6 children believed dead, 2 gay women's bodies found after SUV plunges off cliff in California
A family of eight has been declared dead after their SUV plummeted off a cliff. The family consisted of two mothers and eight adopted children.
The Hart’s car was found on March 26, 2018, according to Fox News. The two mothers and three of the six children’s bodies have been found so far.
The Hart Tribe, as they were known, was known to spontaneously take road trips to hike or camp. Their friends believe they may have been on one of those adventures when their SUV plunged off a scenic California highway.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, that he appealed for help retracing where the family had been before the vehicle was found on Monday. Friends described the married couple, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, as loving, and inspiring parents.
The parents were people who promoted social justice and exposed their children to art, music, and nature. But some neighbors have said that they saw signs that caused them to worry about how the children were being cared for.
The California Highway Patrol hasn’t figured out why the Hart vehicle went off an ocean overlook on a rugged part of the coastline. Authorities believed six children were in the vehicle with their parents, though three siblings haven't been found.
The 100-foot (31-meter) drop killed both women, both 39, and their three children. Markis, 19; Jeremiah, 14; and Abigail, 14, were found dead.
Hannah, 16; Devonte, 15; and Sierra, 12, have not yet been found. Zippy Lomax, a photographer who knew the Harts, stated that the accident was tragic.
"We have no evidence and no reason to believe that this was an intentional act, there were no skid marks, there were no brake marks."
Sheriff Tom Allman, Fox News, March 29, 2018
"They were really radiant, warm, adventurous inspiring people. They were always on some grand adventure, and the kids were living this life that was kind of like this dream," Lomax told The Associated Press.
He added that the family was a very self-supporting unit that was impossible to miss. When they showed up to an event, they made an impression and shattered a lot of norms.
The family gained attention after Devonte was photographed during a 2014 protest in Portland, Oregon. The protest was over a grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer for the shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Missouri.
Devonte was there crying holding a ‘Free Hugs’ sign. A Portland officer saw his sign and asked if he could have a hug, and the emotional boy embraced him in a picture that was widely shared.
The Harts moved to Woodland, Washington, a small city outside of Portland, Oregon, in the spring of last year, partly because of the overwhelming coverage by the media. The multi-racial family also received death threats.
Clark County sheriff's Sgt. Brent Waddell revealed that the family had a recent visit from state child protective services. The Hart’s next-door neighbors, Bruce and Dana DeKalb, said they had called child services last Friday.
They called them because they were concerned about Devonte who they said had been coming over to their house in the past week asking for food. Dana shared that the boy told her that his parents "weren't feeding them" and were "punishing them by withholding food."
Washington state child protective services opened an investigation on Friday and tried to make contact with the Harts three times since Friday, to no avail, according to Norah West, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Social and Health Services. This was the first known incident with the family.
The DeKalbs also recalled that three months after the family had moved into the home in May 2017, one of the girls rang their doorbell at 1:30 a.m. She said her parents were abusing her.
In 2011, Sarah pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota. Her plea led to the dismissal of a charge of malicious punishment of a child.
Max Ribner, who has known the family since 2012, said allegations from neighbors don't match up with what he knows about the Harts. Bill Groener, 67, was a next-door neighbor of the Harts when they lived in West Linn, Oregon.
He shared that the children had stayed indoors most of the time. Groener said the family didn't eat sugar, raised their own vegetables, had animals, and went on camping trips.