In April, a popular YouTube channel called DaddyOFive attracted widespread controversy after another YouTuber accused the husband-and-wife team that runs the channel of humiliating their kids with pranks, some of which turned violent. The two children, it was later discovered, were the offspring of the husband’s first marriage, lending credence to allegations that the couple had been abusing them for profit and online fame.
On Tuesday, the couple, Mike and Heather Martin, lost custody of the kids, 9-year-old Cody and 11-year-old Emma. Both were reunited with their biological mother, Rose Hall, who revealed the news in a YouTube video alongside her attorney.
“Emma and Cody are with me, I have emergency custody—they’re doing good,” said Hall in a video. “They’re getting back to their playful selves.”
Emergency custody is usually sought when one parent is suspected of abuse and presents an imminent danger to a child. In the case of Cody and Emma, the Frederick County Sheriff’s office removed them from the Martin household.
Cody and Emma’s biological mom said that it “very heartbreaking and disturbing to see my kids be abused” when she watched the DaddyOFive YouTube channel. She says that the children are now being “deprogrammed” from the alleged abuse.
In one video, Cody is thrown into a bookshelf and is shown bleeding from his nose. In another, Emma is slapped hard by an older step-brother at the urging of his father, Mike Martin.
The couple left an “apology” message as the only remaining video on the channel, condemning YouTuber Philip DeFranco for making an issue out of their videos last month. The couple claims the videos were entirely fake, contradicting previous statements they made in an interview with YouTuber Keemstar and earlier videos on their channel, where they claimed that the reactions of the children were entirely real.
The couple appeared on Good Morning America on April 28 to reveal that the police had launched a child-abuse investigation following numerous complaints filed against the channel. “We did do pranks, but most of the time the kids knew about them and they were planned,” Heather Martin said on the show, adding that “some” of the content was real but much of it was “acted.”
In an older tweet, Mike Martin claimed that the family was formerly subject to an investigation by Child Protective Services in Maryland but was “cleared” of wrongdoing.