Devonte Hart is the 15-year-old boy who is known for a viral photo in which he is hugging a police officer in November 2014. Since March 26, he has been missing after an SUV he and his family were in went off a cliff near in Northern California.
The deceased include adoptive 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.
There have been many questions surrounding the death of the family and the missing children. For example, there were no skid marks before the car fell into the Pacific Ocean, the children were not wearing seat belts (the parents were) and there were no witnesses, according to The Oregonian. Police originally said they had “no reason” to believe the crash was intentional. Now, the police have changed their story.
According to KGW8, the authorities now believe the crash was “intentional.” Greg Baarts, acting assistant chief for California Highway Patrol’s northern division, said, “We do have reason to believe, however, that the crash was intentional.” In addition, preliminary reports said the car was speeding at 90 mph, Baarts stated,, “While it has been documented that the car was traveling at 90 mph upon impact, it is not conclusive whatsoever.”
The Hart family’s home has been searched, “but Baart said CHP cannot confirm at this time that a suicide note was retrieved from the home.” They also believed the three children who are missing, including 15-year-old Devonte, were more than likely thrown from the car and into the ocean. They are still searching for their bodies.
From the beginning, there were too many signs that the crash was intentional. CBS News reported the Harts were abusive parents with neighbors claiming Devonte came to their house and said his parents were punishing them by withholding food. He 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.'” CBS News alleged 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. Watch the clip below of the neighbors talking about the parents.
Below is the famous photo of Devonte Hart.
Our condolences go out to everyone affected by this tragedy. We hope Devonte and his siblings are found.