MARICOPA, Ariz. — Her family rose to Internet stardom through the family comedy YouTube channel “Fantastic Adventures,” but the adoptive mother of seven is now facing charges as police unravel a horrific child abuse case, according to the Washington Post.
On Friday, Machelle Hackney, 48, and her two biological sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney, were arrested in Maricopa, Arizona.
The woman is charged with molestation of a child, child abuse, unlawful imprisonment and child neglect. The men are charged with not reporting abuse.
The mother ran the YouTube channel which drew in more than 800,000 subscribers. The videos showed the kids engaging in Nerf gun battles or acting in pretend scenarios and stories.
Behind the scenes, however, the children described a house of horrors.
The case began to unfold when Hackney’s biological daughter contacted authorities on March 13, the Washington Post reports.
When police made a welfare check, they reported that the seven adopted child, ranging in ages from 6 to 15, looked malnourished, underweight and pale.
One child quickly drank down three 16-ounce bottles of water in only about 20 minutes.
Another child was hesitant to eat a bag of chips, saying that their mother might be able to smell the food on her breath.
Another said she was not allowed to eat for the previous two days.
The children said that they had been out of school for several years to focus on the videos, which police believe are the source of the abuse, according to the Post.
Up until Hackney’s arrest, the channel provided an income for the family, though it is unclear exactly how much the successful channel brought in.
The kids said the woman would punish them for forgetting their lines or not performing as they were told.
They say Hackney beat them with belts, brushes and hangers and, on multiple occasions, pinched a boy’s genitals until he bled.
They were forced to take ice baths and to stand with their arms raised over their heads all day long.
The Department of Child Safety ultimately removed the children from the mother’s custody.
While YouTube said the channel has be demonitized, the videos still remained up on Wednesday.