Hart Family Parents Killed Six Children in Murder-Suicide

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Hart Family Parents Killed Six Children in Murder-Suicide

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As a drunk, Jennifer Hart drove her six adopted kids in their family SUV, her wife, Sarah, sat in the passenger seat looking up different ways to end a life.

The SUV carrying the Hart family would drive off a 100-foot cliff on that day in March 2018.  The tragedy sparked questions about abuse and homicide.

While driving down the US 101 highway, Sarah was busy with searches:

“Can 500mg of Benadryl kill a 125 lb woman?”

“How easily can I overdose on over the counter medications?”

“How long does it take to die of hypothermia while drowning in a car.”

The horrific details went out Thursday after a coroner’s jury unanimously ruled that Jennifer and Sarah Hart intended to die along with their six adopted children: Markis, 19, Hanah, 16, Devonte, 15, Jeremiah and Abigail, both 14, and Ciera, 12.

At first, no one would have imagined the parents would drive their children from their home in Woodland, Washington, to their deaths in Mendocino County, California. Both their social media pages include pictures of happy children holding signs that say “love is always beautiful.”

As the story grew, more details emerged that the children desperately sought help from neighbors.  Allegations said that their parents abused and starved the six children.

The coroner’s inquest gave more insight into what led Jennifer and Sarah to end lives of all eight Harts.

When authorities entered the Hart home, it seemed neat, orderly, and newly remodeled.  But while Jennifer and Sarah’s were decorated, the children’s rooms were bare.

Investigators noted their luggage was left behind, and the family did not take their toothbrushes before leaving for two days.

“In my opinion, Sarah and Jennifer succumbed to a lot of pressure,” said Lt. Shannon Barney of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. “They got to the point where they made a conscious decision to end their lives and take their children with them.”

As Jennifer drove down the US 101 highway, she had five beers in her system, enough to make it difficult for her to function.  Witnesses told police Jennifer rarely drank.

The theory is that she drank to build up her courage.

Days before the family died in the crash, Child protective services in Washington wanted to do a welfare check on the family.  But no one answered the door on March 26, the family was already gone.

Calls to the police began just two years after the Harts became parents, while they were living in Minnesota.  They were first called in 2008, when one child told an adult that Jennifer struck the child in the arm, but the state closed the case claiming the child fell.

Another call in 2011, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to domestic assault after admitting to police she bruised her child by spanking he over the edge of a bathtub.

After the family moved to Woodland, Washington, the children started going to their neighbor, Bruce DeKalb, in the middle of the night for food and help.

On March 23, DeKalb called CPS to check on the family.  The next day, they packed up their SUV, and started their drive from Washington to California.

At first, only Sarah, Jennifer, and three other children were identified.

Jennifer was intoxicated, and Sarah and two of the children tested positive for diphenhydramine.  

Ciera’s body was found on a beach north of the cliff a couple weeks later. Parts of a foot in shoe were also found, but investigators couldn’t identify the remains as a Hart child until later this year when a DNA scan proved it was Hannah.

Devonte is still missing but is believed to have perished away with his and sisters.

Jennifer and Sarah cannot be held be questionable for what happened on that California cliff.  The inquest in closed, and their death certificates now list suicide and the children’s list homicide.

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