The videos on DaddyOFive’s YouTube channel were hard to watch. In one, parents Heather and Mike Martin scream at 9-year-old Cody, accusing him of spilling ink on the ground. (He didn’t spill anything, and the stains on the carpet were from trick ink). Another shows Cody being shoved into a bookcase. In a third, the dad encourages one of his sons to slap 11-year-old Emma, the only girl among the five children in the family. He does, hard enough to make Emma cry. When the broader YouTube community found out about the channel, there was an angry uprising. And now, the once-estranged birth mother of Cody and Emma has emergency custody of her two kids.
“Emma and Cody are with me,” said a visibly nervous Rose Hall in a YouTube video posted on Monday to her lawyer’s channel. “They’re doing good,” she said. “They’re getting back to their playful selves.” Hall’s lawyer, Tim Conlon, who appeared in the video with her, told The Washington Post on Tuesday that they asked the Frederick County Circuit Court in Maryland to grant Hall temporary emergency custody on Friday. Hall, Cody and Emma will remain in Frederick County while a Child Protective Services investigation is ongoing, Conlon said.
The Martin family had five children; Hall has said she is the biological mother of two of them, from a previous relationship with Mike Martin.
The saga of the Martin family and, eventually, Hall’s attempts to regain custody of her two children, became a matter of collective viral justice a couple of weeks ago, after YouTuber Philip DeFranco posted a video about the content that was featured on DaddyOFive’s channel. The channel had 750,000 subscribers and posted content almost daily. Many of the videos documented cruel “pranks” that the parents pulled on their children, particularly on Cody. DeFranco’s video highlighted some of the more disturbing moments from DaddyOFive’s archives, and led many to conclude that the children in the family were being abused on camera, for the sake of clicks (and, in turn, the ad-generated revenue that came with it) — an accusation that the Martins have denied.
Less than a week after the outrage over DaddyOFive went viral, the couple posted an apology video — with the help of a crisis management and PR firm — announcing that the entire family was in counseling. “We realize we have made some terrible parenting decisions, and we just want to make things right,” Heather Martin said in the video. The couple had previously said that the prank reactions were “faked.” Rob Weinhold, who has been serving as the Martins’ spokesman, referred The Washington Post on Monday to their attorney Laurie Wasserman. Wasserman replied with an emailed statement: “I am working with Michael and Heather Martin. It would be highly inappropriate for me to discuss the details of this very sensitive matter, or any associated proceedings, publicly. All information will be presented to the Court at the appropriate time.”
Hall, who lives in North Carolina, started leaving comments on every video she saw that featured her children as the story picked up steam. She had seen the original videos before, and like many, was disturbed by the way her children were treated in them. Hall first reported the videos to law enforcement in North Carolina in October. Since the videos were filmed in Maryland, where the Martins live, the Martin County Sheriff’s office in North Carolina referred her to Maryland law enforcement.
One YouTuber, Chambers of My Heart, saw Hall’s comments and reached out to her. She posted a lengthy interview with Hall and launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to get her legal representation. Another YouTuber, Based_Mama, called the lawyer Conlon on Wednesday evening to see if he would be willing to represent Hall, who wanted to regain custody of her children, Chambers of My Heart said to The Washington Post on Tuesday.
When he got the call, he “thought it was some sort of goofy prank,” Conlon said. Then, he watched the videos. “I called them back and said ‘I see what you’re talking about,’ ” he said. By Friday morning, they were in court asking for emergency custody, which was granted later that day, he said.
With the help of law enforcement, Conlon said, Hall regained custody of Emma and Cody on Friday. The three spent the weekend in North Carolina before returning to Frederick County. The kids are “deprogramming,” Conlon said.
In the video Hall posted with Conlon, she described her reunion with her kids as a little difficult, particularly in Cody’s case: “Cody had a difficult time when the officer brought him out to the car,” she said. “He said some things that were disturbing, that he hated me, that Mike and Heather told him I threw him away like he was garbage, and I didn’t love him no more. … that’s not true at all.”
Both Cody and Emma are faring better, she added, although Emma has bounced back more quickly. “Emma’s back to being a mouse,” Hall said. “She loves cheese. That’s the first thing she asked me for was cheese, because she wasn’t allowed to have it.”