An Arizona mother is accused of abusing her seven adopted children that starred on a popular YouTube channel. Machelle Hackney and her two adult sons were arrested last week in connection to the abuse. The YouTube Channel “Fantastic Adventures” has almost 800,000 subscribers and features videos of the children.
According to the Maricopa Police Department, they first learned of the abuse on March 13. Hackney’s 19-year-old biological daughter reported the abuse to the police. She told police that her mother pepper sprayed and locked her adopted siblings in a closet.
When police arrived at the home, they found a boy inside of an unlocked closet. The was wearing only a diaper and appeared malnourished. Shortly after locating the boy, the police found six other children. Court documents say that the children all looked malnourished and underweight.
When officers spoke with the children, they said they were hungry and thirsty. Officers gave the children snacks and water to drink. One of the children drank three bottles of water in less than 20 minutes. Another child refused to eat a bag of chips because they feared that their mother would smell the food on their breath.
On the same day, that police found the malnourished children, the Department of Child Services removed the kids from home. While in custody of DCS, the children began sharing the appalling details of their mother’s abuse.
The children told police that they had not been to school in years. Several said that they spent most of their time working on videos or in rooms with green screens. One of the girls told police that her mother kept her locked in a closet for days without access to food, water, or use of the restroom.
Through police interviews, the children revealed that their mother used pepper spray, ice baths, spanking, and forced their heads underwater as methods of abuse. The kids said that she became the most violent when they refused to participate in the videos or if they forgot their lines.
Not only did she use physical violence, but she also sexually abused two of the children. One of the boys told the officers that his mother often pinched the tip of his penis until he bled. A daughter said that her mother sprayed pepper spray on her vagina in a fit of rage. The girl said that she was in pain for days following the incident.
After obtaining search warrants for the home, police found cans of pepper spray and the locked closet inside Hackney’s master bedroom. The closet door had a deadbolt and contained no windows.
When police finished the interviews and searched the property, they arrested Machelle Hackney and her two adult sons Logan and Ryan. The men admitted that they knew about the abuse and even snuck food to their siblings when they were locked in rooms. Despite their knowledge of the abuse, neither reported the crimes to police.
Police charged Hackney with two counts of molestation of a child, seven counts of child abuse, five counts of unlawful imprisonment and five counts of child neglect.
All of the children are now in the custody of the county and recovering from the trauma inflicted on them by their adoptive mother.Multiple media outlets interviewed Hackney’s neighbors. They told reporters that they rarely saw the children outside. Most neighbors knew about the YouTube channel but had no idea what Hackney did to the children to make the videos.
“Fantastic Adventures” has nearly 800,000 subscribers. In fact, my son has watched the channel for years. Finding out about the abuse this morning made my stomach sink to the floor.
On the channel, the children go on adventures. In one of the last uploaded videos, one of the children, Elijah, goes on a mission to steal his oldest sister’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. The video has almost 4 million views. Knowing the details of the abuse now, the fact that he was forced to work with food while starving is extremely unnerving.
The channel has over 250,000,000 total views. With some YouTube accounts earning as much as $10 per 1,000 views, Machelle Hackney made a lot of money on these videos.
To make that money, she took her kids out of school, starved, beat, and sexually abused them. YouTube said that they had demonetized the channel.
However, the channel is still online and has dozens of videos. The children in the videos are all extremely thin and have dark circles under their eyes. Their most popular video has 36 million views.
YouTube said they would deactivate the account only if the three adults plead guilty or convicted of the charges. With so much evidence against Hackney, there is no excuse for the channel to be online.
Thankfully for these children, their oldest sister stood up for them and reported the abuse. Apparently, she was the only one in the family with any conscience.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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