- The Mendocino County Sheriff’s office states in a statement that a couple vacationing along the coast saw awhat seemed to be a body
- The body appears to be that of an African American female, but age and identity was not determined
- Sarah and Jennifer Hart and their six adopted children were believed to be in the family’s SUV when the car plunged off a cliff last month
- Five bodies were located March 26 near Mendocino, several days after Washington state authorities started investigating the Harts for possible child neglect issues.
- Sarah Hart pleaded guilty in 2011 to a dresidential assault charge in Minnesota over what she said was a spanking given to one of her kids
A body was recovered in the vicinity where an SUV car plunged off a Northern California cliff last month, killing a family of eight in what authorities suspect may have been an intentional crash & murder suicide.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s office said in a statement that a couple vacationing along the coast saw a possible body, which was pulled from the surf Saturday afternoon by another bystander.
The body appears to be that of an African American female, age and identity could not immediately be determined, said Lt. Shannon Barney. An autopsy is to be held Tuesday to determine a cause of death.
The dead family members pics.Jennifer and Sarah Hart, 39, were not wearing seatbelts when they drove off the cliff. From left to right: Hannah, Abigail, Sierra, Jeremiah, Jennifer, Devonte, Markis and Sarah Hart
Whilst authorities said they understand the body may be that of one of two missing girls from the crash, positive identification will most likely be carried out by DNA analysis, which may could take several weeks.
Sarah and Jennifer Hart and their six adopted children were believed to be in the family’s SUV when it plunged off a cliff in the murder suicide.
Five bodies were found March 26 near Mendocino, a few days after Washington state authorities began investigating the Harts for possible child neglect, but three of their children were not immediately found at the scene.
There were no signs of the other two children, authorities said Saturday. Authorities have said that data from the vehicle’s software made it apparent that the crash was intentional.
Investigators believe that Jennifer drove the car off the cliff deliberately as there were no skid marks and evidence shows the speedometer was ‘pinned’ at 90mph.
They said the SUV motor vehicle had stopped at a coastal highway overlook before speeding straight off the cliff and plummeting 100 feet (31 meters) into the rocky Pacific Ocean below.
The California Highway Patrol also released a photo of Jennifer Hart shopping at a grocery store just a day before the crash, and revealed more details about their movements.
The family appear to have left their home in Woodland, Washington on March 23, after a neighbor called Child Protective Services to report that the couple weren’t feeding their children.
Two days later, a family cellphone pings in Newport, Oregon, around 8.15am.
CHP believes the family then drove south on Highway 101, and then State Route 1, arriving in the Fort Bragg, California area 12 hours later.
It’s understood that the family sremained during the night in the area, since Jennifer was seen checking out of a Fort Bragg grocery store around 8.15am on Sunday, March 25.
Authorities say the family stayed in Fort Bragg until 9pm that evening, at which point it seems they turned around and started traveling north again on State Route 1.
Sarah Hart pleaded guilty in 2011 to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota over what she said was a spanking given to one of her children.
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman revealed on HLN that he is now calling the crash a ‘crime’ instead of an accident
Files showed that the Hart children were removed from public school in Alexandria, Minnesota the day after Sarah Hart reached a probation agreement stemming from the child abuse case in April.
That came a week after Hart pleaded guilty to physically abusing one of her daughters, who was six at the time.
The kids were taken out of school and moved to Oregon, where they were privately educated from there on in, the Oregonian stated.
The family later moved to Woodland, Washington, where they were living at the time of their demise.
Investigators are now examining ‘red flags’ in the Washington family’s past in the hope of explaining why they drove off the cliff in an apparent suicide murder plunge.
While investigators initially said there was no indication the crash was anything but an accident, data from the vehicle’s software now suggested the incident was intentional.
These are the tracks left by the car when it went over the edge of the sea cliff
‘This situation may have been a deliberate act and not the result of a traffic collision,’ the highway patrol said.
The SUV vehicle appears to have stopped at a dirt pull-off area about 70 feet from the cliff, according to the vehicle’s on-board computer.
It then accelerated over the edge, leaving no skid marks or other indications of an accidental collision. The SUV fell into rocks and was found partially submerged about 100 feet below the highway.
Bruce and Dana DeKalb, the family’s next-door neighbors in Woodland, Washington, called child welfare officials last month because the couple’s 15-year-old son, Devonte, had been coming to their house almost every day for a week, asking for food. They said the teen claimed his parents were ‘punishing them by withholding food.’
Devonte, an African-American boy who is still missing, drew national attention after he was photographed in tears while hugging a white police officer during a 2014 protest.
The discovery of the body Saturday follows a two-day storm that swept through Northern California.
The sheriff’s office noted that it is not uncommon after a significant storm that items would surface or wash onto the beach.
Investigators are now examining ‘red flags’ in the Washington family’s past in the hope of explaining why they drove off the cliff in an apparent suicide plunge
‘The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office is monitoring the ocean conditions to see if further searches might be safely conducted,’ Barney said. ‘This evaluation includes the use of divers if conditions are suitable.’
Police searched the family’s home in Woodland, Washington, about 500 miles north of the crash site, but found no message or suicide note.
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services said it started an investigation into the family for potential child neglect or abuse after a complaint on March 23.
Days before the wreck was discovered, neighbors called authorities to say one of the youngsters had been coming to their house almost daily asking for something to eat and complaining that his parents were withholding food as punishment.
Investigators last week obtained a search warrant for the family’s home in Woodland and looked for itineraries, bank and phone records, credit card receipts, journals or other documents that might shed some light on the case.
The Hart family gained attention in 2014 after one of the children, Devonte, was photographed crying in the arms of a white police officer at a protest after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.