The children told police their adoptive mother starved, beat and pepper sprayed them when they failed to follow direction for videos, officials said.
(NBC News) – An Arizona mother is accused of abusing her seven adopted children to get them to perform for her YouTube channel.
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.
The family’s YouTube channel, which has 700,800 followers and more than 242 million views, features the adopted children in different sketch videos. The children told police they were taken out of school in order to make videos.
They also claimed their adoptive mother abused them whenever they forgot their lines or didn’t participate as instructed.
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.
During an examination, a girl told authorities her adoptive mother-pepper sprayed her genitals.
She said that Hackey 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.”
Hackney’s two adult sons, Ryan and Logan, were also charged with seven counts of child abuse each.
Logan told investigators that he had knowledge of some of the alleged abuse and claimed both 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.