Hart family not wearing seatbelts when car plunged, report police
Jennifer and Sarah Hart, alongside children Markis, 19, Jeremiah and Abigail, both 14, died when their car plummeted 100ft onto rocks from the Pacific Coast Highway in California in March.
Three of the couple’s six children Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15, and 15-year-old Sierra, are still missing.
“Information released … by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office incorrectly stated that Jennifer Hart and Sarah Hart were wearing a seat-belt during the incident,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release, reports The Oregonian.
“Investigators from the California Highway Patrol … determined Jennifer Hart and Sarah Hart were not wearing seat-belts during the incident.”
The report also confirmed that the children in the car were not wearing seatbelts.
“I’m to the point where I’m no longer calling this an accident, I’m calling it a crime,” Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman told HLN.
A mobile phone has also been found near the site, which the police hope to use to build a picture of the family’s last moments.
Deliberations over whether the crash was accidental and the potential motives of the couple have varied dramatically.
At one point, it was believed that the family were trying to escape their home after the Ku Klux Klan a burning cross in the family’s front yard.
The Hart children were “identified as potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect” after neighbours reported the parents.
One evening, the children were said to have shown up on a neighbour’s doorstep and complained they were hungry because their parents had withheld food from them as punishment.
Sarah Hart had previously been convicted of a domestic abuse charge against her daughter Abigail.
She pleaded guilty to abusing the fourteen-year-old and was sentenced to a year of probation for misdemeanor domestic assault, court records have shown.
After the verdict, the children were removed from school and educated at home.
“If this was an intentional act, I truly believe we are going to come to that conclusion,” said Sheriff Allman.