Heartbreaking news to report: 15-year-old Devonte Hart, who is known for a viral photo in which he is hugging a cop on November 25, 2014, is missing after an SUV he and his family were in went off a cliff near Mendocino in Northern California.
ABC News reports, “Five people have been confirmed dead after the SUV they were in went off a cliff near Mendocino in Northern California, on Monday.” The site continued, “Search and rescue teams continue to look for Devonte Hart, 15, and his siblings, 16-year-old Hannah Hart and 12-year-old Sierra Hart, officials said. Their parents, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, and three of their siblings died in the crash.” Devonte was adopted by Sarah and Jennifer Hart, both 39. The couple also adopted Markis Hart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; and Abigail Hart, 14, who have all been confirmed dead. The family lived in Woodland, Washington, near Portland, Oregon, and were reportedly on a road trip.
See the photo of Devonte below.
Investigators described the scene as “confusing.” There were no skid marks before the car fell 75 feet into the Pacific Ocean, the victims were not wearing seat belts and there were no witnesses. However, according to The Oregonian, the parents were wearing safety restraints. That said, the police have said they have “no reason” to believe it was an intentional act.
However, according to CBS News, “Neighbors said they saw signs that caused them to worry about how the homeschooled children were being cared for.” Reportedly, next-door neighbors, Bruce and Dana DeKalb, called child protective services after Devonte came to their house asking for food. Dana Dekalb said “the boy told her his parents ‘weren’t feeding them’ and were ‘punishing them by withholding food.’ He came over almost every day for a week, and asked her to leave food in a box by the fence for him, she said.”
Washington state child protective services opened an investigation this past Friday and tried to reach the family three times. Allegedly, the family was already on the road. The family reportedly had no prior history with the state Department of Social and Health Services. But the DeKalbs also claimed in May 2017, “one of the girls rang their doorbell at 1:30 a.m. She ‘was at our door in a blanket saying we needed to protect her,’ Bruce DeKalb said. ‘She said that they were abusing her.'” CBS News also reports, “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.”
Our condolences go out to everyone affected by this tragedy. See a picture of the family below.