Crews search California coastline for missing kids, clues in Woo - KPTV - FOX 12

Crews search California coastline for missing kids, clues in Woodland family’s deadly crash

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MENDOCINO COUNTY, CA (KPTV) -

An extensive search effort along the California coastline for three missing children led to one possible clue as the investigation continues into the crash that killed a family from Woodland.

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office reported no definitive new developments had occurred as a result of Wednesday’s search operations.

On March 26, deputies said Jennifer Jean Hart drove a 2003 GMC Yukon LX off a cliff in the Westport area. Jennifer and Sarah Hart were killed, along with at least three of their adopted children.

Their other three adopted children – Devonte, 15, Hannah, 16, and Sierra, 12 – have not been found. Investigators are still trying to determine if they were in the SUV when it crashed.

Around 80 people searched seven miles of shoreline around the crash scene Wednesday. Other crews traveled as far as 60 miles south as part of the search efforts.

Deputies said a cell phone was recovered a day earlier in the area where the SUV landed on the rocks.

“We’re not sure if it’s exactly connected, but what we are trying to do is determine if it is,” said Lt. Shannon Barney with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. “And maybe we can download some data off that phone, as well, and provide some information.”

Search crews utilized special mapping software from the U.S. Coast Guard to read currents and drifts. Deputies said a storm is expected Thursday, so they wanted to cover as much ground as possible before the weather wipes out any possible evidence.

“We would like to provide some type of answers as to what happened to them,” Barney said about the missing children.

The California Highway Patrol has reported the crash is believed to be intentional. Investigators believe the Harts traveled to Newport, Oregon, where they were suspected to be on March 24. The following day, Jennifer Hart was caught on camera at a Safeway store in Fort Bragg, California.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services opened a Child Protective Services investigation of the family on March 23, as the agency reported the children were identified as potential victims of abuse or neglect. 

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