UPDATE: 5:16 pm. ET
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s office has provided a statement to CrimeOnline on the latest development:
“We have been contacted by a lady who has indicated she is the biological mother and is willing to cooperate,” Mendocino County Sheriff Lt. Shannon Barney said.
“We have not yet obtained a sample and are working to see if a law enforcement agency where they live might be willing to assist with the sample collection. We are not releasing her name nor where she lives.”
A woman who says she is missing Hannah Hart’s biological mother has come forward to police, and offered to cooperate with the investigation.
According to a report in KOIN, the woman is among multiple people who have come forward to say they are biological relatives of Hannah, Markis, and Abigail Hart; three of the six adopted children of Sarah and Jennifer Hart, who died with four of those children in March in an apparent murder suicide. Markis, Abigail, Ciera, and Jeremiah Hart were found death with their adoptive mothers and the family car on the edge of a cliff along the Pacific Coast Highway in Northern California.
Hannah, 16, and her adoptive brother Devonte, 15, remain missing. In May, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s office announced that skeletal remains inside of a shoe along with what appeared to be girl’s clothing were found about a mile from the crash site. A woman walking her dog first saw the clothing items, and gave them to a friend of the Harts who she knew to be in the area searching for clues. That person reportedly found the remains inside of the shoe and handed the evidence to authorities.
A DNA analysis of the remains were inconclusive in determining if they belonged to Hannah. For months, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s office has been seeking biological relatives of Hannah and her siblings with the hope of obtaining additional DNA samples to aid in the identification.
The Hart children were adopted in two separate sibling groups from Texas, which requires a court order to unseal vital records connected to the adoptions. The biological mother of Ciera, Jeremiah, and missing Devonte Hart was located in the spring and gave an interview to the Oregonian, saying that she had hoped to one day regain custody of her children, and expressed her heartbreak that they had been taken from her and given to “monsters.”
Allegations of abuse and neglect — and one misdemeanor plea — followed Sarah and Jennifer Hart through three states in the last five years of their lives, when their children were homeschooled. But when CPS visited the family at their Woodland, Washington, in late March after a neighbor called to report that Devonte Hart had been coming to their home and begging for food, no one was home. The family was already on the road, and appears to have made a hasty exist. Days later, six of the Harts were found dead.
Mendocino County Sheriff Lt. Shannon Barney told KOIN news that they are working to confirm the identities and the relationships of the people who have come forward. He said that the possible relatives are willing to cooperate with the investigation, and that his office is working with local authorities to obtain DNA samples.
“They do seem willing to cooperate – they have offered to assist in any way they can,” Barney told KOIN.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s office has not yet responded to a request for additional information
[Feature image: Alameda County Sheriff’s Office via AP]