A tourist spotted the wreckage of an SUV below a coastal cliff at a Northern California lookout point March 26, 2018. Inside and around the vehicle, officials found the bodies of Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, and three of their six children, Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14, and Abigail, 14. The bodies of the couple’s three other children Hannah, 16, Devonte 15, and Sierra, 12, were not immediately found.
The family lived in West Linn from 2013 to 2017, when they bought a home in Woodland, Washington. Their deaths triggered a monthslong investigation that reached Oregon, Washington, Texas, Minnesota and South Dakota.
Why did police launch such an in-depth investigation?
Officials in Mendocino County, California, said soon after the crash they found no evidence Jennifer Hart had applied the brakes before the SUV carrying her family went over the cliff. Toxicology tests showed she was intoxicated and that her wife and at least two children had traces of an active ingredient in Benadryl in their systems.
At the time of the crash, Washington state officials were trying to track down the family to investigate reports of child abuse.
Why did the investigation cross so many state lines?
The Harts grew up separately and attended college together in South Dakota. They moved to Minnesota, where they started their family. All of their children were born to different families in southeast Texas and placed into the foster care system, where the Harts adopted the children. The Minnesota child safety net received six reports of abuse or neglect involving the Harts before they moved to Oregon in 2013. Oregon child-welfare workers also checked into allegations the women abused the children. None of the investigations ever resulted in removing the children from the home.
What is the status of the investigation?
The investigation is almost complete. Investigators will testify about their findings in April as part of a coroner’s inquest to determine the manners of death of each family member. A special jury in Mendocino County will consider the evidence and make the determinations.
Have the bodies of all of the children been located?
Authorities have never found the body of the middle son, Devonte, who gained fame in 2014 after a photo of him hugging a police officer went viral. Police believe he is dead. Police found the body of his youngest sister, Sierra, weeks after the crash. Months later, officials confirmed a foot found washed ashore had belonged to the oldest sister, Hannah. They confirmed her identity after testing DNA from her birth mother, who came forward months after the crash.
What happened to their home in Washington?
A Portland woman bought the house and the 2 acres of land it sits on in November, Clark County records show.