YouTube stars lose child custody after prank videos that went too far

A couple that raked in millions of YouTube views for videos in which they played elaborate, disturbing pranks on their children has now lost custody of two of them, the Fredrick County Maryland Sheriff's Office confirmed this week.

Michael and Heather Martin faced intense online criticism and backlash -- yet continued to rise in popularity -- as they posted videos of bizarre, sometimes cruel pranks that left their children distraught. Under the usernames "DaddyOFive" and "MommyOFive," the parents filmed their children responding to weird hoaxes like "Jake Has Poop In His Bed" and "Kid Eats Most Disgusting Food Ever."

Two of the children, 11-year-old Emma and 9-year-old Cody, are Heather's stepchildren. As of this week, they are exclusively under the care of their biological mother, Rose Hall.

Cody was a frequent target, often subject not only to emotional stress but also physical as his parents shove him around. In one, his parents berate him for spilling ink all over their bedroom floor. Cody, looking devastated, begs and cries: "I didn't do that. I swear I didn't do that." After screaming at him for several minutes, Heather says it was all a trick.

"It's just a prank, brah," Michael says as he and his wife laugh. Cody doesn't smile.

RELATED: YouTube stars who unexpectedly passed away

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Caleb Logan Bratayley, YouTube star who passed away
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Caleb Logan Bratayley, YouTube star who passed away
The doctor confirmed today that Caleb passed away from a heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy that went undetected in his yearly checkups. Caleb didn't have any symptoms so the doctor said there was nothing we could have done differently. The girls' hearts were just recently checked and thankfully look the way they should right now. The sadness of losing someone you love is unimaginable. Thank you to everyone who has reached out, your kindness and support continues to help our family. We miss our baked potato everyday. #calebratelife #celebratelife
1 month. Geez. We miss him more everyday. #celebratelife @iamabakedpotato
2 weeks since we last saw this smile but somehow still finding ways to #celebratelife @iamabakedpotato #lovehim #misshim
Caleb's death has raised many questions about how and why this could happen to a seemingly healthy boy. Sadly, tests have confirmed today that Caleb passed away from an undetected medical condition. We'll have more definitive answers in the coming weeks but ask that you help us celebrate his life instead of focus on his death. Due to an outpouring of support and people's hope to be part of his memorial, we have decided to live-stream the ceremony tomorrow at 8pm EDT. Additional information below. Thank you for all your kindness during this difficult time. Find the live-stream at: Periscope = @bratayley Facebook = Facebook.com/bratayley
Yesterday at 7:08PM Caleb Logan Bratayley passed away of natural causes. This has come as a shock to all of us. Words cannot describe how much we will miss him. His incredibly funny, loving and wonderful spirit made us all fall in love with him as a YouTuber, friend, brother and son. We know you tune in to watch each day and eagerly anticipate new videos, but ask that you bear with us while we deal with this tragedy as a family. Please help us honor our, baked potato.
Had a blast today @playlistlive We'll see tomorrow. @iamabakedpotato @presshandstands
Snapping again this weekend on our next adventure. Be sure to follow BratayleyOnSnap #bratayleymakeshistory #snapchat
From the meet & greet to the plane. Thanks to everyone that came out and and stood in line for hours. 😘 ❤️
Come see Caleb at the @famousbirthdays booth from now until noon here at vidcon. Near fullscreen. @iamabakedpotato
Sweetness at a fancy restaurant. ❤️ @iamabakedpotato
I told Caleb to hashtag this and he said #idontknowmom but anyways we're hanging out at the pool watching the girls swim.
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Hall spoke out alongside her lawyer in a video statement: "Cody and Emma are with me," she said. "I have emergency custody ... [it was] very heartbreaking and disturbing to see my kids being abused."

In response to the online backlash and now legal repercussions, the Martins have issued a public apology via YouTube -- "We have made some terrible parenting decisions," Heather said -- but maintain that many of the videos were actually scripted. "Some stuff is real, some stuff was acted out," she told press.

The couple says they thought that bringing in the immense amount of extra money -- the videos reportedly brought in up to $350,000 a year -- was beneficial for their children. "We could give them a whole lot more than we could give them before," Heather said tearfully.

Good Morning America's Sunny Hostin was visibly bothered as she commented on the story. "As a mom, I was horrified by what I saw, but as a lawyer, I saw just clear child abuse," she said. "This is psychological, emotional child abuse."

The family is now in counseling "because we need it," Heather said.

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