Police believe the fatal crash that killed members of the Hart family may have been intentional

By Chris Harris
April 03, 2018 05:11 PM
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Last week, police investigating a deadly California car crash involving a family of eight searched the Washington home of parents Jennifer and Sarah Hart, according to multiple reports.

According to NBC News, the warrant was granted in Washington’s Clark County and lists items like an iPad and a laptop as among those sought in connection with the March 26 crash that killed the couple and at least three of their adopted children — and which police believe may have been intentional.

Three of the couple’s six children remain unaccounted for and are feared dead. NBC reports that police said the warrant was needed “to determine if the three outstanding children were involved in the collision or staying elsewhere.”

Investigators were interested in tracking down the family’s travel itinerary as well as cell phone records, credit card and banking statements, bank receipts, notes and journals, according to multiple reports.

The Hart family
| Credit: Mendocino Sheriff/Facebook

The Harts were traveling along the Pacific Coast Highway in California when their SUV plunged 100 feet off a cliff, landing upside down on the jagged rocks below.

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Inside the wreckage, authorities found the bodies of married couple Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, and their adopted children Markis, 19, and Abigail and Jeremiah, both 14.

Police believe their other three children — Devonte, 15, Hannah, 16, and 12-year-old Sierra Hart — were likely ejected from the SUV after it launched over the edge and that their bodies were possibly carried out to sea.

On Sunday, police said the deadly crash may have been a deliberate act. Investigators recovered evidence from the SUV’s software that suggests Jennifer, who was driving, may have purposefully accelerated off the cliff.

Capt. Greg Baarts with the California Highway Patrol’s Northern Division told reporters at a press conference Sunday 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 car did not attempt to brake — as evidence that the crash may have been intentional. County officials in Washington are reportedly searching the Hart home as Baarts said the case may involve a felony. Police have yet to recover a suicide note.

As the investigation continues, a previous admission of abuse against Sarah has come to light. In 2011, Sarah pleaded guilty to an abuse charge, admitting to taking her daughter into the bathroom, bending her over the edge of the bathtub and hitting her on the backside.

Sarah was originally charged with domestic assault and malicious punishment, according to court records. She agreed to plead guilty to the domestic assault charge and the malicious punishment charge was dropped.

She was sentenced to 90 days in jail — which was stayed — and one year of supervised probation, according to court documents.

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.

Neighbors told KATU News they saw the family leave on Friday, March 23 — shortly after a Child Protective Services worker visited their home.