Mom of Family Whose Car Plunged Off Cliff Sent Worrisome Texts to Friend Days Before
The same day that five members of a Washington family were found dead at the bottom of a California cliff, a friend told authorities that days earlier, she’d received alarming 3 a.m. texts from one of the parents.
All eight members of the Hart family are presumed dead after their car plunged off a 100-foot cliff on the Pacific Coast Highway. Their SUV was found on March 26.
That day, friend Cheryl Hart — who is not related to the Hart family — called Clark County emergency dispatchers to report that she had received disturbing texts from Sarah Hart two days earlier but had since been unable to reach her friend, according to 911 records obtained by PEOPLE.
Cheryl Hart told dispatchers Sarah had texted her at 3 a.m. on March 24 saying that she was so sick she might have to go the hospital. After two days of not hearing back from Sarah and checking local hospitals, Cheryl Hart called Washington authorities to request a welfare check on the family, according to a recording of the phone call.
“Nobody has been able to get a hold of her, talk to her or seen her since since that text message or her wife, which is Jen,” Cheryl Hart told the dispatcher. “So we’re just concerned.”
Hours later, California authorities discovered five of the eight members of the Hart family — parents Jennifer and Sarah and three of their children — dead.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
The remaining three members of the family: Devonte, 15, Hannah, 16, and Sierra Hart, 12, remain unaccounted for and are feared dead.
On Saturday, authorities recovered a body that “appears to be that of an African American Female but the age and a positive identity could not be determined,” according to a press release from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff investigating the crash has said it was no accident— it was a crime.
“I’m to the point where I no longer am calling this an accident; I’m calling it a crime,” Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said during an appearance on HLN’s Crime & Justice with Ashleigh Banfield.
Previously, California authorities said information pulled from the vehicle’s software indicated it may have been purposefully driven off the cliff.
Capt. Greg Baarts with the California Highway Patrol’s Northern Division said the Harts’ SUV was stopped at a flat, dirt pull-off area before it sped off the steep rocky face and plunged down toward the water.
Baarts also cited the lack of skid marks near the cliff’s edge — indicating that the vehicle did not attempt to brake.
The family had a history of child abuse: Records previously obtained by PEOPLE show that while the family lived in Minnesota before moving to Oregon, Sarah pleaded guilty to domestic assault after hitting daughter Abigail, then 6.
During police questioning, Sarah admitted to letting her “anger get out of control” and to spanking Abigail, according to the criminal complaint against the mother. But according to the Oregonian, Abigail said it was actually Jennifer who hit her.
Three days before the crash was reported, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services received a call reporting that the six Hart children appeared to be “potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect,” Norah West, the department’s spokeswoman, previously told PEOPLE.