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BREAKING: Body found near site of suspected Hart family murder-suicide

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.

READ More: Boy in viral photo hugging police officer feared dead in mysterious SUV plunge over coastal highway cliff

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.

Additional Reading: 

Authorities have not released the remains of Hart family members killed in SUV plunge to relatives; missing Sierra Hart’s age may have been miscalculated: Police

Devonte Hart’s mothers were not wearing seatbelts when SUV went over cliff; police ‘don’t know’ if missing children were in the car

‘Tribe’ of Devonte Hart family friends continues to defend mothers amid evidence of abuse, murder-suicide

Devonte Hart’s sister Hannah claimed mother hit her with belt in 2008; parents pulled kids out of public school after abuse conviction

BREAKING: Police release surveillance image, travel route of Devonte Hart family before fatal SUV plunge

Police say Devonte Hart, missing sisters ‘possibly’ still alive; mother spotted on surveillance footage day before fatal SUV plunge

BREAKING: ‘Unknown’ if Devonte Hart and sisters went on family trip before fatal plunge; police did not know about missing children until day after SUV was found

[Featured Image: The Hart Family/Tristan Fortsch–KATU News via AP, File]