Jennifer Hart was behind the wheel of the SUV, carrying her wife and their six adopted children, that drove off a cliff in California, a sheriff said, as authorities released an image of the mom before the tragedy.
Hart and her wife, Sarah Hart, both 38, had their seatbelts on, but their kids didn’t before the deadly crash on March 26, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman told HLN on Wednesday.
Allman said he’s not calling the crash an “accident,” but rather a crime. He added police are also investigating a cellphone found near the crash site.
First responders found the moms’ bodies in the car as well as the bodies of their kids, Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14, and Abigail, 14, nearby.
But Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15 and Sierra, 12, remain missing. Devonte garnered attention when he was captured hugging a white cop during a police brutality protest in 2014.
Authorities have said they believe the car plunge was intentional, and no skid marks were found before the incident.
Hart family and the California cliff crash investigation
California Highway Patrol released a surveillance photo of Jennifer Hart wearing a gray sweatshirt and buying bananas at a shop in Fort Bragg on March 25.
Photos of the family show they were a tight-knit group that always smiled, but neighbors in Washington State had accused the mothers of being negligent.
Neighbors Bruce and Dana DeKalb called Child Protective Services because Devonte always came to their home asking for food.
The teen told Dana DeKalb his parents were “punishing them by withholding food.” Washington State officials launched an investigation into the family three days after the crash.
In 2013, Alexandra Argyropoulos, a family friend, reported to Oregon officials the women would abuse their kids by not letting them eat. The family lived in Oregon at the time.
In 2011, Sara Hart pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge involving one of her kids while living in Minnesota.
With News Wire Services