Mom of six drove SUV before fatal family crash in California

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
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Hart family and the California cliff crash investigation
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Hart family and the California cliff crash investigation

MENDOCINO COUNTY, CA. – The California Highway Patrol (CHP), in conjunction with Sheriff Thomas Allman, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, and other allied agency partners throughout Washington and Oregon is continuing an active search for missing children, Hannah Hart, age 16, Devonte Hart, age 15, and Sierra Hart, age 12.

Based upon the investigation to date, it is believed the Hart family was in or around the Newport, Oregon area around 8:15am on Saturday morning, March 24, 2018. It is believed they continued south along US 101 until they reached State Route 1 in Legget, California. The family traveled south along State Route 1 until they reached the Fort Bragg area in Mendocino County around 8:00pm on Saturday evening, March 24, 2018. The family remained in the Fort Bragg, Cleone areas until approximately 9:00pm on Sunday evening, March 25, 2018. (The below map provided is the approximate route of travel.) There is no further information at this time regarding the whereabouts of the Hart Family immediately preceding the incident.

03/25/2018 at 8:05am, Jennifer Hart at the Safeway in Fort Bragg Ca. (see Photo)
Anyone with known information pertaining to the families route of travel, places where they stopped, may have come into contact with or have any information regarding the Hart Family are asked to call the California Highway Patrol – Ukiah Area office at (707) 467-4000 or the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 463-4086.

(Photo: CHP Ukiah)
The terrain is especially rugged along this section of the Mendocino coastline. We greatly appreciate the help of… https://t.co/zCZFqHqxBq
The search for the remaining 3 members of the #HartFamily continues https://t.co/1dujCrAii9
Thank you to all the agencies, staff (both paid and volunteer) for helping in today's efforts on the Mendocino Coas… https://t.co/tFqpveFyPi

MENDOCINO COUNTY, CA. – The California Highway Patrol (CHP), in conjunction with Sheriff Thomas Allman, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, and other allied agency partners throughout Washington and Oregon is continuing an active search for missing children, Hannah Hart, age 16, Devonte Hart, age 15, and Sierra Hart, age 12.

Based upon the investigation to date, it is believed the Hart family was in or around the Newport, Oregon area around 8:15am on Saturday morning, March 24, 2018. It is believed they continued south along US 101 until they reached State Route 1 in Legget, California. The family traveled south along State Route 1 until they reached the Fort Bragg area in Mendocino County around 8:00pm on Saturday evening, March 24, 2018. The family remained in the Fort Bragg, Cleone areas until approximately 9:00pm on Sunday evening, March 25, 2018. (The below map provided is the approximate route of travel.) There is no further information at this time regarding the whereabouts of the Hart Family immediately preceding the incident.

The family was traveling in a 2003 GMC Yukon LX with black rims. Similar to this vehicle in this photo (Not actual vehicle). 

Anyone with known information pertaining to the families route of travel, places where they stopped, may have come into contact with or have any information regarding the Hart Family are asked to call the California Highway Patrol – Ukiah Area office at (707) 467-4000 or the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 463-4086.

(Photo: CHP Ukiah)
The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office posted on social media thanking a number of agencies for helping in the search efforts for the three Hart children

(Photo: Mendocino County Sheriff's Office)

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office posted on social media thanking a number of agencies for helping in the search efforts for the three Hart children

(Photo: Mendocino County Sheriff's Office)

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office posted on social media thanking a number of agencies for helping in the search efforts for the three Hart children

(Photo: Mendocino County Sheriff's Office)

NOW: Search & Rescue teams are looking in between large rocks along the Mendocino County shoreline for any sign of… https://t.co/oaR7w3VxI8
I talked to a close friend of the Hart family. She said the family was loving and she thinks they may have misjudge… https://t.co/aEsAc7bgEP
A close friend of the Hart family tells me there was nothing but love in their home. Also says all six of the kids… https://t.co/Fs5D88uiH0
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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

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