A fatal crash in Mendocino County, Calif., left five members of a family of eight headed by lesbian moms dead, when the family SUV veered off of a cliff on the Pacific Coast Highway and into the ocean more than 100 feet below.
Three of the children — including 15-year-old Devonte Hart, whose photo crying into the arms of a police officer during a Portland Ore., protest of the police shooting of Michael Brown went viral — are still missing, according to The Washington Post.
BREAKING: The women killed in this crash are reportedly the parents of Devonte Hart, the boy photographed hugging a Portland police officer in 2014 that went viral. Unclear whether Devonte is one of the children killed or missing https://t.co/7hq2brU0zv pic.twitter.com/5Cqi2SmVDg
— Shane D. Kavanaugh (@shanedkavanaugh) March 28, 2018
Among those who died in the crash are the mothers of the family, Jennifer Jean Hart and Sarah Margaret Hart, both 38, and their foster children — Martin, 19, Abigail, 14, and Jeremiah, 14. The three children who were killed were not wearing seatbelts and were found outside of the vehicle, while the mothers were wearing safety restraints and found in the car, which had landed on its roof, according to the Post.
Devonte, Hannah, 16, and Sierra, 12, who were also in the vehicle, have yet to be found and there is an ocean search effort underway. There are some reports that the three missing children may be staying with friends in Portland, according to local NBC affiliate KGW.
Speaking at a press conference about the accident on Wednesday, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman called the scene “confusing” and said there is a lot they do not know.
“There were no skid marks. There were no brake marks,” Allman said. “There was no indication of why this vehicle traversed approximately over 75 feet off a dirt pullout and went into the Pacific Ocean.”
The Hart family had most recently been living in Woodland, Wash., and kept mostly to themselves, including home-schooling all of their foster 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, recently called Child Protective Services after they said one of the children complained that he was not being fed as a form of punishment. The DeKalbs said that the Harts refused to open the door for CPS and left in the SUV the following morning.
The Washington State Department of Health and Human Services confirmed with KGW that CPS had identified the Hart children as "potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect."
In 2011 Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota in 2011 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 local news affiliate.
Hart was charged with misdemeanor domestic assault and malicious punishment, but by pleading 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.