5 Times Big Families Got Into Big Trouble With Tragic Results

Usually a large family translates to magnified amounts of love and contentment. In cases when multiple children are adopted, it's easy to imagine the kids enjoying an improved situation than where they came from. Sadly, as these five examples illustrate, large broods don't necessarily mean extra happiness.

June 25, 2019
By: Mike McPadden

Photo By: The Hart Family [Mendocino County Sheriff's Office]

Photo By: Mug shot of Machelle Hobson [Pinal County Superior Court]

Photo By: Mug shots of David Turpin & Louise Turpin [Riverside County Sheriff’s Department]

Photo By: Mug shot of Marcus Wesson [San Quentin State Prison]

Photo By: Mug shot of Andrea Yates [Texas Department of Criminal Justice]

The Hart Family Crash: When 2 Moms Allegedly Killed Themselves & Their 6 Kids By Driving Off A Cliff

MENDOCINO COUNTY, CA — On March 26, 2018, authorities reported that a GMC Yukon had been found upside-down on rocks about 100 feet below a cliff over the Pacific Coast Highway in northern California.

The vehicle, police said, contained the bodies of married couple Jennifer and Sarah Hart. Near the wreck, searchers reportedly located the remains of three of the Harts’ six adopted children: Markis, 19; Jeremiah, 14; and Abigail, 14.

The Harts’ three other kids — Hannah, 16; Devonte, 15; and Sierra, 12 — were listed as missing. In January 2019, authorities said they had positively identified the remains of Hannah and Sierra. While Devonte’s body has never been located, authorities believe he also died with his mothers and five siblings in the auto wreck.

Investigators said that Jennifer and Sarah Hart, who were white, had adopted two sets of three African-American biological siblings and allegedly portrayed their family as one big, happy, socially conscious tribe.

In reality, though, according to police, the Harts had abused and neglected their children for years leading up to the fatal crash.

In 2010, teachers allegedly noticed signs of abuse on six-year-old Abigail, who reportedly told investigators she had been punched and held under water when her mothers suspected her of stealing a penny. The other children allegedly told interviewers they were often spanked, denied food, and confined to their rooms.

After Sarah was convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault and sentenced to one year of probation, she and Jennifer reportedly took the kids out of school and moved from Minnesota to Oregon, and then later to Washington.

Over the ensuing eight years, new allegations of abuse and neglect continued to follow Jennifer and Sarah, although no further legal charges resulted. Hannah and Devonte also allegedly begged their neighbors for help in the years prior to the crash, according to People magazine.

Finally, authorities say the two moms loaded all six kids into the family SUV, and, with Jennifer at the wheel, drove the vehicle off a cliff. In 2019, a jury reportedly determined that the Harts had acted intentionally, killing themselves and their six children with this one ultimate, permanent act of abuse. [CrimeFeed]

Machelle Hobson: YouTube Mom Accused Of Torturing Her 7 Adopted Kids To Perform On Camera

MARICOPA, AZ — In March 2019, police say an Arizona mom who created the popular YouTube channel “Fantastic Adventures,” was arrested on charges of abusing her seven adopted children — often to get them to perform in her videos.

KNXV-TV reported that Machelle Hobson was accused of forcing her children to act in the “Fantastic Adventures” videos and, if the kids refused or forgot their lines, she allegedly punished them with beatings, starvation, and pepper spray. Authorities further alleged that Hobson had locked the children in closets for days on end. Hobson’s YouTube channel reportedly had over 700,000 subscribers and her videos had garnered more than 240 million views before the online service removed her account.

According to AZ Central, Hobson’s biological daughter went to a Maricopa Police station and alerted authorities to the abuse of her adopted siblings, who ranged in age from 6 to 15. When officers showed up at Hobson’s home, they reportedly found one child in a closet, wearing nothing put a pull-up diaper. The responders also allegedly described all the children as looking pale, malnourished, and unhealthy. One child allegedly told police, "I either get beat with a hanger or belt, or a brush, or get pepper sprayed from head to toe.” Other children reportedly said they were forced to take ice baths.

In addition, police said they arrested Hobson’s two adult biological sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney, for failing to report the abuse. Those charges were reportedly dropped in April 2019, however.

According to legal records, Hobson “denied the pepper spray, denied the ice baths, and stated the only forms of punishment she uses is having to stand in the corner, getting spankings, and being grounded.”

