Arizona mother accused of starving, abusing 7 adopted children
PHOENIX – Authorities in Arizona have charged a woman with abuse of her seven adopted children, accusing her of pepper spraying them, locking them in a closet and more.
Machelle Hobson, 47, of Maricopa, was booked into the Pinal County Jail last week on suspicion of molestation of a child, child abuse and unlawful imprisonment and child neglect.
Hobson’s last name was initially listed in court records as Hackney, but the Pinal County Attorney’s Office says it has since been corrected.
According to police documents, Hobson also had forced the children to act in a YouTube series and punished them if they forgot lines.
The popular Fantastic Adventures channel drew more than 240 million views for 36 videos and more than 800,000 subscribers since debuting in 2012.
The channel was taken down by mid-afternoon Wednesday.
YouTube said earlier in the day it had suspended the channel’s money-making ability upon learning about the arrest and additional action was possible, including termination.
In the videos, the children act out inventive plots such as “Dream Machine Adventure!,” which features a “Star Wars” theme and a Nerf gun fight.
Jason Gibson, cofounder of Phoenix Online Media, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday that it’s possible Hobson was making millions from the channel.
“It’s safe to say that they were making millions a year. They could be making that much a year from having that many followers,” Gibson said.
“That’s almost a million followers and each one of their videos is getting a lot of impressions, or views, so their channel would be doing very well.”
Hobson’s adult daughter told police last week that her mother had been abusing the children. The mistreatment allegedly included pepper spray to the children’s genitals.
Two other adult children, Logan and Ryan Hackney, were arrested for failing to report the abuse.
According to the police report, the younger children were locked in a closet for days at a time with no food, water or bathroom access.
When officers went to the house, they said six of the children appeared to be malnourished, pale and underweight.
One of the children told police their mother forced them to take ice baths and stand in corners with their arms raised above their heads for hours at a time.
Police initially visited the last Wednesday, the day the adult daughter went to them.
The Department of Child Services said they removed the children from the home the next day.
A neighbor told the Associated Press the kids appeared unhappy one of the few times she saw them.
Sarisa Fragua, who lives two doors down Hobson, said she rarely saw the woman or the children.
But last summer, Fragua said one of the Hobson’s adult sons was filming a video with the children on a pathway behind her backyard.
The children seemed withdrawn anytime they weren’t being filmed, Fragua said. She thought it was odd but never saw anything that seemed abusive.
Hobson, Logan Hackney and Ryan Hackney were arrested Friday and had their initial court appearances Saturday, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office said.
Hobson’s bond was set at $200,000, and she was still in custody as of Wednesday afternoon. Her preliminary hearing was set for next Tuesday.
The Hackneys were released on their own recognizance Tuesday, and their next court appearance was scheduled for April 8.
Maricopa is about 40 miles south of Phoenix.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood and the Associated Press contributed to this report.