Martin family

Heather and Mike Martin are shown with their five children. The Martins, who live in Ijamsville, have been met with public outrage for a series of YouTube videos they created that depict the parents playing mean-spirited pranks on the children, with what some say is evidence of child abuse.

An Ijamsville couple at the center of an internet firestorm apologized and pledged to cooperate as local law enforcement authorities consider if their actions merit a criminal investigation.

At issue are the more than 300 YouTube videos depicting the couple waging mean-spirited pranks on their five children, accompanied by yelling, swearing, verbal threats and what some viewers described as physical and mental abuse. The videos have since been removed from the YouTube channel.

Heather Martin, who with her husband, Mike, created the videos and posted them to his “DaddyOFive” YouTube channel, said in a phone interview Tuesday that she regretted her family’s actions and decision to publish the videos.

“We realize we went too far,” she said. “We just want to return to normalcy.”

In one video, Heather deliberately spills “invisible” ink — a product often sold as a child’s toy that disappears soon after drying — across the carpet of their children’s bedroom. She and her husband blame their son Cody, screaming and swearing at him as he cries and repeatedly professes his innocence. The parents are shown laughing as they reveal their prank to a distraught Cody.

Cody, who appears to be of elementary school age, is the subject of many other videos that critics have also highlighted as cause for concern. In one video, Mike Martin tells Cody he will not be allowed to accompany the rest of the family on their trip to Disneyland because of bad behavior.

A flurry of online petitions and fundraising pages have launched in the last several weeks, advocating for child protective services to intervene.

Katherine Morris, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, which includes the state’s child protective services, wrote in an email Tuesday that she could not say if the department had met with the Martin family.

In general, her department investigates or conducts a family assessment in response to any reports of children in danger, she wrote.

“Our mission is to ensure the safety and well being of every child in Maryland,” she wrote.

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office is working with the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office to look into the videos, according to Maj. Tim Clarke, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. The agencies began reviewing the videos last week to determine if the content depicted in the videos warranted a formal investigation, Clarke said Tuesday.

He could not comment on when that decision would be made or what type of investigation and charges could follow.

“What I can say is that we are taking a serious look at the situation,” he said. “We’re going to make sure that whatever transpires is thought out.”

Clarke also would not comment on whether enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions were conducting similar reviews or investigations.

Heather Martin said she and her husband would cooperate fully with any criminal or other investigation.

In a video published Saturday, the couple apologized for their actions, acknowledging that they “crossed the line.” They also said that the scenes depicted in the videos did not accurately reflect the close-knit, happy family.

The family has enlisted the Baltimore-based public relations agency Fallston Group for help handling media inquiries, life coaching and other support services, according to Rob Weinhold, the company’s chief executive.

Heather Martin framed the video initiative as a “collective family effort” that was started for fun. She emphasized that the children were aware of the pranks beforehand and agreed to participate. All five children are under 15 years old, she said, although she declined to give their specific ages.

“We weren’t hoping to achieve anything,” Martin said Tuesday “We were just caught up in our characters.”

She acknowledged when questioned that the family also benefited financially by monetizing the YouTube channel, allowing them to collect money in exchange for YouTube-placed advertisements in the videos. YouTube offers monetization to any users with at least 10,000 views, although the company must first review video content to ensure it meets company guidelines.

Heather Martin declined to offer details on how much money the family collected, or when they monetized the channel.

The channel boasted 765,413 subscribers and 497,575 views as of Tuesday evening. The apology video was viewed more than 1.03 million times.

The family began posting videos in June 2016, according to a statement Monday from Fallston Group. Mike Martin’s “DaddyOFive” YouTube account was created in August 2015, according to the channel information.

A limited liability company named “DaddyOFive” was registered with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation in December, according to the department’s website. Online information listed Heather Lynn Martin as the resident agent, and the company’s purpose as “Internet blogging.”

Heather Martin also registered the “DaddyOFive” name as a trademark under a separate filing on the state website. The trademark name was registered and the $25 fee paid on Aug. 1, according to information online.

