The lesbian mothers who died on Monday along with at least three of their six adopted children after plunging 100ft over a coastal cliff in California had been reported to Child Protective Services for allegedly starving the kids.
On Friday, neighbors of Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 39, called CPS to report that their son Devonte had come to their home asking for food every day for a week.
They said Devonte – who made national headlines when he was pictured hugging a police officer during a 2014 protest – asked them to leave food out in a box for him and said his mothers were ‘punishing’ him by not feeding him.
In 2017, another of the children came to their home at 1.30am asking for their ‘protection’, they said.
Days before their bodies were found at the bottom of a cliff in California, neighbors called CPS in Washington to report Jennifer and Sarah Hart (above) for not feeding their six adopted kids. On Friday, their 15-year-old son Devonte (seen center, right) went to a neighbor’s house begging for food. They fled hours later after refusing to open the door for a CPS worker
This is an aerial view of the cliff the family plunged over in their car. It is in Mendocino, California, 600 miles away from their home in Washington. To reach the cliff’s edge, the family would have had to have turned off Pacific Highway and traversed 75ft of dirt road
If traveling northbound, the family would have had to have turned left here to reach the cliff
A southbound view of the same cliff shows how they would have had to deliberately turn off towards it. Police found no brake or skid marks at the scene which would suggest they tried to stop the car from going over the edge
On Monday, a passerby spotted their car at the bottom of the cliff. The two mothers’ bodies were inside along with three of the children’s but three other kids have not yet been found
On Friday, a CPS worker arrived at the home and knocked on the door, according to the neighbors Bruce and Dana DeKalb, but the Harts never answered.
Instead, they packed up in a hurry and fled with all six kids in their 2003 GMC Sierra truck, they said.
On Monday, their bodies were found at the bottom of a cliff in Westport, California, off Highway I along with the bodies of three of their children, Markis, 19; Jeremiah 14; and Abigail, 14.
Hannah Hart, 16; Devonte Hart, 15; and Sierra Hart, 12, have not been found.
It is not clear yet if they drove over the cliff purposefully or by accident but police said no brake marks were found at the scene.
To reach the cliff edge over which their car fell, the women would have had to have driven off the Pacific Highway and traversed 75ft of rugged dirt road. It is not known yet if they came to a stop at the edge before falling over.
Sarah (left) and Jennifer (right), both 39. In 2011, Sarah pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic assault charge in Minnesota. As part of the plea deal, another charge of malicious punishment of a child was dismissed
Devonte, 15, made headlines in 2014 in this picture where he is seen hugging a police officer at a protest in Portland over the cop shooting of a black man. The family moved to Washington in 2017. He is the child who asked neighbors for food last week and told them that his moms were ‘punishing’ him
‘I can tell you it was a very confusing scene because there were no skid marks, there were no brake marks, there was no indication of why this vehicle traversed approximately over 75ft of a dirt pull out and went into the pacific ocean,’ Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said on Wednesday.
It was also revealed this week on Wednesday that in 2011, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota. Her plea led to the dismissal of a charge of malicious punishment of a child, online court records say.
Another neighbor who lived near the family in Oregon years ago said the children mostly stayed inside and were not allowed to eat sugar.
Devonte Hart, pictured above, is one of the three Hart children still missing after the crash. He is pictured above at a Bernie Sanders rally in Portland in 2016
The Harts, pictured with four of their children in 2014, were married. Sarah Hart (left) had previously been convicted in Minnesota of domestic assault back in 2011
Bill Groener, 67, was a next-door neighbor of the Harts when they lived in West Linn, Oregon, and said the kids stayed indoors most of the time.
He said the family raised their own vegetables, had animals and went on camping trips but that he never worried about their wellbeing.
‘Something just didn’t seem right. They were very isolated in the home,’ he said, adding he felt ‘guilty he never called (child) services’.
The revelations by officials in Woodland, Washington, suggest the family was not the happy, blended unit police painted them as when their bodies were found.
In family photographs, they are the picture of happiness.
Police do not know yet if the family was driving north or southbound when they turned on to the cliff edge.
Their vehicle was spotted in the water by a passerby on Monday. By the time they were found, police say they had been in the water for several hours.
In Woodland, Washington, the family lived in a $400,000 home which they bought in 2017.