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Mom accused of abusing 7 adopted children, forcing them to take part in YouTube series

The children told authorities they were pepper sprayed, beaten, forced to take ice baths and locked in a closet without food, water or access to a restroom for days, according to court documents.

MARICOPA, Ariz. — Editor's note: Machelle Hobson was previously identified as Machelle Hackney in police documents.

An Arizona mother behind a YouTube channel seen by millions is in jail on charges of abusing her seven adopted children.

Machelle Hobson of Maricopa, Arizona, is accused of forcing her adopted children to participate in her YouTube channel and abusing them if they did not recall their lines or perform as directed.

The children told authorities they would be pepper sprayed, beaten, forced to take ice baths and locked in a closet without food, water or access to a restroom for days, according to court documents.  

On Wednesday, March 13, Hobson’s biological daughter called police after one of her adopted sisters said their mother was abusing them, prompting a welfare check at the home.

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Police said during the welfare check, a child wearing only a pull-up was found in an unlocked closet, which has a locking mechanism.

Officers said they found six other children who appeared pale and underweight and had dark rings under their eyes. The children told police they were thirsty and hungry.

While officers were speaking to one of the children, he drank three 16-ounce bottles of water in a 20-minute time frame while describing being pepper sprayed numerous times by his mother Machelle Hobson, according to court documents.

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Another child said she was extremely hungry and thirsty but was afraid to eat a bag of chips provided because she did not want her mother to smell chips on her breath, the documents say.

Officers said another child they talked to was visibly nervous and shaking and appeared too scared to answer questions.

Police said Hobson had her two adult sons prepare food for her children while the officers were at the home. But one of the younger children told officers her mother was only allowing them to have food because the police were there, as she had not been allowed to eat for two days, according to the court paperwork.

The Department of Child Services responded to the home and removed seven children from Hobson's custody.

When police searched the home, they said they found two cans of pepper spray in Hobson’s room. They also said they found a closet with a deadbolt lock and a bare tile floor with no windows, furniture, blankets, clothing or toys inside.

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The children told DCS their mother took them out of school to film their YouTube series, which has more than 700,000 followers and more than 242 million views. The children mentioned to DCS they had not been in school for years.

YouTube confirmed the channel was demonetized once they were made aware of the arrest. 

One of the children said during an interview with DCS that he “was in the green screen room most of his life,” court documents say.

The children said they would be pepper sprayed from head to toe as punishment if they did not do as they were told, documents show. Before their mother pepper sprayed them, she typically put on a mask to protect herself, the children told DCS.

Court documents show one of the children recalled an incident where she was pepper sprayed in the privates and was in pain for four to five days.

The children also reportedly said their mother would beat them with a hanger, belt or brush. One child told DCS he would be beaten in the head by his mother’s knuckles, which he said felt like being hit with a hammer.

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They also described having to stand in the corner with their arms raised above their head from “6 a.m. ‘til 12 at night,” and if they moved to scratch themselves or do anything, their mother would pinch their stomach or back and twist, court documents say.

One of the children told DCS Hobson would pinch the tip of his penis with her fingernails to the point that it would bleed, according to documents.

According to the documents, another child said Hobson previously grabbed his privates and that they still hurt during the interview.

The children also told DCS they would be forced to take ice baths, and their heads would be forced under water if they resisted.

Hobson and her two adult sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney, were arrested at their home on Friday, March 15.

Police said Ryan refused to speak, but Logan told officers he knew the children were locked in the closet for long periods, pepper sprayed and forced to take ice baths as punishment, according to documents.

He also told police he saw physical injuries on the children and recalled hearing them screaming and crying.

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The children reportedly said Ryan would sneak them food when they were locked in the “green room.”

Logan told police he had talked with Ryan about reporting the child abuse.

Hobson told police the green closet in her bedroom is never used for punishment, denied the pepper spray and the ice baths and said the only forms of punishment she uses is having the children stand in the corner, giving them spankings and being grounded.

She faces charges of molestation of a child, seven counts of child abuse, five counts of unlawful imprisonment and five counts of child neglect.

Ryan and Logan were booked into the Pinal County Jail on charges of failing to report abuse of a minor.

A YouTube spokesperson released a statement saying Hobson's channel will be terminated immediately upon a conviction or a guilty plea. 

"We take safety on YouTube very seriously. We work closely with leading child safety organizations and others in our industry to protect young people. When we’re made aware of serious allegations of this nature we take action, which may include suspending monetization, or, upon conclusion of an investigation, terminating channels."

Watch the story here on YouTube.

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