Former YouTuber accused of abusing adopted kids has died

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Thursday, November 14, 2019
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Police in Arizona have arrested a YouTube star known for making videos featuring her seven adopted children.

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- An Arizona woman accused of abusing her adopted children who starred on her popular YouTube channel has died, authorities said Wednesday.

Maricopa Police Department spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said Machelle Hobson died Tuesday at a Phoenix-area hospital. Her death was ruled natural and there was no crime suspected in it, according to Scottsdale police.

Hobson, 48, had been accused of starving her children and using pepper spray to punish them.

She had been hospitalized with "extreme health issues" at the end of May and released from jail custody on June 12 because of her diagnosis, Pinal County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Lauren Reimer said in a statement. It's unclear whether Hobson had been hospitalized since May.

A judge in August declared Hobson incompetent to stand trial, the Arizona Republic reported. Hobson's criminal case was on hold while authorities worked to restore Hobson to competency to stand trial.

Authorities have said Hobson locked up children in a closet for days without food, water or access to a bathroom.

YouTube terminated Hobson's channel after determining the channel violated its guidelines.

Episodes featured skits about children stealing cookies and a boy with superpowers.

A spokeswoman for the Pinal County Attorney's Office, the agency prosecuting Hobson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The local ABC affiliate reported that the office planned to wait for an official death certificate before dismissing charges against Hobson but would pursue her assets, including "more than $100,000 in cash" that would go to her children now in state custody.

Police have said the children were taken out of school so they could keep filming the video series and hadn't been back for years.

Hobson's biological daughter, who is an adult, alerted police of the abuse, prompting officers to visit Hobson's home in the city of Maricopa, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Phoenix.

The Arizona Department of Child Safety removed the children from the home.