Tragic news from Mendocino County, California after a lesbian couple and their 6 children are presumed dead after their SUV went off the Coast Highway and crashed into the Pacific Ocean this past Monday, March 25th. The bodies of the two women and 3 of the children have been found while the other 3 children remain unaccounted for. Rescue teams continue the search for the other 3 children who are presumed to have died in the wreck.
The couple, Sarah and Jennifer Hart, both 38 and white were married and the parents of six adopted African-American children ranging in age from 12 to 19 and currently lived in Woodland, Washington just north of Vancouver. The family entered the public spotlight in 2014 after a photo of a teary eyed Devonte Hart, then aged 12, went viral. The photo depicted an emotional Devonte hugging a white Portland Oregon police officer during a demonstration following the decision to not indict the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. The public and media attention following the photo resulted in the family moving from Portland to the remote outskirts of the Portland/Vancouver metro area. The two women home schooled all six of the children and the family kept mostly to themselves.
Friends of the family state they were a close supportive family who fought for social justice and frequently attended area protests and marches but there are now some disturbing reports that may shed light on the tragedy.
Portland’s KGW-TV talked to the next door neighbors of the Harts, Bruce and Dana DeKalb who revealed that there were some indications of problems within the Hart household. One of the daughters showed up at their door last year seeking protection and claiming she was being abused. The Harts gave a believable excuse to the DeKalbs but when Devonte Hart turned up at their door asking for food a few weeks ago claiming his moms were withholding food as punishment, the DeKalbs once again became concerned and last Friday, March 23rd they contacted authorities to report the incident.
The family’s car vanished from their driveway by the following Saturday morning and authorities were never able to get into contact with either of the Harts.
There had been an established history of some issues in the family. In Minnesota in 2011, Sara Hart had plead guilty to assault charges after one of her daughters had shown up to school with suspicious bruises. Sara Hart admitted to spanking the child to deal with behavioral problems and had let her temper get the better of her. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail but that was waived as part of her probation.
Investigators in California continue the search for the missing three children and investigation into the causes of the crash with cooperation from Washington State officials. According to Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman, ““There were no skid marks. There were no break marks. There was no indication of why this vehicle traversed approximately over 75 feet off a dirt pullout and went into the Pacific Ocean.” That evidence and the accusations of child endangerment have raised the concern that the tragedy may have been deliberate as opposed to accidental.
The victims identified so far: Jennifer Jean Hart and Sarah Margaret Hart, both 38 and the three children found so far, Markis, 19, Abigail, 14, and Jeremiah, 14. Still missing: Devonte, 15, Hannah, 16, and Sierra, 12. The two women had been wearing seat belts but evidence suggests the children had not.