On March 26, 2018, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 39, drove their SUV off a cliff in Northern California. In the car were six of their adopted children, Markis Hart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; Abigail Hart, 14; Hannah Hart; 12-year-old Sierra Hart and 15-year-old Devonte Hart, who is known for a viral photo in which he is hugging a police officer during the Ferguson protests. Devonte’s body was never found.
According to People, Mendocino County Sheriff-Coroner Tom Allman said on March 15 “a superior court judge determined Devonte was in the vehicle at the time of the crash. The judge’s ruling will allow Allman to sign the teen’s death certificate after the county coroner’s inquest is presented April 3.”
This was a tragedy that could have been avoided. There were countless reports of abuse, which dated back to 2008, and despite 911 calls by neighbors, no one at Child Protective Services took enough action to save the lives of children who were crying out for help. The children were reportedly starved and beaten.
In one report, Hannah appeared to be fighting for her and her siblings’ lives. The Oregonian wrote, “Hannah jumped from her second-story window at 1:30 a.m. last year, rang her doorbell and ran into her house. Hannah was covered in weeds and blackberries.” Hannah told her neighbors, the DeKalbs, her parents were racist and had been abusing her. The newspaper reports, “All eight of the Harts came over the next morning. Jennifer Hart said Hannah had two missing teeth after falling and knocking them out and that Hannah didn’t want new ones.”
Sadly, Devonte Hart was reportedly afraid of what might happen to his brothers and sisters. “He was apparently concerned about law enforcement getting involved and didn’t want he and his siblings to be split up,” according to the Oregonian. “DeKalb asked why the children weren’t ever outside, and Devonte said his parents wanted to keep their children hidden.”
The family lived in Woodland, Washington, near Portland, Oregon, and were reportedly on a road trip, though Child Protective Services had been trying to contact them for days. Reportedly, Jennifer Hart was drunk at the time of the crash. In addition, two of the children were drugged with “a significant amount” of diphenhydramine, which is an ingredient found in Benadryl, according to the Associated Press. Sarah Hart reportedly also had diphenhydramine in her system. Authorities believe the two women purposely killed themselves and the children.
Their biological mother Sherry Davis, 48, lost custody of her three children, Devonte, Jeremiah and Sierra, because of her addiction to cocaine in 2006. Texas’ Department of Family and Protective Services temporarily placed the children with their aunt, Priscilla Celestine. However, they were taken away from the aunt in December 2006 — even though she had no criminal record, a steady job at a hospital, had raised her own daughter and moved to a bigger house to accommodate the children. Nonetheless, the aunt lost custody because she let the children see their biological mother, which was against court orders (Celestine was called in for work at the last minute and she let the children stay with their mother for a few hours). The kids were soon placed in the hands of their adoptive parents who abused and eventually killed them.
Below is the famous photo of Devonte Hart in Ferguson, Missouri.
Rest in peace to all of the Hart children.