Both the limited liability company and the trademark were listed as open and active, according to online documents.

Backlash against the videos began more recently. A story published in The Baltimore Sun linked the beginning of the public outrage to the invisible-ink story.

Critics have spoken out in their own YouTube videos and other online platforms, as well as by commenting on the couple’s YouTube, Twitter and other social media accounts.

Some have also threatened Heather Martin and her husband, she said, although she declined to elaborate. Her children had not been threatened, she said.

Asked what her children’s responses to the backlash was, she said, “They’re upset they couldn’t continue the channel and keep getting views.”

Martin’s voice cracked with emotion as she continued, “We are truly sickened by some of the ways we portrayed ourselves, and we just want to make things right.”

Follow Nancy Lavin on Twitter: @NancyKLavin.

Nancy Lavin covers social services, demographics and religion for The Frederick News-Post.

(48) comments

brl17shots

There are plenty of videos on youtube where families, namely parents and teen children, engage in staged, rehearsed scenarios. This channel is not one of those. I couldn't make it 2 minutes into one video. These kids aren't acting. This is sick.

rsaunders

Watched some of the video - link is posted in the comments. SICK, The bullying by the dad to participate. SICK MAN. Can't imagine what a Maryland Case search will turn up on him. These children have likely never experienced a safe home at any level. Chaos under the rule of narcissistic behavior that is being dubbed all fun & games. This is not acting at any level.

That1guy

Who are yall to judge or think you have the right to bark orders on here telling others in that area to do something blah blah blah let the police handle it, if the investigation finds the need to take action they will.

jerseygrl42

some animals will do anything for MONEY...its ALL about the MONEY

hereitis

was any of this covered in the book of parenting that is given out to all new parents? everyone parents in different ways. i fart in front of my kids.. hell sometimes i crop dust them (as my kids call it). some people see that at bad parenting and disgusting and others see as joking with their kids. Are the kids really neglected anyway?? just parents with a different sense of humor than most. not saying they were right but i don't think these children were being abused or neglected.

Blueskyz

Hereitis did you see any of the videos? They were far more than 'crop dusting' or farting in front of them. They were body slamming, shoving into bookcases and headboards. Children crying, bleeding, cut. The father and stepmother say they were 'pranks' but from the kids faces there is no way they were acting

Blueskyz

Cody and Emma need to be removed from this heinous environment! They need to either be reunited with their mother or go to into protective custody. Their father and stepmother (Heather) only apologized because there was such an uproar on YouTube over the abuse of these children especially poor Cody who according to his mother has special needs.

sevenstones1000

These people are in Ijamsville. Ijamsville isn't that big - are the children in school? Can't they be found and taken to safety? Somebody in Ijamsville - these people live next to you. Please help these children.

JILLLOLLI

It's all about the same thing ..... PROTECTING CHILDREN (IN EVERY WAY) AND NOT ALLOWING PEOPLE TO GET AWAY WITH IT!
Yes, these parents made a bad choice. It is not child abuse and there probably is no other problems that have been in this family.
Any crimes against defenseless children or animals should be very harsh.
It's really common sense.

matts853

Yes it is, and you don't have it.

sevenstones1000

Why do you say it is not child abuse? Terrorizing your child to tears is abuse! Psychological torture is very real.

JILLLOLLI

Hey "WIDE AWAKE " Read the article about the Brunswick man who sexually molested a 2 yr. old and the mother PLEADED with the Judge to give him more than 25 yrs. Unfortunately the Judge did not care????????

shiftless88

Apparently they are unaware of the ongoing overpopulation problem in the world, too. Only so many resources to go around.

JILLLOLLI

Sorry, I am with Team Kelly. These parents have done NOTHING criminally wrong. The Department of Social Services needs to concentrate on parents who scam the system. Many "DEAD BEAT" parents lie in court, deliberately quit their jobs, quit paying court ordered support, don't show up for court (and Contempt of Court never happens), work "under the table", and the Frederick County Court System and Department of Social Services does NOTHING, or if they EVER do, it take years. This poor behavior from the court system puts EXTREME STRESS on the responsible parent. Who is paying for these kids????? GRANDPARENTS AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS who are not legally responsible!

