Devonte Hart is the 15-year-old boy who is known for a viral photo in which he is hugging a police officer on November 25, 2014. He has been missing after an SUV he and his family were in went off a cliff near Mendocino in Northern California on March 26. According to ABC News, authorities believe he was thrown out of the car.
The deceased include parents Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 39, and their adopted children: Markis Hart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; and Abigail Hart, 14. Their three other adopted children are missing, 16-year-old Hannah Hart, 12-year-old Sierra Hart and Devonte. The family lived in Woodland, Washington, near Portland, Oregon, and were reportedly on a road trip.
See the famous photo of Devonte below.
There are many questions surrounding the death of the family and the missing children. There were no skid marks before the car fell 75 feet into the Pacific Ocean, the children were not wearing seat belts (the parents were) and there were no witnesses, according to The Oregonian. However, police said they have “no reason” to believe the crash was an intentional act.
CBS News reported neighbors saw signs of abuse. Devonte came to their house asking for food, saying his parents were punishing them by withholding food. Devonte even asked the neighbors to leave food in a box by the fence for him. The neighbors 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.'” There is also a history of abuse from one of the parents. CBS News also claims 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.”
After the neighbors complained, Washington state child protective services opened an investigation on March 23 and reportedly tried to reach the family three times, but they were already on the road. Now, a strange video has resurfaced on social media of Devonte in 2013 at the “Beloved Festival: Sacred Art, Music & Yoga,” which is described as “finding connection, healing, and integration in the forest.” Devonte is an animal costume and holding on to Australian singer-songwriter Xavier Rudd. Watch below, Devonte appears around the eight-minute mark.
Considering the history of abuse, the video is disturbing. His mother appears to have commented on the video, “I just wanted to take a moment to personally thank you for capturing the video of my son, Devonte, with Xavier at Beloved. I was shooting still photos, so I was hoping that a quality video would arise at some point. This moment is forever etched on our hearts, and most likely anyone who was there to witness this raw human love. Devonte was wearing his ‘Free Hugs’ sign that he travels the country with. He’s hugged thousands, sharing his love for all. There is a long story behind the emotion and why this moment was so special for Devonte. Thank you for enabling everyone to live this moment again through your video.”
Watch the clip below of the neighbors talking about the lie the parents were living.
Our condolences go out to everyone affected by this tragedy. We hope Devonte and his siblings are found.