The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office announced Saturday that a body has been discovered near the site where an SUV containing members of the Hart family drove off a cliff and into the Pacific Ocean late last month.
In a statement, Lieutenant Shannon Barney said that California Highway Patrol was alerted at 1:58 p.m. to a body located in the surf of the Pacific Ocean at Juan Creek and Highway 1 in Westport.
A couple vacationing along the coast reportedly spotted a body floating in the water. A third bystander is said to have retrieved the body and brought it to the beach where the Westport Fire Department ultimately recovered it. The fire department canvassed the area an hour earlier but hadn’t located the body, Barney said.
While an autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, police revealed that the body is that of an African-American female.
“The Sheriff’s Office is investigating the possibility that the body may be one of the two missing Hart girls but identification will most likely be done through DNA analysis, a process that can take several weeks,” Barney said, adding that there’s no indication that any other missing Hart children are located nearby.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, an SUV containing at least five people drove off a cliff and into the Pacific Ocean on March 26. Though authorities have recovered the bodies of adoptive mothers Sarah and Jennifer Hart, and three of their adoptive children, Markis Hart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; and Abigail Hart, 14, their three other adoptive children—Devonte Hart, 15; Sierra Hart, 15; and Hannah Hart; 16—have yet to be located.
Right now, police are treating their deaths as a murder-suicide as they believe Jennifer drove off the cliff intentionally.
This is a developing story. Be sure to check back with CrimeOnline for updates as they become available.
[Featured Image: The Hart Family/Tristan Fortsch–KATU News via AP, File]