The troubling past of a family whose car plunged off a cliff


Police said a preliminary investigation indicates that the crash was intentional.

Greg Baarts, Acting Assistant Chief for CHP, Northern Division, confirmed that the speedometer of the Hart family's SUV, which was found crushed at the bottom of a California roadside cliff on Monday, March 26, was pinned at 90 miles per hour, but CHP cautioned that finding is not conclusive. Three of their six adopted children, Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14, and Abigail, 14, were also found dead in the vehicle.

Bruce and Dana DeKalb, next-door neighbors of the Harts, said they called child protective services because 15-year-old Devonte had been coming over to their house nearly every day for a week, asking for food.

Allman said there is no reason so far to think the crash was intentional but also mentioned there were no skid marks or signs the driver braked as the GMC Yukon crossed a flat, dirt pull-off area, about 75 feet (23 meters) wide, where motorists on the Pacific Coast Highway often walk their dogs.

"The most-likely cause for that reading is the shock from the impact", Baarts said.

"We're going under the assumption at this point that Devonte, Hannah and Sierra were in the vehicle, but we don't have 100 percent information", Capt. Greg Van Patten from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said.

Five members of the Hart family were found dead. But during Sunday night's teleconference with media, CHP said there was no note left behind and no obvious indicator in the Hart's home to explain what happened.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services said it was investigating the family for potential child neglect or abuse.

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The agency told BuzzFeed News in a statement it had unsuccessfully tried to contact the family on three separate occasions, including on the day of the crash. The department said it had no history with the Hart family.

Sarah Hart was charged with a misdemeanor offense of domestic assault against her daughter Abigail in 2011 and child Protective Services had visited the household.

That child had told an elementary school teacher of pain in her stomach and back, and bruises were discovered.

Authorities in Oregon, Washington and Minnesota all received reports of child welfare concerns involving the Hart family prior to the family's fatal crash, records and interviews show. Jennifer was driving at the time of the crash. "Jen and Sarah were overjoyed to adopt these children, but it was not a smooth transition", the friend wrote, adding that the children had lost their faith in people and "were developmentally behind, socially behind, and unable to manage behaviors".

Three children were found ejected from the vehicle when police arrived, but as of Monday, Devonte, Hannah and Sierra had still not been located.

Neighbors have said Devonte would ask them for food, saying his parents withheld it as a punishment.

"They portrayed this happy little family and yet their daughter is telling us please, please, please, begging us not to go back they're abusing her and then Devonte coming over here and telling us that he's being starved to death", she said.

Family friend Max Ribner took issue with the notion the wreck was something other than a tragic accident. Were they flawless? Absolutely not.