A married lesbian couple and their six adopted children have been presumed dead after their SUV went over a cliff into the ocean in Mendocino County, California.
Jennifer Jean Hart and Sarah Margaret Hart, both 38, and three of their children, Abigail, 14, Jeremiah, 14, and Markis, 19, were found dead in the car, while authorities believe the couple's other children, Devonte, 15, Hannah, 16, and Sierra, 12,—who are still missing—were also in the SUV at the time of the crash.
“We know that an entire family vanished and perished during this tragedy,” said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman.
“There were no skid marks. There were no break marks,” explained Allman. “There was no indication of why this vehicle traversed approximately over 75 feet off a dirt pullout and went into the Pacific Ocean.”
One of the children, Devonte, was the subject of a picture that went viral when he hugged a police officer at a rally in Portland, Oregon, where the Harts had taken their children to support the protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
“They were really radiant, warm, adventurous inspiring people," said family friend Zippy Lomax. "They were always on some grand adventure, and the kids were living this life that was kind of like this dream."
But since the accident questions are being raised about the children's home life.
KGW8, a local news station in Portland, spoke with the Harts' neighbors, Bruce and Dana DeKalb, who said that one of the daughters came over to their house last year saying she was being abused.
Then a few weeks ago, Devonte showed up at the DeKalbs’ house asking for something to eat. He said his moms were “punishing them by withholding food.”
The DeKalbs eventually called Child Protective Services last Friday, March 23. The agency tried to speak with the Harts, but the family disappeared.
“The next morning, when we saw that the vehicle was gone, and then Sunday morning, when it still wasn’t there…” said Bruce DeKalb.
“We knew there was something weird, because they never go anywhere,” Dana added.
Authorities are still questioning why the family was in California when their SUV went off the road.
According to court documents, in 2011 Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge involving one of her daughters. A teacher called the police after spotting bruises on the child. Hart admitted to a detective that she was spanking her daughter and “let her anger get out of control.”