Investigators Now Believe Family’s Fatal Cliff Car Crash Was Intentional

Authorities found the bodies of a Washington family, Jennifer and Sarah Hart and three of their six kids (Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14 and Abigail, 14), on March 26. Their SUV went off a 100-foot cliff on the Mendocino coast of California. Yesterday, police released a statement saying they have “reason to believe” the crash was “intentional.” This information comes after police reviewed preliminary data from the vehicle and its black box.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) said the family’s on-board computer indicated the vehicle had stopped at a pullout roughly 70 feet from the road, approximately five feet from the shoulder’s edge, before plummeting over the cliff. The CHP confirmed the Hart family’s SUV speedometer was pinned at 90 mph, but said that finding is inconclusive.

The CHP said in their Monday statement:

A statement regarding the speedometer reading of 90 mph prior to the collision does not mean the vehicle was traveling at 90 mph. The speedometer reading could have been affected by the impact, affected by an electrical charge, or could have been unintentionally manipulated during recovery efforts.

As Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman described it:

It was a very confusing scene because there were no skid marks, there were no brake marks. There was no indication of why this vehicle traversed approximately over 75 feet of a dirt pullout and went into the Pacific Ocean.

The bodies of the parents were inside the car, while the bodies of their three children were outside the vehicle. The children appeared not to have been wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash. The couple’s three other children (Sierra, 12, Devonte, 15, and Hannah, 15) have not yet been found but police believe they were in the vehicle at the time of the crash.

The public interest in this case has gone well beyond the tragedy of a family whose lives were lost in a devastating crash and the questions that remain about the Harts’ care of their six adopted children. It has brought up memories of Devonte Hart, who is still missing. Devonte was the subject of a photograph that went viral in 2014, an image of a young black boy hugging a Portland police officer during protests of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The photo was both moving and controversial, and many cannot believe this is what became of Devonte and his family.

While many questions remain unanswered and three children are still missing, one thing has become clear: there were warning signs that something was not right in the Hart home, and there may have been missed opportunities to intervene on behalf of the children.

H/T: Huffington Post, Twitter