A Maryland man who became a viral sensation online for pranking his two young children has lost custody of them.
Mike Martin lost custody of 9-year-old Cody and 12-year-old Emma to their mother, Rose Hall, the Daily Mail reported. Hall was given emergency custody after a series of prank videos were uploaded to YouTube by Martin and his current wife, Heather.
Mike and Heather started a YouTube channel called DaddyOFive. The videos showed Martin playing pranks on his two children, mostly Cody.
One video shows Martin trying to convince Cody that he was adopted out to another family. Other videos show him pushing him and bloodying the boy’s nose, smashing his X-box console with a hammer and wrongfully accusing Cody of spraying his room with ink, yelling and cursing at him.
Cody would often end up crying, screaming and throwing objects out of frustration. In one video, Cody threatens to kill himself. “I hate my life just kill me,” the boy says in one video.
The YouTube channel garnered more than 760,000 subscribers, although many users called the videos abusive. An online petition was started to get Child Protective Services to investigate the family. That petition reached nearly 19,000 signatures.
On May 1, Hall uploaded a video to YouTube with her lawyer, Tim Conlon, announcing that she has won emergency custody of the two children.
“They’re doing good,” Hall says in the video. “They’re getting back to their playful selves.”
“The kids are in a deprogramming sort of mode in the moment,” added Conlon.
Hall thanked the people on YouTube who brought attention to the prank videos.
“Very heartbreaking and disturbing to see my kids abused,” said Hall.
Mike and Heather uploaded an apology video on April 22 after one of their pranks was met with furious backlash from social media users.
“This has been the absolute worst week of our life,” Heather says in the video. “We realize we have made some terrible parenting decisions.”
“I understand and acknowledge and respect how everyone feels,” Mike added. “We put things on the internet that should not be there and did things we should not do.”
Mike and Heather still insisted the kids were in on the pranks and that they were often eager to see how many views the videos could get. They said they were in counseling.
The couple was making about $200,000 to $350,000 annually from the YouTube channel, New York magazine reported.