SUV data shows deadly California wreck may have been intentional

Frederick Owens
April 3, 2018

California investigators have said a vehicle that plunged off a roadside cliff, killing a family of eight, may have been done deliberately.

California Highway Patrol officials say preliminary evidence shows the crash may have been intentional. Three of their six children - Markis, 19; Abigail, 14; and Jeremiah, 14 - were also found dead at the site.

The three other children Devonte, 15, Hannah, 16, and Sierra, 12 are presumed to have been in the auto, but have not been recovered.

Five members of the Hart family were found dead.

Police said that preliminary information suggested the auto may have been intentionally driven straight off the edge of the cliff.

In interviews with friends and relatives, "there have been red flags", the investigator said.

He said that it was "pure acceleration all the way".

There was no evidence to suggest the vehicle had been driving at an angle when it left the road, he said.

A CHP spokesman said during a conference call with reporters that the SUV's on-board computer indicated that the vehicle stopped and then accelerated over the cliff, a distance of about 70 feet. That alone can not be used to determine how fast the vehicle was going.

"While it has been documented that the vehicle was traveling at 90 miles per hour upon impact, it is not conclusive whatsoever", Greg Baarts, the acting assistant chief for the Northern Division of the CHP, told the station. Baarts said that as far as he knew, investigators had not found a suicide note.

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The Associated Press reports that Washington state authorities searched the Harts' home for information, but nothing shed light on the reason for family trip. Three children were confirmed to have died in the crash.

One person in their neighborhood told KWG8 that Devonte said his mothers didn't feed them and withheld food as punishment.

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

Devonte, who is black, earned national attention when a photo of him at age 12 went viral. Devonte had been holding a sign offering "Free Hugs".

Dana Dekalb, the couple's neighbor, said she called Child Protective Services shortly before the family's crash because she suspected Jennifer and Sara Hart of neglect and mistreatment.

The sheriff's office said the family may not have meant to stay away from home for long that day because many of their belongings, including a pet and some chickens, were still at their home.

But days before the wreck was discovered, neighbours called Washington state child-welfare authorities to say one of the youngsters had been coming to their house nearly daily asking for something to eat and complaining that his parents were withholding food as punishment. He said the Harts were a wholesome, loving family who overcame a lot of adversity.

Well before the wreck, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty in 2011 to a domestic assault charge in Douglas County, Minnesota, telling authorities "she let her anger get out of control" while spanking her six-year-old adoptive daughter, court records show.

Family friend Max Ribner took issue with the notion it was something other than a awful accident.

"Jen and Sarah really were the kind of parents that I think the world desperately needs", friend Zippy Lomax told KOIN.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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