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Lesbian Foster Mom Googled Drowning, Death Before SUV Drove Off Cliff

Jennifer and Sarah Hart

An inquest into the deaths of lesbian foster moms Jennifer and Sarah Hart and their six foster kids concluded the women intentionally drove off of a cliff. 

The fatal car crash in which a lesbian couple, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, and their six children and dogs died when the family SUV careened off of a cliff into the Pacific Ocean in Mendocino County, Calif., last year, was ruled a murder-suicide Thursday, according to The Oregonian.

Following a two-day coroner's inquest, it took 57 minutes for jurors to reach their verdict that the women planned to die by suicide and kill their family. Key evidence that convinced jurors the women had planned the crash came from the car's GPS and "black-box" style computer, which showed that Jennifer Hart drove straight toward the cliff.

Other damning evidence came from Sarah Hart's phone, which revealed gruesome searches including "How long does it take to die from hypothermia while drowning in a car?" and "Is death by drowning relatively painless?"

The crash occurred in March 2018 after the mothers took their children and fled their Woodland, Wash., home following a visit from Child Protective Services responding to a report from neighbors that they were neglecting and abusing their foster kids.

Among those immediately identified in the crash were the mothers of the family, Jennifer Hart and Sarah Margaret Hart, both 38, and their foster children -- Martin, 19, Abigail, 14, and Jeremiah, 14. It was determined that Jennifer had a blood alcohol level of .102, while her wife and the three kids found at the time had been dosed diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl. The body of 12-year-old Sierra Hart was found about a week after the crash. And remains determined to be those of Hannah Hart, 16, were identified by a DNA test this January. Only the body of 15-year-old Devonte Hart -- known to some because of a viral photo showing him crying into the arms of a police officer during a Portland Ore., protest -- remains missing.

One of the men on the jury, made up of eight women and two men, Tony Howard, told TheOregonian that it was not difficult to arrive at a unanimous conclusion. But of hearing the testimony in the inquest he said, "It's kind of hard on the whole group."

The Harts left their home after their neighbors, Dana and Bruce DeKalb called CPS. They said Devonte had repeatedly confided in them that he was being starved as a form of punishment. The DeKalbs said the Harts refused to open the door for CPS and left in the SUV the following morning.

Following the crash, Jennifer and Sarah Hart's long histories of abuse became a focal point of the story.

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

Sarah pleaded guilty in 2011 to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota for spanking one of her daughters over a tub, which left visible bruising on the child's stomach and back.

"The defendant admitted she let her anger get out of control," the detective in the case wrote, according to the station.

Sarah 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.

If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.

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