Crash that killed Woodland family may have been intentional act, - KPTV - FOX 12

Crash that killed Woodland family may have been intentional act, CHP says

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(KPTV/AP) -

A crash in California that killed a Woodland family may have been an intentional act, the California Highway Patrol said Sunday. 

Capt. Greg Baarts with the CHP Northern Division says information pulled from the SUV's software shows the vehicle was stopped at the highway pullout before it accelerated straight off the cliff.

Baarts says the electronic information combined with the lack of skid marks led officials to believe it was intentional.

According to deputies, Jennifer Jean Hart and Sarah Margaret Hart were in a car with at least three of their adopted children when Jennifer Hart drove off a cliff near Highway 1 in the Westport area of Mendocino County on March 26. 

According to the CHP, the driver of the SUV stopped about 70 feet from the edge of the cliff at a turnout area and then it was "pure acceleration all the way, up to the point where it impacted the ocean floor." 

The CHP said the speedometer of the SUV was pinned at 90 miles per hour at impact, but that it does not necessarily mean the car was going at that speed. Officers said they are still going to do a comprehensive vehicle investigation. 

The bodies of the 38-year-old women and three of their children – ages 14 to 19 – were recovered at the scene. The children were thrown from the car.

Investigators believe the couple’s three other adopted children – ages 12 to 16 – were in the car at the time of the crash, but they have not been found.

The California Highway Patrol said Sunday crews are still searching for the three missing children, who may be in the ocean. They said strong tides are posing a challenge for search efforts.  

A Mendocino County Sheriff's Office spokesman says authorities believe at least one felony was committed but declined to specify.

Neighbors in Woodland told FOX 12 last week they contacted Child Protective Services when one of the children, 15-year-old Devonte Hart, came to their home begging for food for himself and his siblings.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services released a statement Wednesday confirming a case was opened regarding the family last Friday, as “the now-deceased children were identified as potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect.”

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