A tragic end to a horrific story. 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.
The death of the children have been ruled a murder. Jennifer and Sarah Hart have been ruled a murder-suicide.
The New York Times reports, a “special jury in California ruled on Thursday that two women killed themselves and their six adopted children in a murder-suicide in March 2018, officially determining the cause of the family’s fatal plunge over a 100-foot cliff.”
The site also reports, “Investigators found Sarah Hart had recently performed internet searches about suicide, Benadryl dosages and whether drowning was painful… Sarah Hart had 42 doses of generic Benadryl in her system, an investigator testified, while Jennifer Hart, the driver, had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.102 percent when she drove the car off the cliff. In California, it is illegal for drivers to have a level of 0.08 percent or higher.”
Jake Slates, a California Highway Patrol investigator, told The Associated Press, “They both decided that this was going to be the end. That if they can’t have their kids that nobody was going to have those kids.”
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.”
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.
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.