Arizona woman charged with abusing children, forcing them to appear in YouTube series
Warning: Details in this story contain disturbing content. Discretion is advised.
An Arizona woman is facing charges of abusing her seven adopted children and forcing them to appear in her YouTube series which was seen by millions of people.
Machelle Hackey was arrested last week after her biological daughter called police after she was allegedly told by one of her adoptive sisters their mother was abusing them. The call prompted a welfare check.
Court documents obtained by NBC News showed 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 if they did not remember their lines or perform in the videos as directed.
One of the children was found in an unlocked closet during the welfare check, while the other six were found appearing pale and underweight, as well as thirsty and hungry.
According to the documents, one child drank three 16-ounce bottles of water in 20 minutes, while another said she was extremely hungry and thirsty but was afraid to eat a bag of chips for fear her mother would smell the food on her breath.
A neighbour, who did not want to be identified, told NBC-affiliate KPNX she rarely saw the children.
“The only time I ever saw them out was getting out of their car, going in their house or in the back when they’re shooting their videos,” she said.
The children said they would be pepper-sprayed from head to toe as punishment if they did not do as told, with one child recalling being pepper-sprayed in the privates and being in pain for four to five days.
Another child told DCS that Hackney would pinch the tip of his penis with her fingernails to the point it would bleed, documents showed.
The mother also allegedly beat them with a hanger, belt or brush, with one child saying he would be beaten in the head by his mother’s knuckles.
Hackney also had two adult sons, who reportedly prepared food for the children while officers were at the home. But police were told they were only being allowed to have the food because police were there.
The two biological sons, who would play villains in the videos, were also arrested on Friday and are facing charges for failing to report abuse.
Ryan Hackney refused to speak about the incidents, but the children reportedly said he would sneak them food when locked in “the green room.”
Logan Hackney told police he had talked with Ryan about reporting the child abuse.
Arizona’s Department of Child Services removed the seven children from the home.
DCS reports they were also told the children were taken out of school to film the YouTube series, which had more than 242 million views. They had allegedly not been in school for years.
YouTube has also confirmed Hackney’s channel has since been demonetized since they were made aware of the arrest. If convicted or she pleads guilty, the channel will be terminated.
She has denied the pepper spray and 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.
Hackney faces charges of molestation of a child, seven counts of child abuse, five counts of unlawful imprisonment and five counts of child neglect.
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