The family killed in a fatal SUV plunge off the Pacific Coast Highway last week was visited by police in response to a Department of Human Services inquiry in Oregon, a year before Devonte Hart was photographed in a tearful embrace with a Portland police officer at an anti-police brutality demonstration in 2014.
Sarah and Jennifer Hart and three of their adopted children were found dead in or near the SUV, which went over a cliff into the Pacific Ocean. Devonte, Sierra, and Hannah Hart are still missing but presumed dead, as authorities have said they believe all six children were in the vehicle.
CrimeOnline contacted the West Linn police department in reference to a report in The Oregonian that police had visited the Hart’s home in July 2013. In response to a public records request for the police report, the department said that the police had responded to an Oregon Department of Human Services referral on July 18, 2013, and directed us to the DHS for records. Christine Stone, Oregon DHS’s Communications Officer, declined to provide any records or further information, citing state confidentiality laws.
It now appears that social services agencies fielded reports about the Hart family in the last three states where they lived. As CrimeOnline previously reported, Washington State DHS confirmed to The Oregonian that the agency opened a Child Protective Services investigation on March 23. A CPS worker visited the home on the same day in response to a call from the Hart’s neighbors, who said that Devonte Hart had been to their home several times asking for food, claiming that he and his siblings were not being fed.
In 2010, Abigail Hart told police and social workers in that her parents had hit her and denied her food as punishment. Abigail was six years old at the time, and the family was living in Alexandria, Minnesota. Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic abuse, even though Abigail reportedly said it was Jennifer Hart who had hurt her. Sarah was given a 90-day suspended sentence and one year of probation.
On Sunday, California Highway Patrol Acting Assistant Chief Greg Baart told reporters that the fatal SUV crash appeared to have been intentional, and that a felony had likely been committed. He did not specify the type of felony or who is suspected of committing it.
[Feature image: The Hart Family/Thomas Boyd for The Oregonian via Associated Press]