On March 26 the bodies of Jennifer and Sarah Hart along with three other members of the family were found near their SUV off the coast of California near Mendocino. The other three children fifteen year old Devonte, sixteen year old Hannah, and twelve year old Sierra still remain missing. A large search, with around 80 people was conducted last Wednesday, with still no sign of the missing children.
Among the missing children, Devonte Harp, had become popular through the internet from a photo of him embracing a white police officer during the protests of the Michael Brown shooting.
Officials believe the crash may have been intentional due to numerous details pointing towards foul play. There were no skid marks that led up to the fatal crash, suggesting that the family’s SUV intentionally drove off the cliff and did not struggle to remain on the road. Another suspicious detail was that the SUV’s software suggested that the car had stopped at a scenic highway lookout right on the cliff and then continued to accelerate off the road. Jennifer and Sarah Hart were also not wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident.
While it may seem odd that parents would drive their six children off a cliff, the family had an unusual history with allegations of abuse and maltreatment towards their children. All of the children were adopted starting in 2006 when Abigail, Hannah, and Markis Harp were adopted by the Harps. Then in 2009 the other three children, Sierra, Jeremiah and Devonte were adopted.
During the time when the Harp family was living in Minnesota, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic assault that involved one of the children in 2010. The child involved stated they had stomach and back pain, leading to the discovery of other bruises on the child’s body. Sarah was sentenced to community service and one year of probation.
Another incident, about ten months ago, the Hart family moved into Woodland, Washington where a neighbor claimed the family was very private and homeschooled the children, keeping them inside most of the time. One neighbor stated two of the children, including Devote, confided in him stating they were being mistreated. Another incident the same neighbor claimed one of the girls had arrived at his doorstep at 1:30 am asking for protection against her parents.
On March 23, the same neighbor who claimed the children had come to him for help, reported the incidents to Child Protective Services. That same day officials arrived right when Jennifer Hart came home from work but did not answer the door.
Child Protective Services stated they tried to visit the family twice more on March 26 and 27, during the time the Hart’s vehicle was found plunged off a cliff, and were not able to make contact. Prior to this, Child Protective Services in Washington had no history with the Hart family. The search continues for the three missing children.
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