And as far as I am concerned, there has been many severely abused children in this county and state who HAVE NOT been protected by the Department of Social Services or Child Protection Agency because of PROVEN mistakes made by them by placing the child back with these crazy people.
NOW THAT'S CHILD ABUSE!!!!! Wake up people.

matts853

Nothing you said has any bearing at all on this situation. All of the other situations are equally horrible in their own right and should be prosecuted. They are also not in the news so people can't comment on them. Your making this about the system. This is about these particular sicko parents who mentally and physically abused their kids for their own enjoyment while videoing it and then posting it for other sickos to watch so they can bask in the attention and profit from it. These are not isolated incidents of snap anger, or abuse from drug addicted or alcoholic parents. What they did was an ongoing pattern of premeditated abuse for personal enjoyment. I don't think I've heard of anything like this. Don't change the argument. And I and others on this thread are WIDE awake.

Hayduke2

Matt[thumbup]

KellyAlzan

The father is an absolute ----ing psycho a------.

And if he were my son in law - I'd kill him.

Putting those children through all that trauma, all for his own crazy pleasure. The father getting a thrill out of traumatizing children. Very sick man. And then mother? Going along with it?

I watched one video, and that was enough for me.

The child Cody will resent his parents for the rest of his life. He will never trust anyone to allow them close to him. Making a child that angry, that upset, for NO reason at all, is incomprehensible.

A few people in comments below said I know nothing about child abuse. Physical or psychological. Oh trust me - I know. Which is how I know how the law applies. Now, for the record - the difference here is everything is in video. The videos are enough to convince a judge to allow the kids to live with someone else. But.....as horrible as the video I watched is, I didn't see anything criminal.

joewhitehair

FNP behind the curve as usual, can't even dig into stories in their backyard that have gone viral. This is local news and FNP is about a week behind everyone else's reporting. The Baltimore Sun and even UK papers were reporting on this on April 20th.

newspostreader

If you think this kind of behavior is fine, watch this video, that was also posted below by another commener. This is horrible. I can't imagine the psychological issues these kids are going to grow up with. It's clear that this is so accepted in the house, that even the kids beat up on each other. These parents deserve jail time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOVrrL5KtsM

KellyAlzan

Poor parenting? Yes.

Broken laws? No

newspostreader

Are you serious? It's child abuse! In the one shot, he throws the kid down and smacks his head on the wooden bed frame. In another shot he throws a water bottle at the kids head. Maybe you shouldn't have kids either.

matts853

Inane comments? Yes.
Permanent ban? No

nomadhidinghere

Everything you say is rooted in your own opinion, and is supported by your own opinion. The reason I come to this conclusion is your statements are not based on credible, objective or empirical knowledge.

If you had the relevant knowledge, you would know those kids were repeatedly, and purposely in some cases, put into severe emotional distress. There is overwhelming amount of psychological evidence this type of distress causes long-term emotional, psychological, and behavior issues.

There is ample evidence in the videos indicating that Cody has significant emotional, physical and behavior issues that is explicitly exacerbated by the parents behavior.

There is ample evidence to prove, in the very least, child endangerment, if not pure torture. Look up the definition of torture.

I believe you will never comprehend what I'm explaining to you, as you seem impervious to anyone's perspective other than your own.

takemeseriouslyguys

Synopsis and footage of the Ink "Prank:"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvoLmsXKkYM&t=0m51s
(warning: contains strong language)

jayel86

They were abusing these kids for the money they received from those viewing the videos on YouTube. You can't get more twisted. I highly doubt those kids were in on the pranks, they needed the real theatrics for the views. I do hope CPS steps in. I cringe to think what goes on behind there closed doors every day.

nomadhidinghere

All due respect, they abused them due to the defects in their personalitiesb(NPD, psychopathy), not for money. I bring this up because your post would imply that if YouToube channel did not exist, the behavior they exhibit wouldn't exist. I do not think that is what you meant.

matts853

Riiiiight...YouTube made them do it. If it didn't exist everything would be hunky dory with these people. And OJ really didn't do it....

nomadhidinghere

Read my post again.

sevenstones1000

These people turn my stomach. And what of all the sick puppies who watch this terrorizing of children? People scream that gay marriage will destroy society - how about a society so debased that hurting children is considered entertainment?

