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Body of Missing Child Found Three Weeks After Mother Drove Family Off Cliff

These Poor Kids

Authorities identified a body found in the ocean as one of the children missing since one of their mothers drove the family SUV over a cliff in California in March. 

The search has been on for three missing children since Jennifer Hart, one of theit mothers, drove her wife and their adopted children over a cliff into the Pacific Ocean in Mendocino County, Calif., in late March. Now authorities have identified a body found floating near the crash site as 12-year-old Ciera Hart, one of the family's missing kids, The Washington Post reports.

At the time of the crash, the bodies of Jennifer Hart and Sarah Hart, both 38, and their adopted kids -- Martin, 19, Abigail, 14, and Jeremiah, 14 -- were found near the car that plunged 100 feet off the cliff. Authorities were uncertain if their other three,children, Ciera, 14-year-old Hannah, and 15-year-old Devonte Hart -- who became an Internet sensation a few years ago when a photo went viral of him hugging a policeman at a protest against police violence in Portland, Ore. -- were even with the family at the time of the crash. Now, given the discovery of Ciera's body, Devonte and Hannah are feared dead, according to the Post.

Last week a toxicology report confirmed that Jennifer Hart had a blood alcohol level of 0.102 while California's legal limit is .08. Meanwhile, toxicology results for Sarah Hart and two of the children found a "significant amount" of an allergy drug often found in Benadryl in their systems.

In the weeks since the crash, the mothers' troubling history of serial child abuse has come to light.

The Hart family had most recently been living in Woodland, Wash., and kept mostly to themselves, including home-schooling all of their kids, a former neighbor, Bill Groener, told the Associated Press. They were presumed to be taking a road trip to Northern California at the time of the crash.

Neighbors of the family, Dana and Bruce DeKalb, called Child Protective Services after one of the children complained that he was not being fed as a form of punishment, the said. The DeKalbs said that the Harts refused to open the door for CPS and left in the family SUV the following morning.

The Washington State Department of Health and Human Services confirmed CPS had identified the Hart children as "potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect."

In 2010, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota for spanking Abigail over a tub, which left visible bruising on the child's stomach and back. Sarah Hart was charged with misdemeanor domestic assault and malicious punishment, but because she pleaded guilty to the assault charge, the punishment charge was thrown out. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail but was not forced to serve time as long as she obeyed the terms of her probation.

However, Abigail told police that it was Jennifer Hart and not Sarah who hit her with closed fists, held her head under cold water, and starved her in order to force her to behave, according to The Oregonian.

But the abuse didn't begin there. The first known incident dates back to 2008, when 6-year-old Hannah told authorities that a bruise on her arm was the result of Jennifer Hart beating her with a belt. Jennifer and Sarah allowed to adopt three more children after that initial abuse allegation, according to The Oregonian.

The Harts moved from state to state and pulled the kids from public school in the wake of various abuse allegations over the years.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist