Child welfare records released on Monday reveal that officials in Oregon and Minnesota investigated a lesbian couple for complaints they were neglecting and abusing their six adopted children years before they would intentionally drove off a cliff in California killing themselves and the kids.
More than 40 pages of reports documenting abuse and neglect in Oregon and Minnesota were obtained by Oregon Live on Monday.
The records reveal that officials in the state began investigating Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, in July 2013 while the kids were ages 8 to 15.
The case was closed just five months later in December, despite reports that the children were severely malnourished and being neglected by the couple.
More than 40 pages of reports documenting abuse and neglect by Jennifer and Sarah Hart against their six adopted children were released on Monday. Jennifer posted this photo on Facebook in February 2013, five months before they were investigated for withholding food from their kids. Pictured (left to right): Jeremiah, then eight; Ciera, then seven; and Devonte, then 10
The report reveals that five of the six kids were so small their heights and weights were not listed on growth charts for children their age
Officials in Oregon opened an investigation into the family in July 2013 but closed the case five months later in December. Hannah, Ciera, Jeremiah, Devonte, Markis and Abigail (from left to right) are pictured in a June 2013 photo with an unidentified person at a celebration in Astoria
Jennifer Hart posted this photo on Facebook in 2006, at the time she and Sarah Hart adopted Hannah, then four years old and her biological siblings Markis, then eight and Abigail, then two years old
Records reveal that five of the six children were so small in 2013 that their heights and weights were not listed on growth charts for children their age, according to the outlet.
The doctor who measured the children reported no causes for concern because she did not have access to records showing their previous sizes.
The doctor’s statement weighed heavily in the Department of Human Services’ decision to ultimately close the case citing there was no conclusive evidence of neglect or abuse.
The records also reveal that Jennifer and Sarah were regularly accused of withholding food from their six children. Four years after the couple adopted Abigail Hart, a welfare worker in Minnesota noted that the then-six-year-old girl was the size of a two-year-old.
Records from that state also show that Abigail’s school contacted child protective services when the girl was seen rummaging through garbage for food. The school eventually stopped calling Jennifer and Sarah about the kids digging for food so they would not be punished by the couple.
The Minnesota case worker wrote that all six children denied they were being abused by their adoptive parents and gave nearly identical accounts claiming Jennifer and Sarah disciplined them by making them meditate for five minutes.
The case worker also noted that Devonte Hart was the only child who showed any sign of emotion during the interview.
Jennifer and Sarah (center with their children) had several complaints against them that they were withholding food from the kids
Markis is pictured above in a photo Jennifer Hart posted on Facebook in 2006 shortly after he was adopted
One woman who reported the couple to officials in Oregon said Jennifer Hart would not let the kids eat breakfast because she thought they had ate an entire pizza without her permission. Jennifer and Sarah are pictured center with four of their six kids
One woman who knew the family contacted authorities, records reveal, to report that when she questioned Jennifer about the lack of food the children received Jennifer said that Hannah Hart was morbidly obese when she was adopted in 2006 and was ‘now so much better’.
A Facebook photo of Hannah with her two biological siblings Markis Hart and Abigail Hart, who were all adopted by the couple, showed the then-four-year-old girl as a normal-sized child for that age.
According to the Oregon Live, records reveal that when the complaint was made Hannah was noted to be ‘very small’ and her front teeth were missing.
Another family friend also contacted authorities reporting that when the family had stayed with her, the children were only allowed to eat a tiny piece of pizza. When Jennifer realized the following morning that the entire pizza was gone she became enraged and took all the children into a bathroom.
When the family emerged, the woman said Jennifer announced that the kids would not be eating breakfast because no one would fess up to eating the pizza. She also made the kids lie on a bed wearing sleeping masks and their arms at their sides for four or five hours.
The woman told authorities that the kids seemed lethargic and would not answer a question without looking at Jennifer first.
Two other women also contacted case workers in Oregon saying that Hannah and Markis, the oldest of the children, were the targets of Jennifer’s abuse.
One of the women said Markis was punished on his July 1 birthday so no one could wish him a ‘Happy birthday’. Jennifer also told the woman that Markis had tried to kill her and Devonte Hart had to save her.
A Minnesota official who investigated the family noted in a report that Jennifer and Sarah knew how to blame apparent red flags on the children.
Another family friend reported to authorities that Markis (back right) was a target of Jennifer’s abuse and was punished on one of his birthdays so no one could say ‘happy birthday’ to him
Investigators determined that Jennifer intentionally drove her family off a cliff in Northern California last month, days after a social worker visited their Washington State home for complaints of abuse
When Oregon welfare workers interviewed the two women about the complaints they said the kids came to them with food and medical issues. Jennifer said the kids were thriving at their house and said many of the complaints were because people did not understand her family’s ‘alternative lifestyle’, Oregon Live reports.
According to the outlet, the names of the welfare workers and doctor who worked on the 2013 case have been blacked out in the reports. Officials in Oregon told the newspaper that case workers have since received better training to do a better job at making decisions about the safety of children.
Investigators have determined that Jennifer was drunk when she drove the family’s SUV off cliff in Mendocino County, more than 160 miles north of San Francisco, last month, days after a social worker visited the family at their Woodland, Washington home for a complaint that the kids were being neglected.
The body of 12-year-old Ciera Hart, the youngest of the children, was found off the coast of Northern California earlier this month.
The bodies of Jennifer and Sarah, along with three of the children – Markis Hart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; Abigail Hart, 14; – were found on March 26.
Authorities are still searching for the two remaining missing children – Devonte Hart, 15, and Hannah Hart, 16.