What school are these children in? How can they be found and taken away from these monsters and taken to a safe environment? Do you people in Ijamsville know where they live? Do you see them in the store? Can you intervene in some way to help these children?

Are the children on sports teams, where the coaches or other parents can get involved and get them to safety? I really don't understand how neighbors and community can smile on this and not do something.

nomadhidinghere

"She emphasized that the children were aware of the pranks beforehand and agreed to participate."

JFC this woman.

This was not a "prank": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJU2ED6J22E

That's only the tip of the ice berg:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQwGBcSWDio&t=194s


There is hours of video demonstrating their abusive narcissism.

Hayduke2

Could only watch a few minutes - these DO NOT look like pranks to me. I would not want to be in these kids shoes. This is plain abusive and it is not funny.

Reader1954

this story was on tv all last week and they said the family lived in Montgomery Co.

takemeseriouslyguys

Anyone looking for examples of the videos that have been removed, this youtube feature provides an in-depth look at the family's best, excuse me, worst "pranks."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOVrrL5KtsM

nomadhidinghere

That's the thing, the abusive behavior extends into when they "discipline" the children in non-"prank" situations. All that woman is doing is redefining abuse. In situations it called a joke, in others its discipline, and obviously they call some of it pranks, but the screaming, yelling, invasion of privacy and property, lack of autonomy, bullying, harassing, berating, antagonizing, physically assaults are all prevalent in almost all the videos, irrelevant of what "context" she is trying to put it in. This lady honestly thinks if you call it a prank, its not abuse....that is how an abusive narcissist operates.

KellyAlzan

No broken bones no blood = no charges. End of story.

Fawned

What about psychological abuse? What if the cops find a kid chained to a chair in a basement that's been starved but he has no broken bones or blood? Case closed, no charges, nothing to see here!!

KellyAlzan

"WhAt if"

Moot. SpeculAtion. Hypothetical. Doesn't work that way.

Hayduke2

Wow Kelly... Do you even read and process your comments? Hope you reconsider your response.

Comment deleted.
KellyAlzan

I have children. And I have a very close family member that works in the field of child protective services.

Society and social media loves this kind of stuff. And people get upset when someone chimes in citing facts they don't wanna hear, as Matt did. Same thing with a video of a dog a couple years back. I told everyone there was no crime, and they blasted me; and sure enough.....no charges filed.

Do I like what these parents s did?? Of course not.

No broken bones. No blood. The kids are not starving. They're not deprived of medical care. Therefore, the state has NOTHING.

Poor parenting?? Absolutely, yes.

Hayduke2

Besides justifying your response with statements you have no personal knowledge of, did you view any portion of one of these? So, in your mind, it is only abusive if charges are filed? You claim to have a family member in the field of CPS so you must know how difficult it is to build a case against a family, regardless of the merits of it. Come on man, admit you can be wrong.

KellyAlzan

Hayduke - you and I do not know each other, what makes you think I have no personal knowledge?

des21

Beware, Kelly knows all about what happens in Frederick County and even parts of MoCo![wink]

Hayduke2

If you have personal knowledge of this type of behavior and didn't condemn it, that makes you complicit in my mind.

newspostreader

Yes, there was blood. Watch this video and tell me that you still think it's no problem. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOVrrL5KtsM

KellyAlzan

I can't watch all the videos, but enjoy!

matts853

This is KA's admission that he/she is wrong. Now move along KA. Go bother people somewhere else. Better yet, go find a doctor.

KellyAlzan

I saw a scrape on cody's arm. But, we do not know how that happened, or when. The video does not show the scrape being inflicted.

richardlyons

I think you need to go back to law school.

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