Devonte Hart went viral online when a photo by Johhny Huu Nguyen of Devonte weeping and hugging a Portland police officer while Ferguson protests gained attention in 2014. Now Devonte is feared dead, along with his siblings and parents, after the California Highway Patrol discovered the SUV driven by married couple Jennifer and Sarah Hart plunged off a cliff on the Pacific Coast Highway.
According to the Associated Press, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman believes that all six children were inside the vehicle when it went off the cliff, likely killing the entire family. Jennifer and Sarah Hart are now the subjects of intense interest online and an investigation by police, after the 39-year-old women recently were visited by Child Protective Services in the rural home in Woodland, Washington.
The California Highway Patrol has noted that there were no marks indicating the vehicle slid or attempted to brake prior to going over the cliff, plunging 10 stories into the rocky ocean below. The children ranged in age from 12 to 19, with news about a recent visit from Child Protective Services being closely examined. Bruce and Dana DeKalb, neighbors of the Hart Family, had recently called Child Protective Services because they were worried that Devonte didn’t have enough food to eat. The couple claimed Devonte had visited them multiple times in the previous week to ask for food.
Devonte Hart, pictured here hugging a police officer, is missing. His moms - Sarah and Jennifer - and three of his have been found dead after their car drove off a cliff. pic.twitter.com/A6IlZKGU0M— Broderick Greer (@BroderickGreer) March 29, 2018
Another troubling incident reported by the DeKalbs allegedly involved one of the Hart girls – a family that included 12-year-old Sierra Hart, 14-year-old Abigail Hart, and 16-year-old Hannah Hart. The neighbors reported that in May 2017, three months in the wake of the Harts moving in next door, one of the Hart girls visited them at 1:30 a.m., wrapped in a blanket and asking for protection, saying she was being abused.
The male children in the home-schooled family included 19-year-old Markis Hart, 14-year-old Jeremiah Hart, and 15-year-old Devonte. Sarah Hart pled guilty to a Minnesota domestic assault charge in 2011.
According to CBS News, Dana DeKalb said Devonte told her that Jennifer and Sarah weren’t feeding the children and were “punishing them by withholding food.” Bill Groener, a previous neighbor, said the Harts didn’t eat sugar and grew their own vegetables.