PHOENIX — A judge has declared a Maricopa woman accused of abusing her adopted children incompetent to stand trial but restorable.
Machelle Hobson garnered national attention due to the horrific nature of the alleged abuse and because she ran a lucrative and popular YouTube channel, in which she had her adopted kids act.
Pinal County prosecutors have a 15-month window to restore Machelle Hobson to competency, in order to move forward with a trial.
Both the county attorney's office and Hobson's defense attorney were told to make a recommendation to the judge within a week regarding a restoration specialist.
Hobson, 47, has not been at a number of her court appearances. ABC15 was the first to report in early August that both sides' doctors agreed she was currently not competent.
On Wednesday, Judge Delia Neal made the "finding that Miss Hobson is currently not competent but restorable."
Judge Neal also remarked that "this is more of a medical issue than what we would normally see."
The judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney all indicating that the competency has to do with Hobson's health, even remarking that she is in a "care facility."
When Hobson, 48, was arrested at her Maricopa home in March, detectives detailed a house of horrors. Court documents indicate they collected tons of evidence, including the pepper spray bottles her adopted kids say Hobson used often, sometimes on the boys' and girls' genitals.
The children also told investigators 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 in scripted YouTube videos.
At the time of her arrest, police say she 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.”
The decision to move forward with the restoration process means that in the coming months. Hobson's condition will either improve or the case will likely be dropped.
"If she's held accountable for her actions, so be it," said Kent Volkmer, Pinal County Attorney. "If she is, for whatever reason, not able to be held accountable, for mental or medical health issues, that's justice."
Hobson was released from jail, in large part, due to the medical care she needed.
"It was determined that she could receive better and more appropriate care outside of our jail facility," said Volkmer. "As soon as she can be reasonably brought back into our jail, she will be brought back into our jail, and we will be required to provide significant and substantial medical care."
While Hobson is currently at a medical facility, her two adult sons, called accomplices in court documents, are free.
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 say, “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 at the time.
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 are not in the clear yet, Volkmer says charges could still be brought against the two.
It's unclear where the adopted kids are now, but in the future, they may be on the stand.
"It's highly likely the children would be to testify in some respect," said Volkmer, referencing a trial.
While the trial is still up in the air, it all depends on Hobson being competent and in the courtroom.
"We believe that she can and will eventually be held accountable. We believe that she should be held accountable and that she will spend the rest of her life behind bars," said Volkmer.