PHOENIX — Machelle Hobson, who made national headlines as the "YouTube mom," has been declared incompetent to stand trial by both state and defense doctors.
It is a major development in the ongoing court process, where the foster mother was charged with multiple counts of molestation of a child, child abuse, unlawful imprisonment and child neglect.
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.”
Weeks after her arrest, Hobson was indicted on 30 counts of child abuse. In their report, detectives said Hobson denied the abuse allegations and was clearly competent on March 13, 2019. Five months later, she has been 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 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.
ABC15 has learned Hobson will likely not stand trial after the state’s doctors submitted their reports in August that the 48-year-old woman is incompetent.
She was last seen in a wheelchair on March 29 but has not been at a court appearance since.
A police source told ABC15 Hobson was hospitalized with a brain injury while in jail. A family acquaintance said she had a brain aneurysm and is now in a care facility after being released from jail with conditions in early June.
“That is a little bit frustrating that she’s going to possibly get completely away with what she did to these kids,” said Moreno.
The Pinal County Attorney's Office said they will pursue all options for justice and continue to see if Hobson’s “competence is restorable.”
Meanwhile, her former foster kids are now back in the system, experiencing a different restoration.
“I hope that they were able to stay together and are obviously in a better environment now, where they can get the love and care they deserve and need,” said Moreno.
Hobson’s next court appearance is August 28 and next steps will be discussed as to how to proceed with the charges and trial.
ABC15 reached out to Hobson‘s attorney multiple times, via phone and email, but we have not heard back.