Hart family crash: Remains found on nearby beach identified as daughter Hannah

A small vase of flowers sits beside a mile marker on March 28, 2018, near the pullout where the SUV of Jennifer and Sarah Hart was recovered off Highway 1 near Westport, Calif.
(Alvin Jornada / AP)

Human remains found on a Northern California beach belong to one of the six adopted children killed along with their parents when their mother intentionally drove their SUV off a cliff, authorities said Wednesday.

The remains of Hannah Hart, 16, were found shortly after the March 26 crash, but the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department had trouble identifying them until her biological mother called from Mobile, Ala. in October. She was responding to a request from investigators for family members to come forward and help with the identification process.

The woman’s DNA sample matched the teen’s remains, the Sheriff’s Department said.

All six children are believed to have died in the crash, though the remains of 15-year-old Devonte Hart still have not been found.

Devonte, who was black, had drawn national attention in 2014 after he was photographed in tears while hugging a white police officer at a protest.


The Sheriff’s Department said Jennifer Hart, 38, was drunk when she intentionally drove the vehicle off a cliff into the ocean about 155 miles north of San Francisco. Investigators are still trying to determine a motive.

Toxicology results showed that Hart’s wife, Sarah Hart, 38, and several of the children ages 12 through 19 had large amounts of a drug that can cause drowsiness in their systems.

The crash occurred just days after authorities in Washington state had opened an investigation into allegations that the children were being neglected.

A neighbor of the Harts in Woodland, Wash., had filed a complaint with the state, saying it appeared that the children had been deprived of food as punishment.

Three days later, their SUV was found partially submerged in the ocean below a rugged cliff.

Sarah Hart had pleaded guilty in 2011 to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota over what she said was a spanking given to one of her children. Child-welfare officials in Oregon — where the family lived before moving to Washington — also investigated the couple in 2013, but closed the case without taking any action.