The investigation into the car crash that killed at least five members of a family of eight found that the SUV’s speedometer was ‘pinned’ at 90 MPH when it was recovered in the Pacific Ocean after the vehicle went over a cliff. Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, and three of their adopted children, were all found dead in or near the car.
KPTV obtained court documents connected to the California Highway Patrol’s investigation of last week’s fatal SUV plunge into the Pacific Ocean in Mendocino County, California.
“Based upon the California Highway Patrol investigation, it is their belief ‘a felony has been committed,’” the court documents state. The SUV’s speedometer placement indicates the vehicle was in motion when it went over a cliff. According to the report, the documents to not state that the finding means conclusively that the SUV was traveling at that rate of speed when it plunged into the ocean.
The documents confirm earlier reports that no skid or brake marks were found at the site, and also state there were no acceleration marks. The report does not indicate what type of felony is believed to have been committed.
The news station also obtained an affidavit for a search warrant that was served at the Hart family home in Woodland, Washington on Thursday. Investigators were reportedly seeking cell phone, banking, and credit card records; any travel itineraries; and possible suicide notes.
Police have not revealed what was found in the home.
All six of Jennifer and Sarah Hart’s adopted children are black; the married adoptive mothers are white. Devonte, Sierra, and Hannah Hart are still missing and feared dead, as authorities believe that all six Hart children were in the SUV when it plunged into the ocean.
In 2014, when Devonte Hart was 12, he was photographed hugging a police officer at a Portland demonstration to support the police brutality protests in Ferguson, Missouri; in response to the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. In the photograph, Devonte is crying in the officer’s arms, and had been carrying a sign offering “Free Hugs.” The image went viral and reportedly brought unwanted media attention to the family.
For some, the tearful image of the little boy in the viral photo has taken on a different character amid reports from current and former neighbors who suspect the children were neglected and abused. Just before the Harts left their Washington state home last weekend, Devonte reportedly went to a neighbor’s house several times asking for food for himself and his siblings, claiming that his parents weren’t feeding them.
[Feature image: Portland police officer and Devonte Hart/Associated Press]