Arizona woman used pepper spray on adopted kids, police say

Cheryl Sanders
March 22, 2019

A woman who operates a popular YouTube channel featuring kids is facing allegations she used pepper spray to discipline her seven adopted children, and locked them for days in a closet at their home outside Phoenix, authorities said Wednesday.

Machelle Hackney, who has a channel called "Fantastic Adventures" with nearly 800,000 subscribers and 250 million views since 2012, was arrested on March 15 along with her two adult sons following an investigation launched by police when her biological daughter reported her on March 13.

Machelle Hackney, 48, was arrested March 15 at her home in Maricopa, roughly 30 miles south of Phoenix, and charged with two counts of child molestation, seven counts of child abuse, five counts of unlawful imprisonment and five counts of child neglect. Hackney's two adult sons, Ryan and Logan, were both charged with seven counts of child abuse.

Machelle Hackney and her two adult sons were arrested after the children reported being locked in a closet for days without access to food, water and restrooms, among other charges, the Republic reported.

The Washington Post wrote, "When police interviewed them, they appeared malnourished, underweight, and had pale complexions and dark rings under their eyes".

According to the probable cause statement, one of the children drank three 16-ounce bottles of water within 20 minutes and said he had been pepper sprayed numerous times as punishment by his mother.

One of the children told police their mother forced them to take ice baths and stand in corners with their arms raised above their heads for hours at a time.

The Department of Child Services has removed all seven children from Machelle Hackney's care, according to NBC News.

Hackney's YouTube channel "Fantastic Adventures" has almost 800,000 subscribers. On more than one occasion, at least one of the boys bled when the tip of his penis was pinched, according to court papers. The abuse was punishment for failing to participate in the YouTube show, or for forgetting their lines, police said. She's also accused of sexually abusing the children in addition to inflicting emotional and physical abuse upon them. The children's ages were not released.

YouTube said earlier in the day it had suspended the channel's money-making ability upon learning about the arrest and additional action was possible including termination. Another stated the woman had sprayed her between the legs with pepper spray.

The channel has been demonetized, YouTube confirmed, and will be terminated if she is convicted or plead guilty. But police were told they were only being allowed to have the food because police were there.

Hackney's older biological daughter tipped off officials about the alleged abuse, KNXV reports.

It's unclear whether Hackney or her sons have obtained lawyers to represent them.

"We take safety on YouTube very seriously".

However, prosecutors allege, via KPHO-TV, that behind the cuddly image, the children's step-mom Hackney, was carrying out vile abuse against the youngsters off-screen.

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