The parents behind a popular YouTube channel that showed them subjecting their five children to a series of questionable “pranks” have reportedly lost custody of two of their kids amid a child abuse investigation.
Maryland’s Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and Office of Child Protective Services are investigating Mike and Heather Martin, who gained internet fame for their DaddyOFive YouTube channel, authorities confirmed to HuffPost on Wednesday. The Baltimore County Police Department is reportedly conducting a separate investigation.
The videos show the Martins screaming profanities at their kids, breaking their toys as a “prank” and blaming them for things they didn’t do. Some show the kids being pushed, punched and slapped.
“Please keep in mind videos are fake and being acted out our videos are for entertainment purposes only no child was harmed in the making of our videos,” DaddyOFive’s YouTube page states.
The biological mother of the couple’s youngest two children, ages 9 and 11, announced Monday in a YouTube video on a separate account that she has been granted emergency custody of them.
Rose Hall, who lives in North Carolina, told the Baltimore Sun that she reunited with her children on Friday and that she hadn’t seen them since 2014 and 2015, respectively. Their reunion followed a tumultuous custody battle with Mike Martin, she told the paper.
In her video, Hall called the DaddyOFive series “heartbreaking” to watch.
“We realize that we have made some terrible parenting decisions and we just want to make things right.”
As of Wednesday, the DaddyOFive channel had more than 762,000 subscribers. The videos of the “pranks” have all been removed, and only a video of the Martins tearfully apologizing remains. In that video, which has been viewed at least 2.2 million times since being posted on April 22, they say they’re attending family counseling.
When facing criticism for their videos in the past, the Martins denied abusing their kids and said the videos had been staged with their children’s consent. But they change their tune in this latest video, saying they “made some terrible parenting decisions.”
“This has been the absolute worst week of our life and we realize that we have made some terrible parenting decisions and we just want to make things right,” Heather Martin says.
“I do agree that we put things on the internet that should not be there,” Mike Martin adds. “We did do things that we should not do.”
Fellow YouTube user Philip DeFranco spotlighted the family’s disturbing antics in his own video last month. That video has been viewed more than 3.8 million times.
Mike Martin appeared less than impressed by DeFranco’s assessment, accusing him of “destroying a happy family and destroying our way of life.”
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