Police say Hobson has been charged with two counts of molestation of a child, seven counts of child abuse, five counts of unlawful imprisonment, and five counts of child neglect. She is reportedly being held at Pinal County Jail. [CrimeFeed]

The Turpins: The Parents Who Pleaded Guilty To Abusing 12 Of Their 13 Children In A 'House Of Horrors'

PERRIS, CA — According to court records, in February 2019, married couple David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty to multiple charges stemming from accusations that they had spent years severely abusing 12 of their 13 children.

Police said they discovered the situation in January 2018, after a 17-year-old Turpin child crawled out a window of the family’s home and managed to dial 911 on a deactivated cell phone, according to the New York Daily News. Officers later said the girl who called was so small from being underfed that she appeared to be about 10 years old.

On an emergency services tape that was later played in court, the girl reportedly said, “My parents are abusive. They abuse and my two little sisters right now are chained up … I can’t breathe because of how dirty the house is. We don’t take baths. I don’t know if we need to go to the doctor.” The teen allegedly also told police that she had been beaten, choked, and sexually abused by David Turpin.

Responding deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department reportedly entered the Turpins’ home and, amid “dark and foul-smelling surroundings,” discovered the couple’s children, aged 2 to 29, being held captive in nightmarish circumstances.

Officers reportedly found some of the children bound to their beds and other furniture with chains and padlocks. Each victim was allegedly described as malnourished to the point of “starving.” Only the youngest member of the family, who was two years old, was not reported to show any signs of extreme abuse.

Investigators alleged that the Turpin children were rarely allowed to exit the house, forbidden to shower more than twice a year, and punished if they washed their hands above their wrists. Their food intake was also alleged to be dangerously limited.

In April 2019, Judge Bernard Schwartz sentenced both David and Louise Turpin to 25 years to life in prison. [CrimeFeed]

Father Of 18 'Married' His Underage Daughters, Killed 9 Kids He Incestuously Fathered

FRESNO, CA — Authorities say that on May 12, 2004, Marcus Wesson went on a murderous rampage and fatally shot nine of his own children through their eyes with a .22-caliber handgun.

Police reported that Wesson’s oldest victim that day was Sebrenah, his 24-year-old daughter. The youngest was said to be an 18-month-old named Jeva who — because his mom was another of Wesson’s daughters — was both his son and grandson.

Over the course of years, Wesson had allegedly forced incestuous sex on his daughters, granddaughters, and nieces, reportedly resulting in a total of 18 offspring. According to prosecutors, Wesson also subjected his victims to years of rape, torture, brainwashing, and other unthinkable abuse.

Among the allegations was that Wesson “married” two of his biological daughters and five of his nieces when they were between the ages of seven and nine, and that he eventually impregnated each of them.

Authorities also allege that Wesson ran multiple welfare scams and forced his children to scrounge for food and handouts. He reportedly exerted absolute control over his victims through violence, terror, and religious fanaticism, preaching both that Jesus Christ was a vampire and that he himself was Jesus Christ.

After decades of this criminal activity, Wesson allegedly announced that he was moving the entire brood from Fresno, where they were being evicted from the building they occupied, to Washington state.

Allegedly, some of Wesson’s older children balked and demanded that he release their kids to them. Wesson reportedly flew into a rage as a result, got into a standoff with the cops, and, at some point, murdered nine of his own children.

In June 2005, a jury convicted Wesson on nine counts of first-degree murder. As of 2019, he reportedly remains on Death Row in California. [CrimeFeed]

Andrea Yates: The Mom Convicted Of Drowning Her 5 Kids In The Bathtub

HOUSTON, TX — After her husband, Rusty Yates, left for work on June 20, 2001, Andrea Yates — a mother of five who allegedly suffered from severe postpartum depression — reportedly filled the family bathtub with water and drowned her three youngest sons.

After placing the boys’ bodies on a bed, Yates then allegedly drowned her baby daughter.

Authorities believe that Yates’s seven-year-old son, Noah, then saw his sister floating in the tub and tried to run away, but that his mom caught him and held him underwater until he, too, was dead.

Immediately afterward, according to court records, Yates dialed 911 and admitted what she had done. She later allegedly said she believed that killing the children would “save their souls.”

At her first trial in 2002, Andrea Yates was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. That conviction was overturned three years later and, in 2006, Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity. She has since been released from prison and committed to a mental hospital. [CrimeFeed]