Family killed in California cliff crash had recent visit from Child Protective Services, police say



Family of 8 is probably dead after SUV plunges off cliff

California police: Three of the six children are still missing after the deadly cliff crash. Jonathan Hunt has the story.

A family of eight killed this week when their SUV plunged off a California highway was a visit from Child Protective Services just a few days before the fatal crash, the sheriff’s office said, as neighbors described other disturbing incidents.

Jennifer and Sarah Hart, 39, were killed, along with their six adopted children — Markis Heart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; Abigail Hart, 14; Hannah Hart, 16; Devonte Hart, 15; and Sierra Heart -, 12 — when their vehicle plunged off an ocean view on the Pacific Coast Highway about 150 miles north of San Francisco, authorities said.

Six children were supposed to be in the vehicle with their parents, but three sisters — Hannah, Devonte (the boy in the viral 2014 protest photo), and Sierra — are not found.

The researchers said the Heart family, seen here in 2016, is feared dead after a SUV crashed into a ravine in California. (AP)

On Friday, three days before their car was found, Child Protective Services were called to the Hart house in a Forest, Wash., a small town outside of Portland, Ore. where she moved in May 2017, according to Oregon Live.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services had opened an investigation after the children were “identified as potential victims of the alleged abuse or neglect,” Oregon Live reported, with indication of the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office. Bruce and Dana DeKalb, the neighbors of the Hearts in a Forest, told The Associated Press they called child services on Friday, because she thought Devonte was hungry. They said that he had come to their house too often in the past week the demand for food.


Authorities sought the family three times since Friday, but could not come in contact with. The third attempt was Tuesday, a day after their SUV was found. Signs showed the family planned for a short trip.

The agency had no history with the family.

Friends and family said the couple, Jennifer and Sarah, loving, inspiring parents who promoted social justice and expose their ‘special children’ art, music, and nature. They were often seen at festivals, events and gatherings, such as a for the Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and the 2014 protest against police violence that got them national attention when Devonte was photographed hugging a police officer. They often went as a group wearing matching T-shirts.

“They were really brilliant, warm, adventurous and inspiring people. They were always on some grand adventure, and the children were still living a life that was a kind of a dream,” Zippy Lomax, a photographer who knew the Hearts, told The Associated Press.

Devonte Hart, who was then 12, was photographed at a rally in Portland, Ore. in November, 2015. (AP)

Other times, however, neighbors painted a less blissful picture of the family, describing the moments in which the adopted children would go knocking on their doors for food.

“Something just isn’t right. They were very isolated in the house,” Bill Greener, who lived next to the family in West Linn, Oregon, told Oregon Live.

Greener said he felt “guilty that he never called the [children’s] services.” He recalled how the parents kept the children inside and saw them when they came to the e-mail. Greener said that there is a positive points such as the children going on the camping and healthy eating, that prevented “the feeling that something may not be entirely good.”

The Dekalbs are also told in August 2017, one of the girls went their doorbell at 1:30 pm to ask for protection.

“[She] was at our door in a blanket and say that we need to protect her,” Bruce DeKalb said. “She said that she was abusing her. The haunted by my wife since that day.”

In 2011, Sarah Hart pled guilty to domestic assault charges in Minnesota. Her 6-year-old daughter had told her teacher, “Mom hit me when she went to school with bruises on her abdomen and back, according to Oregon Live.

The police is still trying to determine what the cause of the vehicle with the Heart family, to diving off the cliff. (AP)

Heart received a 90 day suspended sentence and a year of probation in 2011.

Jen’s Heart appeared to be happy on social media, posting on Facebook earlier this month about the adoption of three of her children, nine years ago.

“I am a better human in every possible way for the know of these children. They are my greatest teachers,” she wrote, according to Oregon Live. “Contrary to the common idea that we can’t choose our family, we absolutely can. We choose to love – and that is worth celebrating every damn day.”

California Highway Patrol are still determining what the cause of the SUV and enjoy the view.

“We have no evidence and no reason to believe that this is a deliberate act,” Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said on Wednesday.

But, he gave the place of the crash was confusing, because “there were no skid marks, there were no brake marks” on the side of the road rise where the vehicle went over.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter via @bykatherinelam

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