Arizona police have arrested an adoptive mother of seven children who allegedly starved and beat them if they failed to perform properly in her YouTube videos, sometimes pepper-spraying their genitals and locking them in a closet.
Machelle Hackney, 48, is the woman behind the popular YouTube channel “Fantastic Adventures,” which boasts some 700,000 followers and has over 242 million views. However, behind the scenes, a disturbing picture of prolonged child abuse has emerged.
According to her seven adopted children, Hackney withheld food and water, restricted access to the toilet, beat and starved the children, and even locked them in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time if they forgot their lines or made mistakes during the filming of their YouTube videos.
Hackney maintains that she only used spanking, grounding and having them stand in the corner as punishment, though the children and one of her adult sons dispute this, claiming she used stress positions, in which the children would have to stand in the corner with their arms above their heads of hours on end, in addition to beatings with a hanger, belt or brush and pepper sprayings.
One girl told authorities that her adoptive mother had pepper-sprayed her genitals and that the intense pain lasted for several days. One of the boys also told police Hackney had grabbed and pinched his genitalia. All of the children underwent forensic interviews and medical examinations.
Hackney was arrested on Friday and has been held without bond while facing seven counts of child abuse, five counts of unlawful imprisonment and two counts of child molestation. Hackney’s two adult sons, Ryan and Logan, were both charged with seven counts of child abuse.
Police have not yet released the children’s ages though the underweight and malnourished children all appear to be under 10 years of age. The Department of Child Services has taken custody of all seven of the children.
“Officers came in contact with the six other children, who appeared to be malnourished, due to their pale complexion, dark rings under their eyes, underweight, and they stated they were thirsty and hungry,” according to the probable cause statement from Maricopa Police Department.
The channel has been demonetized, YouTube confirmed, and will be terminated if she is convicted or plead guilty.
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