MARICOPA, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- A Maricopa, Arizona woman is accused of abusing seven adopted children in her home, including using pepper spray on them and locking them in a closet.
HOW POLICE FOUND OUT
On March 13, Maricopa police became aware of the alleged child abuse after Machelle Hobson's 19-year-old daughter reported the allegations to officers at the Maricopa Police Department. She told officers children in the house were pepper sprayed and left in a locked closet for days with no food, water or bathroom.
POLICE CHECK ON HOUSE
When officers checked on the house, a child was found in an unlocked closet, which had a locking mechanism, wearing only a diaper.
At the same time, officers came in contact with six other children who appeared to be malnourished and underweight. Court paperwork indicates the children told officers they were thirsty and hungry.
While officers were speaking with one of the children, he drank three bottles of water within 20 minutes. He told officers he was pepper sprayed several times as punishment by Hobson.
Another child told officers she was extremely hungry and thirsty. Maricopa police officers gave her a bag of chips. According to police, the girl was scared to eat because she did not want her mom to smell chips on her breath.
On March 13, Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) removed seven children from Hobson's custody.
LOCKED IN CLOSET FOR "DAYS"
A search warrant was eventually granted to search the house. Authorities found two cans of pepper spray in Hobson's room. The closet, where the children were reportedly held in, was located in the mother’s master bedroom with a deadbolt lock and tile floor. There were no windows, furniture, clothes or toys in the closet.
DCS assisted in making sure all of the children were interviewed and had a physical exam. One of the children told investigators that Hobson kept her locked in a closet for “multiple days at a time with no food, water or restroom.” She went on to say Hobson would pepper spray all of the children, spank them, and force them to take ice baths. When children resisted ice baths, Hobson would reportedly force their head underwater and make them stand in the corner with their arms above their head.
According to court documents, Hobson also touched one of the children inappropriately several times and sprayed pepper spray in the vagina of one of the girls. The girl told investigators she was in pain for four to five days.
All of the children participated in their mom’s YouTube channel, where she has over 700,000 followers with over 242 million video views.
The videos showed the adopted children in different scenarios. Court paperwork indicated if the children did not want to be in the videos or did not recall their lines, they would be punished.
The children told investigators they were taken out of school to perform in the videos. They told police they have not been in school for “years.”
YouTube confirmed the channel was demonetized once they were made aware of the arrest. They also said with allegations so serious in nature, they would terminate the channel immediately upon conviction, guilty plea, etc.
On March 15, Hobson and her two adult sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney were arrested at their home. Logan and Ryan reportedly admitted to knowing about the child abuse. Ryan would reportedly sneak food into the closet so the juveniles could eat.
The mother told police her closet was never used for punishment, denied using pepper spray and ice baths. She told police she only used standing in a corner, spankings and being grounded as forms of punishments.
Logan and Ryan Hackney were booked into Pinal County Jail for seven counts of failing to report abuse of a minor.
The mother was booked into jail for two counts of molestation of a child, seven counts of child abuse, five counts of unlawful imprisonment and five counts of child neglect.
One of Hobson's neighbors told us that he thought it was strange that the children never got to play with other kids.
"We've met them," said neighbor Bruno Schlueter. "I took my children down there to introduce them to their children. My children wanted to play with them but whenever my children wanted to play down there, they never got to play."
"I never really understood why they couldn’t play," continued Schlueter. "I just assumed they didn’t have any interest playing with my kids."
Schlueter says his kids knew about the family's YouTube videos.
"We learned they did YouTube videos, which was pretty exciting," said Schlueter. "My children thought that was pretty exciting; they started watching the videos."
The details about the alleged abuse at the home have shocked Schlueter, who said he had no idea.
"I'm blown away that was going on down there," said Schlueter. "I have six kids myself and I can't even imagine doing something like that happening to these poor kids. I just wish I would’ve been able to pick up on that."
Note: Pinal County Superior Court clarified Machelle Hobson's last name. Pinal County Sheriff's Office mistakenly had her last name as Hackney.