Police are searching a highway travel route for three children who have been missing ever since the SUV carrying their entire family plunged 100-feet off a California cliff, killing at least five of them.
The Hart family’s wrecked GMC Yukon was discovered last Monday on rocks along the coast near Mendocino, a few days after child welfare authorities began investigating whether the children were being abused or neglected.
Investigators are now examining ‘red flags’ in the Washington family’s past in the hope of explaining why they drove off the cliff in an apparent suicide plunge.
The bodies of Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, and three of their six adopted children – Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14, and Abigail, 14 – were found but the other three are missing and presumed dead.
The SUV carrying Jennifer and Sarah Hart and their six adopted children was discovered last Monday on rocks along the coast near Mendocino, California
Authorities have spent the past week trawling the ocean for the missing three children – Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15, and Sierra, 12 – and spent Monday searching the highways they may have traveled along as well.
‘The search for the additional three children belonging to the family continues both at the scene, through water rescue and recovery, and other locations including routes of travel,’ the California Highway Patrol said.
Officials had previously said they believed all the children were in the vehicle and the other bodies may have been washed into the ocean.
While investigators initially said there was no indication the crash was anything but an accident, data from the vehicle’s software now suggested the incident was deliberate.
Three other children are missing but authorities believe it is likely all eight members of the Hart family, including the six children aged 12 to 19, are presumed dead after their car was found crashed on rocks
The SUV appears to have stopped at a dirt pull-off area about 70 feet from the cliff (pictured above). It then accelerated over the edge and left no skid marks
‘This situation may have been an intentional act and not the result of a traffic collision,’ the highway patrol said.
The SUV appears to have stopped at a dirt pull-off area about 70 feet from the cliff, according to the vehicle’s on-board computer.
It then accelerated over the edge, leaving no skid marks or other indications of a collision. The SUV fell into rocks and was found partially submerged about 100 feet below the highway.
Police searched the family’s home in Woodland, Washington, about 500 miles north of the crash site, but found no suicide note.
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services said it opened an investigation into the family for potential child neglect or abuse after a complaint on March 23.
Investigators are now examining ‘red flags’ in the Washington family’s past in the hope of explaining why they drove off the cliff in an apparent suicide plunge
These are the tracks left by the car when it went over the edge of the cliff
Days before the wreck was discovered, neighbors called authorities to say one of the youngsters had been coming to their house almost daily asking for something to eat and complaining that his parents were withholding food as punishment.
Investigators last week obtained a search warrant for the family’s home in Woodland and looked for itineraries, bank and phone records, credit card receipts, journals or other documents that might shed light on the case.
Long before the crash, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty in 2011 to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota over what she said was a spanking given to one of her children.
The Hart family gained attention in 2014 after one of the children, Devonte, was photographed crying in the arms of a white police officer at a protest after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.