Arizona YouTube mom charged with child abuse dies

Machelle Hobson ran the hit YouTube family comedy series "Fantastic Adventures" before it was shut down amid allegations that she was abusing her seven adopted children off-screen.

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By Elizabeth Chuck

An Arizona mother accused of abusing the adopted children who starred in her popular YouTube channel has died, according to police.

Machelle Hobson died at around 10 a.m. Tuesday at a hospital in Scottsdale, Ricardo Alvarado, a spokesman for the Maricopa Police Department, said. He did not have any additional details about Hobson's death.

Hobson's YouTube channel, "Fantastic Adventures," had been a wholesome family comedy series that attracted nearly 800,000 subscribers and amassed more than 240 million views.

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But off-screen, police say, Hobson subjected her seven adopted children to horrific abuse in their Maricopa home, which included punishing them if they didn't perform to her liking.

Hobson denied the youngsters food and water, restricted their access to the bathroom, and beat and pepper-sprayed them — including on their genitals — when they didn't follow instructions for the videos, authorities said.

Some of the children told investigators that they hadn't been allowed to go to school for years because their mother wanted them to be at home to film videos instead.

Following the abuse allegations, the hit YouTube channel was abruptly shut down.

Hobson — whose married name was Hackney but who went by her maiden name — was arrested along with her two biological adult sons in Maricopa and charged with dozens of counts of child abuse. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

It was not clear what led to Hobson's death. According to the NBC affiliate KPNX in Phoenix, Hobson had suffered a brain injury while in custody and as a result, was deemed unfit to stand trial in August. She had been in a medical facility receiving treatment after the injury, KPNX said.

Lauren Reimer, a public information officer with the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, confirmed that Hobson "had some extreme health issues that she was dealing with" which resulted in her being transported from jail to a hospital in May. She did not provide any additional information, and a phone call to the Pinal County Attorney's Office seeking more information about the circumstances of Hobson's death was not immediately returned.