A man whose wildly popular videos showcasing him 'pranking' his two young kids has lost custody of them to their biological mother.
On Monday, Rose Hall, the biological mother of Mike Martin's two youngest children, Cody, nine, and Emma, 12, uploaded a video with her lawyer, Tim Conlon of the Custody Place, saying that she had emergency custody of the kids, who were the main targets of the "pranks" of Mike and his second wife, Heather.
"They're doing good," Hall says on the video. "They're getting back to their playful selves."
"The kids are in a deprogramming sort of mode in the moment," said Conlon.
The pair thanked people on YouTube who persisted on trying to get the children taken away from the couple.
Emma and Cody have been returned to their biological mother
"Very heartbreaking and disturbing to see my kids abused," said Hall.
The children were the "stars" or "victims" depending on who you ask of popular YouTube channel DaddyoFive, which has 760,000 subscribers.
The videos often showed father Martin "pranking" his youngest child, Cody, in a series of incidents that many in the YouTube community have been calling abusive for several months.
Videos include Martin convincing Cody he had been adopted out to another family, pushing him and bloodying his nose (Martin claimed the blood was fake), smashing Cody's Xbox with a hammer, accusing Cody of spraying his room with ink when he didn't and yelling and swearing at him.
Often Cody ends up red-faced, crying, screaming, or throwing things out of frustration. In one video, Cody threatens to kill himself. "I hate my life just kill me," he cries after his father harangues him.
Usually while the father torments Cody, an older brother films the action for the channel.
An online petition drew almost 19,000 signatures to get Child Protective Services to investigate the family. The family lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
A cottage industry of YouTubers criticising the videos had sprung up, with YouTuber Philip DeFranco one of the most vocal critics of the Martins' parenting style.
There had been a previous CPS investigation, but Hall's sister, Crystal Reynolds, told New York Magazine that the agency had determined that the behaviour was "[appropriate] corporal punishment". CPS could not confirm nor deny an investigation by law.
Hall also said she told CPS about the YouTube channel in October. Martin County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina confirmed for the outlet that a complaint about the videos was lodged ON October 17.
Hall claims the children were taken from her illegally in 2014 when Mike and Heather forged her signature on custody documents.
On April 22, the couple uploaded an "apology video" for an earlier video that caused a huge scandal. In it, the couple berate Cody for messing up his room with ink. In reality, it was Heather who smeared the ink around, and it was invisible ink.
"This has been the absolute worst week of our life," Heather says in the video. "We realise we have made some terrible parenting decisions.
"I understand and acknowledge and respect how everyone feels," Mike said. "We put things on the internet that should not be there and did things we should not do."
The couple, however, still insists that the kids were in on the "joke" and eager to see how many views the videos could get. They also claimed the family was in counselling.
The couple made approximately $200,000 to $350,000 annually from the channel, according to New York Magazine.
"We could give them a whole lot more than we could before," Heather said of the money.
"We just felt like we were doing the best thing we could for them."
Mike tweeted, "I'm sorry everyone but I have taken down/demonetised all videos my family's safety is more important than fake videos."
The video that caused such a backlash was posted April 12 and shows Cody, as usual in these videos, in tears.
As Heather explains in the video that has gotten over 400,000 views, Cody had already gotten in trouble for spilling ink on his carpet in the past, and she decided to trick him by spraying disappearing ink on the floor of his room and blaming him.
"Get your f***ing a** up here!" she screams at the beginning of the brutal six-minute gag.
"What the f*** did you do?"
"What the hell is that,?" yells Mike.
"I didn't do that," the bespectacled young boy pleads. "I don't have anything with ink or whatever this is."
Cody's denials only send his parents into further fury, as they bawl out the boy.
"You're writing a thousand sentences," dad Mike yells. "I'm gonna have to sell all your Pokemon stuff!"
The bewildered boy breaks down in tears as the prank drags on, before Heather finally reveals that she sprayed the disappearing ink on the floor.
"It's just a prank, brah," the dad tells the stunned boy. "You guys got pranked hard."
"I was about to flip out and start breaking things," Cody confesses.
The stunned kid even does the outro for the video at his dad's request, plugging the family's social media and asking viewers to like and follow the YouTube channel.
The harsh prank drew scorching criticism from many who viewed the screaming, cursing parents as child abusers.
"It was just a flat-out horrendous thing to do to children," wrote a columnist for PhillyVoice, condemning the video. "The parents should be ashamed of themselves."
"This is how we run our house, this is our family," Mike blasted back in an epic 20-minute response video posted on Easter Sunday and titled BLOCKING ALL THE HATERS.
"We were being investigated already for the YouTube channel and nothing was found," his wife revealed in the same video. "You're looking in the wrong place for child abusers."
As for her foul language, Heather said: "They hear worse curse words on music and TV than I say."
The parents said the children pranked them back just as hard, and had final say over whether the gags ended up posted to YouTube.
Asked by his mother whether he felt traumatised by the disappearing ink gag, Cody responded: "I don't even know what that word means, but no."