Two weeks ago, a Washington family of eight, Sarah and Jennifer Hart and their six adopted children, died after their SUV drove off a 100-foot cliff in California.
According to the Associated Press, the crash was initially believed to be an accident, but the SUV’s software revealed that the vehicle “was stopped at a flat, dirt pull-off area before it sped off the steep rocky face and plunged 100 feet.”
There were no tire or skid marks or evidence that suggested to investigators that Jennifer had lost control of the SUV.CNN
Captain Greg Baarts of the California Highway Patrol said during a press conference:
“The electronic information combined with the lack of skid marks or signs the driver braked led authorities to believe the crash was purposeful.”
After a passerby found the SUV on March 26, first responders only discovered five of the eight family members still inside the vehicle. It is believed that three of the six children were swept out to sea.
The Washington Post reports that on April 7, a body was found near the site of the incident; it may be one of Sarah and Jennifer’s adopted daughters.
According to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, a couple on vacation spotted the body in the surf. A third person pulled the body onto the beach.Washington Post
The identity of the body has not been confirmed, but it has been described as one of a female African American. The sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post that the identification of the body could take weeks:
The recovered body appears to be that of an African American female but the age and a positive identity could not be determined. An autopsy will be conducted on Tuesday and the cause of death is unknown. The Sheriff’s Office is investigating the possibility that the body may be one of the two missing Hart girls but identification will most likely be done through DNA analysis, a process that can take several weeks.
It is not uncommon after a significant storm, such as the one passing through the north state currently, to bring items to the surface or wash onto the beach. The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office is monitoring the ocean conditions to see when further searches might be safely conducted. This evaluation includes the use of divers if conditions permit. There were no other signs of the other missing Hart children.
The details surrounding the case have left many wondering what was the motive of the alleged purposeful act, according to the Washington Post.
As Dearly previously reported, the Harts were being investigated by Child Protective Services at the times of the crash.
Sarah and Jennifer were reported to CPS by their neighbors after one of their adopted sons, 15-year-old Devonte, had been “coming over to their house several times asking for food because their parents were allegedly withholding their meals as a form of punishment.”
The neighbors also told the Washington Post:
A few months after the Harts [moved] next door in 2017, one of the daughters, Hannah, pounded on his door at 1:30 a.m. She had jumped out of the family’s second-story window and ran through the woods toward the neighbor’s house. The 16-year-old, who the neighbor thought was only seven and was missing some front teeth, was “rattled to the bone.”
Sarah Hart was previously convicted of domestic assault in Douglas County, Minnesota after a six-year-old child under her care showed bruises on her stomach and back to her teacher. According to ABC News, Sarah was charged with malicious punishment of a child and domestic assault as a result of the incident; the malicious punishment of a child charge was eventually dropped.Washington Post
As the Washington Post reports, after moving from Minnesota to Oregon, the Harts were also flagged for abuse and neglect, but nothing came of that specific investigation. They then moved from Oregon to Washington, where they remained until their deaths.