Arizona YouTube mom faces 30 charges for abusing 5 kids
PHOENIX – An Arizona woman was charged with 30 counts of alleged abuse against five adopted children who performed in a popular YouTube series, Pinal County Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
After a grand jury handed down indictments Monday, Machelle Hobson, 47, of Maricopa faces multiple felony counts involving each juvenile victim, including kidnapping and a variety of child abuse charges.
“After a full and fair evaluation of all known facts and all known evidence, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office is confident these charges reflect the criminal actions perpetrated by Ms. Hobson,” County Attorney Kent Volkmer said in a press release.
“This office is committed to fairly and impartially administering justice for all those involved.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM legal expert Monica Lindstrom said Hobson could spend the rest of her life behind bars.
“We could be looking at over 100 years,” Lindstrom told KTAR News’ Mac & Gaydos on Tuesday.
“If you take all of those counts and if they’re at separate times and with separate victims, which they are, then those can be stacked on top of each other.”
Hobson’s arrest made national headlines last week.
According to police documents, she forced the children to act in a YouTube series and punished them if they forgot lines.
Among the allegations were that she pepper sprayed the kids on their genitals and locked them in a closet.
Police said the children, who were malnourished, were taken out of school so they could keep filming videos and hadn’t been back in school for years.
“However much I wish someone would have detected these alleged horrors sooner, no one did,” Arizona Department of Child Safety Director Gregory McKay said in a statement Tuesday.
“At DCS, we are committed to protecting children, and in some cases, finding them a loving adoptive family.”
McKay said everyone should be vigilant about children being mistreated, but not “irrationally suspicious.”
Hobson’s Fantastic Adventures YouTube 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 last Wednesday, hours after news of Hobson’s March 15 arrest spread.
In the videos, the children acted out plots such as “Dream Machine Adventure!,” which featured a “Star Wars” theme and a Nerf gun fight.
On March 13, Police began investigating at Hobson’s home in Maricopa, about 40 miles south of Phoenix, after her adult daughter reported the alleged abuse.
They removed Hobson’s seven adopted children from the house the next day.
The Pinal County Attorney’s Office said only five the children were included in the charges because investigators haven’t found direct evidence of abuse of two 3-year-olds.
Hobson, who remained in jail Tuesday on a $200,000 bond, faces 24 counts of child abuse, five counts of kidnapping and one count of aggravated assault
She will be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. Friday at the Pinal County Superior Courthouse in Florence.
Two adult sons of Hobson’s, Logan and Ryan Hackney, also were arrested for failing to report the abuse. They were released on their own recognizance last week, and their next court appearance was scheduled for April 8.
Anybody who may have witnessed child abuse or neglect was asked to call 888-SOS-CHILD.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.