‘YouTube mom’ accused of abusing 7 children, indicted on 29 counts, died after injury in jail

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Machelle Hobson, an Arizona mother who ran a popular YouTube channel known as “Fantastic Adventures” and was facing dozens of child abuse charges, died at a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona, according to Ricardo Alvarado, public information officer for the Maricopa Police Department.

The Pinal County Attorney’s Office told ABC15 on Tuesday evening, Nov. 12 they would wait for an official death certificate before dismissing charges, but would continue to pursue Hobson’s assets, including more than $100,000 in cash. All of the seized money would go to the seven children, who were back in the state’s custody and likely in a new foster home.

Scottsdale police told ABC15, Hobson died of “health conditions,” and they did not anticipate an ongoing death investigation.

Hobson, 48, was arrested in March at her home in Maricopa, Arizona, a community about 30 minutes south of Phoenix.

While her family was racking up millions of views on YouTube with scripted skits, detectives alleged her foster children were living in a house of horrors.

According to court documents, and ABC15’s previous reporting, the children told investigators that they were starved for days, locked in closets for days, forced to sleep on the floor, and physically beaten for failing to remember their lines. Detectives found bottles of pepper spray at the home, which was sometimes used on children’s genitals, according to court documents.

Hobson was facing 29 charges, including multiple counts of child abuse, kidnapping, and unlawful imprisonment.

A police source told ABC15 previously that Hobson was hospitalized with a brain injury while in jail, according to a previous ABC15 report. A family acquaintance said Hobson had a brain aneurysm and had been placed in a care facility, after being released from jail with conditions in early June.

In August, Hobson, who made national headlines as the “YouTube mom,” was declared incompetent to stand trial by both state and defense doctors.

At the time of her arrest, police said Hobson had over 700,000 YouTube followers, 242 million views on the page’s videos, and was making hundreds of thousands of dollars off the content.

The kids, many of whom were fostered before being adopted by Hobson, told investigators “they have not been in school for years” in order to “keep filming their [Youtube] series.”

Weeks after her arrest, Hobson was indicted on child abuse charges. In their report, detectives said Hobson denied the abuse allegations and was clearly competent on March 13, 2019. Five months later, she was ruled not fit to stand trial.

“It’s kind of scary that you could live that close to somebody and not know that they are abusing their children in such an awful way,” said Lisa Moreno, who lived near Hobson’s old home. “Every time I drive by I think about it. It’s awful, nobody had any clue that was going on there.”

The community was hopeful someone would be held accountable.

Hobson’s two sons, Ryan and Logan Hackney, were initially implicated and charged with seven counts of “failing to report the abuse of a minor.” In the report, police said, “Logan admitted the children were locked in the closet for long periods as punishment.” He also said he saw physical injuries and heard kids “screaming and crying,” according to detectives.

The charges for both men were dropped a month after their arrests, with almost no explanation.

When asked why were charges were dropped against those two sons, Volkmer said, “Just because we are morally outraged, just because we believe they should be held accountable, if we can’t prove the case, we will not bring it.”

When asked about the strong evidence against the sons, in the initial police report, Volkmer went on to say, “At this point, we do not have enough information then I am confident that we can get 12 jurors to believe that they committed these offenses.”

The Hackney brothers were not in the clear. Volkmer says charges could be brought against the two.

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