.
Interviewing police said that the youngsters appeared malnourished, underweight and with pale complexions and dark rings under their eyes. One of the kids drank three 16-ounce bottles of water in 20 minutes once offered the chance to drink.
Meanwhile, another child was reluctant to eat for fear of her mother’s wrath. A third youngster said she had not been allowed to eat in two days.
The children described being pepper-sprayed all over their faces and bodies, including their genitals, causing pain for four to five days. When they resisted ice baths, they said, their mother would force their heads underwater.
They were frequently locked in the closet off their mother’s master bedroom, sometimes for as long as a week, according to court papers.