As law-enforcement agencies review the many videos made by the Maryland couple behind the now-infamous YouTube channel "DaddyOFive," the wife and mother Heather Martin, also known as "MommyOFive," spoke to The Baltimore Sun about the public backlash and the couple's latest apologies for what they call "pranks" on their children.
"It's been very emotional in every aspect of the word. We've been scared. We've been upset. We've been ashamed," Heather Martin said in an interview Monday night.
Heather and her husband, Michael Martin, who live in Ijamsville, Frederick County, retained a crisis management and communications firm late last week, released a video apology Saturday and issued a statement of apology via news release Monday.
Saturday's upload was "a different video than we usually do," Heather said. With her clad in a pink shirt, cardigan and curls and Michael in a sweater vest — his gaze mostly averted from the camera — the couple apologized for their online behavior and their treatment of their five children.
"This has been the absolute worst week of our life, and we realized that we have made some terrible parenting decisions and we just want to make things right," said a tearful Heather to the camera.
"We realize now what kind of situation we put them [the children] in, and we're just really sorry to them."
The developments come as representatives of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office and Baltimore County Police Department said investigators were reviewing the videos but struggling to view deleted videos and to establish which jurisdictions they took place in.
"We're looking into every aspect of the videos to see if there are any crimes," but the investigation depends on where the videos are shot, said Major Tim Clarke of Frederick County.
Both in their mid-30s, the Martins said they were undergoing counseling to cope with the backlash and to help themselves and their five children, all under the age of 15, understand their bad decisions as parents.
Michael, the on-camera provocateur for many of the pranks, including one in which he appears to push his son into a bookcase leaving him with a bloody nose, said, "I acknowledge and I respect how everyone feels about this, and I do agree that we put things on the internet that shouldn't be there. We did things that we should not do."
Michael did not respond to requests for comment from The Sun.
When asked what sparked the couple's change of heart and apology after they claimed in a now-deleted video that many viewers were making false accusations, Heather said it was not a change of heart.
"What started out as family fun crossed the line, and that was the change," she told The Sun. "When I stepped back and reflected and looked at how this would appear to other people, I was able to take myself out of character and -- me just being Mom -- I put myself in other people's shoes to see how bad that some of this looked."
The couple uploaded nearly 300 videos to the "DaddyOFive" YouTube channel. In them, the parents screamed profanities at their children, broke their toys and games and filmed as their children fought each other, often as Michael laughed. Many of the videos received more than 100,000 views. Viewers were especially outraged at the treatment of one of the youngest sons, Cody, who appeared to be the brunt of many of the pranks.
"DaddyOFive" has amassed more than 765,000 subscribers as of Monday afternoon. Many of the videos had been deleted Wednesday. Michael said he removed most of them, but YouTube told The Sun via email that it removed ads from the DaddyOFive channel and any of the videos that violated its community guidelines.
Other "DaddyOFive" videos live on, on other users' accounts. "MommyOFive" still retained several of its videos as of Monday night.
"We went from something that wasn't so bad, and then we just kept going more and more for the shock factor," Heather said in the video released Saturday, which has garnered more than 870,000 views and more than 104,000 comments as of Monday night. She said that the kids were excited by the views and wanted to see how many they could get, but added that it wasn't their fault. She and Michael should have made better decisions, she said.
Michael said, "I just wanted to take care of everybody."
The couple's released statement was similar, though it states that they used "character acting and scripted pranks" as they gained popularity. They emphasized that the children are now safe, "off camera and out of character."
"They are normal, happy kids who play sports and love being with their family and friends. Thank you for your understanding as we work through this difficult time," they stated.
Heather told The Sun on Monday that the children have not experienced any blowback. In fact, they have become more popular because of the videos, she said.
"We've done everything in our power to protect them from [the backlash]," she said.
Heather also said she and her husband have not been contacted by the police, but declined to say whether the family had been contacted by Child Protective Services.
Katherine A. Morris, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, reiterated in an email to The Baltimore Sun Monday that Maryland confidentiality laws meant the department could not confirm or deny whether Child Protective Services has met or is involved with the family.
Law enforcement in Montgomery, Baltimore and Frederick counties said they have been alerted about the videos.
The Frederick County's Sheriff's Office said that its criminal investigation section was reviewing the videos.
Clark, who noted that the couple recently moved to Ijamsville in Frederick County, said the sheriff's office must determine whether the videos were shot within the jurisdiction before law-enforcement agents can take action for any alleged criminal activity.
"If we determine that there was some type of criminal [activity], we will notify Child Protective Services as a part of the investigation," he said. If the sheriff's department finds the alleged activity was in another jurisdiction, Clark said agents would notify the appropriate law enforcement division.
Baltimore County Police Officer Jennifer Peach said Baltimore County police are also reviewing the many videos that the couple uploaded to YouTube, "but we're having a hard time because many were removed or blocked" and were filmed indoors, making it difficult to determine the location in Maryland.
Moving forward, Heather says the focus is fully on the family.
"We've already begun family counseling immediately," she said. In addition, "We did get a life coach that's going to be able to help us, and just get an outside perspective, making sure [the children are] OK and that everything is good from here on out."
As for the "DaddyOFive" and "MommyOFive" YouTube channels, Heather said they haven't decided what will become of them.
"Right now, we're focused on our family," she repeated.
"We just really hope that we can help other people not make the same mistakes that we have, and we hope that we can show that we've learned from the things that we've done or said."
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