PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - California deputies investigating the mysterious and devastating apparent murder-suicide SUV crash off a coastal cliff, presumed to have killed an entire Washington family, are making progress in hopes of identifying one of two children still missing.
The Hart family case first captured national attention back in March, when the family’s wrecked SUV was discovered at the bottom of the cliff off a coastal highway in Mendocino County. Parents Jennifer and Sarah Hart and three of their six adopted children were found immediately after, another daughter’s body was later discovered.
Investigators said DNA analysis of a foot discovered weeks after the crash proved to be inconclusive. The foot was found with some girl’s clothing and a shoe near the crash site. Over the summer, Mendocino County deputies asked the public for help to identify biological family members of 16-year-old Hannah Hart, hoping to compare their DNA to the recovered foot.
According to investigators, people identifying themselves as biological relatives of Hannah have come forward to help in the case. Deputies said they are working with local law enforcement in Texas to collect samples of testing. All six Hart children were adopted from Texas by Jennifer and Sarah Hart.
It’s unclear if deputies have yet sent any DNA samples to labs for testing.
The Harts’ other son, 15-year-old Devonte Hart, is still missing but presumed dead.
Investigators have said that Jennifer Hart purposely drove drunk over the cliff. The investigation revealed the SUV’s speedometer had ‘pinned’ at 90 mph. Toxicology reports found that two of the three children originally found had drugs in their system.
What exactly led Jennifer Hart to drive off the cliff may never be fully known, but the crash came just days after child protection officials in Washington launched an investigation into the family. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services was tipped off by neighbors of the family who reported that Devonte came to them begging for food.
Shortly after, the Hart family suddenly disappeared from their Woodland home.
The Hart women were no strangers to child welfare investigations over the years. Court records and state reports show that cases had been filed in Minnesota and Oregon, many with themes of physical abuse, neglect and withholding food as punishment.
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