Family killed after refusing to marry minor daughter to married man

The Hart family appears in this undated

Authorities in Oregon, Washington and Minnesota all received reports of child welfare concerns involving the Hart family prior to the family's fatal crash on the California coast, records and interviews show.

Baarts said the speedometer in the vehicle was "pinned" at 90 miles per hour when they recovered it at the bottom of the cliff near Mendocino, California.

Data taken from software inside the 2003 GMC Yukon XL showed that the vehicle stopped at the highway pullout on March 26 - before accelerating straight off the cliff, California Highway Patrol Captain Greg Baarts said Sunday. The bodies of the parents, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, were found inside the auto, and the bodies of three of their children were outside the vehicle. Days before the wreckage was found, social services workers in Washington responded to a complaint from one of the family's neighbors, who said one of the Hart children told them his parents were withholding food as punishment.

The SUV was removed last week, and CHP officials told KGW that investigators would look at the amount of strain on the seatbelts and other factors that could reveal more information about the crash.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services said Child Protective Services opened an investigation into the Hart family on March 23 after the children were identified as potential victims of neglect and abuse.

Bruce and Dana DeKalb, next-door neighbors of the Harts, said they called child protective services because 15-year-old Devonte had been coming over to their house nearly every day for a week, asking for food.

Acting Chief Baarts said one of the children was found in the water and the other two on the rocks at the base of the cliff.

"I was at work at the Navua Hospital and one of the patients told me that the Navua River was drastically rising so I called home to check if they were OK", she said.


Another neighbor Priscilla Hansen said, "I think it's a disgusting tragedy to hear and my thought is why adopt six kids and treat them like that".

"They transformed these kids' lives", he said.

They rushed to the house to find 7-year-old Jermon Perry lying semi-conscious with a gunshot wound to the head, KDSK reported.

Dekalb said there were signs of trouble, prompting her to call child protective services. "Both of her teeth were missing, front teeth, and we questioned [the mothers], "What's up with the teeth thing" and they said, 'She didn't want them replaced.' We thought that was a little weird".

Authorities in Washington state searched the family's home Thursday.

"The most-likely cause for that reading is the shock from the impact", Baarts said.

His adoptive sisters - 16-year-old Hannah Hart and 12-year-old Sierra Hart - were also missing after the family's vehicle plummeted off a cliff near Mendocino on March 26.

Family friend Max Ribner last week took issue with the notion it was something other than a tragic accident. When he did, they killed him and dumped his body in the forest, Alam said.

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