Hart Family Crash: Authorities Find Apparent Skeletal Remains Near Where SUV Plunged Off Cliff

Parents Jennifer and Sarah Hart and their six children are presumed dead, but the remains of only four of the children have been identified

Authorities have recovered apparent skeletal remains near where the SUV of a family of eight plunged off a cliff in Northern California in March in a crash police believe killed the entire family.

A statement from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office says the apparent bones of a human foot were found Wednesday inside a shoe that was entangled in a pant leg of a pair of girl’s jeans. The jeans were size 10 regular, and the shoe was a 3.5 “big kid” size or 5.5 women’s U.S. size.

The discovery was made about a mile from the crash site, according to the statement.

The SUV belonging to the Hart family, of Washington, fell about 100 feet down to the shoreline and was found on March 26. Authorities believe the crash was intentional and Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman has said he considers it a “crime” rather than an accident.

Parents Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, and their six adopted children are presumed dead, but the remains of two of the children — Devonte, 15, and Hannah, 16 — have not been accounted for.

According to the sheriff’s office statement, authorities will attempt to identify the apparent bones using DNA analysis.

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Mendocino Sheriff/Facebook

The statement adds that three of the four children whose remains were found tested positive for the active ingredient in Benadryl, while one child had no toxicology finding. Previously, authorities had announced that Sarah had also tested positive for the drug.

Authorities had also announced previously that Jennifer, who was driving the car, was intoxicated, with a blood alcohol level of 0.102. (The legal limit is .08.)

A History of Abuse

In 2001, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to an abuse charge, admitting to taking daughter Abigail into the bathroom, bending her over the edge of the bathtub and hitting her on the backside.

Three days before the crash was reported, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services received a call alleging the Hart children appeared to be “potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect,” Norah West, the department’s spokeswoman, told PEOPLE.

The state’s DSHS tried unsuccessfully to contact the family on three occasions, the first time on March 23. They tried again March 26 and March 27, not knowing the family had perished in the crash.

Washington officials recently released a 911 call made by a child welfare worker who was attempting to reach the Hart family on the day their wrecked SUV was found.

PEOPLE recently obtained 2013 documents from the Department of Human Services in Oregon, then the family’s home state. The agency opened an investigation into the Hart family after learning of multiple abuse and neglect allegations, according to the documents.

Multiple women spoke with Oregon child welfare workers about the Harts, with one alleging that Jennifer “does this thing for her Facebook page, where the kids pose, and are made to look like one big happy family, but after the photo event, they go back to looking lifeless.”

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Facebook

According to one allegation, Jennifer viewed the children as “animals” before they were adopted and said she thought of herself “as their savior.”

The couple would target certain children for mistreatment, according to one allegation, but they favored Devonte, who became famous after a photo of him hugging an officer at a 2014 police reform rally went viral.

However, Oregon officials did not find evidence the children were in danger and closed the investigation.

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