Jennifer and Sarah Hart were a married female couple with six adopted children, making them the perfect portrait of a modern-day family. Five members of this family are now confirmed dead, with three missing and believed to be dead after the family’s SUV plummeted over a cliff in California. This horrific scene has sparked a mystery, as it is unknown how this tragedy happened.
The Hart family’s SUV was spotted at the bottom of a 100-foot cliff on Monday by a passerby who called the police. The vehicle had landed upside down, with the waves the Pacific Ocean encompassing the SUV.
The mystery starts with the unanswered questions of when and how this happened. Just how did this family go off the road? While the SUV was discovered on Monday, no one is sure of when it went over the cliff and into the waves of the Pacific Ocean.
Authorities haven’t found any evidence to suggest the brakes were applied before the SUV went over the cliff. According to Sheriff Allman of Mendocino County, it appears there are no witnesses to the event. If by chance there were, no one has come forth so far, according to the New York Times.
Inside the SUV were the dead bodies of Jennifer and Sarah Hart. Three bodies of their dead children were found outside the vehicle, with three of the children unaccounted for.
Sheriff Tom Allman told reporters, “We have every indication to believe that all six children were in there, however only three bodies have been recovered. We have no evidence and no reason to believe this was an intentional act. Certainly, people are wondering what caused this.”
What was left behind at the scene, or rather what was not left behind at the scene, is adding even more mystery to this tragic event. The SUV traveled across 75 feet of dirt between the road and the cliff, and there were no signs of skid marks.
Police are also probing what caused the vehicle to travel over that patch of land to the cliff. It appears the vehicle’s brakes were not applied once the vehicle left the road and traveled across that dirt to the cliff.
Police first identified the two adults in the SUV as Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, of Woodland, Washington. Then on Wednesday, officials from the coroner’s office identified the bodies of the three children: Markis, 19; Jeremiah, 14; and Abigail, 14. The authorities say the three missing children are Devonte, 15; Hannah, 16; and Sierra, 12.
Back in 2014, the family suddenly got their 15 minutes of fame when their son, Devonte Hart, was photographed hugging a police officer. Devonte is one of the missing children today. This occurred during a demonstration in Portland, Oregon, against violence. Devonte, who is black, was 12-years-old at the time he was photographed hugging a white police officer.
In the picture, Devonte had tears streaming down his face with a mixed look of fear and sadness. He was holding a sign that said “Free Hugs,” and he was crying when the police officer went up to him. Sargeant Bret Barnum told the reporters that he asked the child why he was crying and he said that he was “sad” about the protests.
Officer Barnum took him up on that “free hug” offer and a picture was snapped. That picture was first picked up by the local news, and then it went national back in 2014. Shortly afterward, it went viral.
According to a local NBC News station KGW8, the Hart family’s neighbor from the town of Woodland, Washington, said that Devonte, who was 15, had recently started coming over to her house to ask for food. Dana DeKalb told reporters that Devonte told her how his two mothers would withhold food from the kids as a form of punishment. They also stopped them from going outside when being punished, he told her.
She called the Child Protection Services on the family, and representatives from that agency did go to the house on Friday. DeKalb said the Harts were home but didn’t answer the door. It was just a few hours after that when the family left. On Monday, their car was found at the bottom of the cliff.
Norah West, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Social and Health Services, said on Wednesday that they had learned of the allegations of abuse on Friday. She confirms the agency went out to the home, but no one answered the door. She said they made two later attempts to reach the family by going back out to the house on Monday and Tuesday. It was after that they learned of the fatal accident that ended the lives of the family members.