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SUV data shows deadly California wreck may have been intentional

03 April, 2018, 03:04 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Devonte Hart in the iconic hug

A spectacular SUV crash off a scenic Northern California cliff that killed at least five members of a Washington state family that was under investigation for child abuse may have been deliberate, police say.

Greg Baarts, Acting Assistant Chief of the California Highway Patrol northern division, said data from the SUV coupled with a lack of skid marks on the road showed the event was not an accident. We do have reason to believe, however, that the crash was intentional.

Parents Sarah and Jennifer Hart and three of their adopted children - 19-year-old Markis, 14-year-old Jeremiah and 14-year-old Abigail - were confirmed dead on Wednesday by authorities in Mendocino County after a passerby spotted their vehicle at the bottom of the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Investigators say the search for Devonte and his siblings continues and they are "tirelessly searching for the missing children along the coastline", while research continues for answers by "conducting interviews and attempting to establish a timeline and routes of travel in an effort to rule out any other possibilities".

Nearly one week after an SUV carrying Devonte Hart's family plunged off a cliff in California's Mendocino County, authorities said Sunday night that the vehicle came to a full stop before accelerating off the cliff.

In mid-March, Child Protective Services in Washington received a call about neglect and abuse by the Harts, spokeswoman Norah West said in a press conference March 29.

While the speedometer pin was found after the crash showing the pin at 90 miles per hour, investigators said they do not believe the auto was driving at that rate of speed at the time of the crash, adding it could have been the force of impact that knocked the pin to the 90 miles per hour marker.




All six of Jennifer and Sarah Hart's adopted children are black; the married adoptive mothers are white. Fifteen-year-old Devonte Hart, 16-year-old Hannah Hart, and 12-year-old Sierra Hart are still unaccounted for.

"To the best of my knowledge, there was not a suicide note found at the residence", Baarts said.

Authorities were not certain when the wreck took place; the vehicle was discovered by a motorist a week ago. DeKalb told HLN last Thursday that Devonte and one of his sisters had said they were not being properly treated.

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused an SUV carrying a family of eight to plunge off a California cliff. In the iconic image taken at a Black Lives Matter protest in 2014, the teary-eyed teen is seen holding a "free hugs" sign while hugging a local police officer.

However, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman told KGW-TV that authorities have "every indication to believe" that all six children were inside at the time of the crash.

Bruce DeKalb said Devonte regularly came to his home to ask for food and said his parents weren't feeding him.

Long before the crash, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty in 2011 to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota over what she said was a spanking given to one of her children. She said they had no prior history with the family before March 23 and have not made any findings in the investigation. The couple adopted many of their children from "hard backgrounds", he said.

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