Child stars of YouTube hit 'Fantastic Adventures' allegedly abused by adopted mother

The children told police their adoptive mother starved, beat and pepper sprayed them when they failed to follow direction for videos, officials said.

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By Doha Madani and Elisha Fieldstadt

An Arizona mother is accused of abusing her seven adopted children to get them to perform for her popular YouTube channel, "Fantastic Adventures."

Machelle Hackney and her two adult sons were arrested Friday and are facing abuse charges.

Police said Hackney withheld food and water, restricted restroom access, beat and pepper-sprayed the children when they failed to follow direction for YouTube videos, according to a probable cause statement from the Maricopa Police Department.

Hackney, who goes by her maiden name Hobson, denied abusing the children and stated the only forms of punishment she uses is spanking and grounding children and having them stand in the corner, according to police documents.

Hackney has been charged with seven counts of child abuse, five counts of unlawful imprisonment and two counts of child molestation. Jail records show she was arraigned Tuesday and held without bond.

Police did not release the children's ages.

Machelle Hackney.Pinal County Adult Detention Center

"Fantastic Adventures," which has 700,800 followers and more than 242 million views, features the adopted children in different sketch videos.

Some of the children told investigators that they had not been to school in years. One said he “was in the green screen room most of his life."

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They also claimed their adoptive mother abused them whenever they forgot their lines or didn't participate as instructed, according to court documents. They said Hackney would use a hanger, belt brush or her knuckles to beat them.

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

Officials performed a welfare check after police were contacted by Hackney's biological daughter, who was informed of the allegations by her adopted siblings. During the check, officers found one child in an unlocked closet wearing only a pull-up diaper.

"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.

The Department of Child Services removed all seven children from Hackney's care and has assisted in having the children forensically interviewed and medically examined.

One of the boys was in pain when police arrived, saying his mother had grabbed his genitals earlier in the day, court documents said. Another boy said Hackney would pinch the tip of his penis with her nails until it bled.

One of the girls told authorities her adoptive mother-pepper sprayed her genitals, and afterward, she was in pain for days.

She said that Hackney would "pepper spray all over their face and body, spank them, force them to take ice baths and when resisting would force their head underwater as well as she will make them stand in the corner with their arms raised above their head for several hours at a time."

The children told Department of Children's Services officials that their mother would wear a mask to protect herself while she pepper sprayed them.

Police said they found two cans of pepper spray in Hackney’s room along with a closet with a deadbolt.

The children said they would be locked in the closet for days without access to a bathroom, food or water.

One of the children drank three 16-ounce bottles of water in 20 minutes while police were interviewing him, according to court documents. Another child told police that she hadn't eaten in two days and was only being allowed to eat because police were at the home. And a third child was afraid to eat because she didn't want her mother to smell the food on her breath.

One of the children was shaking and afraid to answer questions from police, the documents said.

Hackney's two adult sons, Ryan and Logan, were charged with failing to report abuse of a minor.

Ryan wouldn't talk to police, but Logan told investigators that he had knowledge of some of the alleged abuse, and had noticed injuries on the children. He said he and his brother had discussed going to the police.

Logan and Ryan were also arraigned Tuesday and held without bond, according to jail records.

It is not clear whether the mother and sons have lawyers.