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Home / US / Devonte Hart and family, dreaded dead after SUV crashed off the cliff, had disrupted home life, neighbors say

Devonte Hart and family, dreaded dead after SUV crashed off the cliff, had disrupted home life, neighbors say

WOODLAND, Washington – What happened to the Hart family is almost unimaginable: their SUV crashed off a cliff on the Pacific Coast Highway and crashed 100 feet down the rocky shoreline.

Some things are safe, according to authorities. The couple Jennifer Jean Hart and Sarah Margaret Hart, both 38, were killed. So were three of her six adopted children: Martin, 19; Abigail, 14; and Jeremiah, 14.

But much more remains unknown, including the fortunes of the three other Harts children – Hannah, 16; Devonte, 15; and Sierra, 12, who are fearing. The authorities say they have "all the evidence to believe" that all six children in the 2003 GMC Yukon family were driving away from an ocean near Mendocino, California, about 1

50 miles north of San Francisco ,

The family that last lived in Woodland, Washington, has been catching the world's attention for a long time before their SUV crashed off the cliff. Devonte became famous in 2014 when he was photographed in the arms of a white policeman in Portland, Oregon, sobbing, where people had gathered to support the protests in Ferguson, Mo.

The deaths have raised the family of eight, allegations of a troubled home life. The family's neighbors say that Devonte repeatedly knocked on her door and asked for food. They called child protection services to report the harts on Friday just before the couple packed their kids in the SUV and headed to California.

Jennifer Hart was at the wheel of the SUV as it crashed off the cliff, the Oregonian reported Thursday.

The friends of the Harts have defended the family. Samantha Sinclair, a Portland trauma nurse who has known the family since 2014, described her home as one of joy, filled with books, music and healthy food.

"Your story is not about abuse," she said. "It's a story of triumph and love."

The Harts home in Woodland, a 6,000-plus city that serves as the gateway to the National Volcano Monument of Mount St. Helen, tucked away in the woods is Interstate 5 just a few miles away. A long gravel driveway leads to the gray, two-story house that the Harts bought last May.

Sgt. Brent Waddell told the Associated Press that the family had probably planned a short trip leaving behind a pet, chickens and most of their belongings. He also said that the family was recently visited by Child Protective Services, although sheriff's officials found no signs of anger or violence during their visit.

The visit is part of a disturbing tale of what happened in Hart's house. Court documents show that in 2011, when Sarah Hart lived in Minnesota, she was convicted of domestic violence. In Woodland, some neighbors of Harts worried about the well-being of the children.

A truck drives past the exit, where the SUV was salvaged by Jennifer and Sarah Hart off the Pacific Coast Highway in California. (Alvin Jornada / Press Democrat / AP)

Bruce DeKalb recalled how one night, about three or four months after the Harts moved into the house next door, Hannah Hart knocked on his door. She was "weed-covered" after jumping out of the family's second-floor window and running through the forest to reach DeKalb's house, he said. She ran up DeKalb's stairs, found the bedroom, and woke DeKalb's wife Dana.

"This kid completely lost his mind, just rattling to the bone," Bruce DeKalb told The Washington Post. "You can not pretend."

Sarah and Jennifer Hart and the rest of their children hurried to DeKalb's house to find Hannah. They found her upstairs, crouching between the bed and the dresser. After talking to Hannah, Jennifer Hart came down and apologized to the DeKalbs.

The family came back the next day with a letter of apology and the parents introduced each of the children to their neighbors. DeKalb said he learned Hannah, whom he thought was about 7 years old, actually a teenager. She had missed her front teeth.

"They had a story about her knocking her out and saying she did not want to fix her," DeKalb said.

Sarah and Jennifer Hart told the couple that their children were not being abused, and said that Hannah had a rough week because her cat had just died.

The DeKalbs said they were trying to overlook the incident, although they considered calling child protection services.

Then on March 15th Devonte He came to her house and asked for food. He claimed his parents would not feed him, DeKalb said. The DeKalbs gave him some tortillas and peanut butter and he went home. The 15-year-old returned again and again and last Thursday he stopped three times, including at 11:30. He asked for six packets of tortillas and peanut butter, some salted meat and apples, DeKalb said.

Devonte also asked the couple if they had called CPS, DeKalb said.

He said they called the agency on Friday and saw a CPS employee knock on the front door of the Harts and then left after a minute. When the CPS employee returned on Monday the Harts were gone, DeKalb said. The Harts had plunged into their SUV and had gone somewhere between Friday night and Saturday morning.

Child Protective Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"When children are in the middle of the night, I can not help thinking that something is wrong," said DeKalb.

Harts' friends say Sarah and Jennifer Hart were just supportive and nurturing for their children.

Jen and Sarah provided a hilarious, happy life for these children, "said Sinclair," They gave me hope for the future. "

Zippy Lomax, a Portland photographer who has known the family for six years, said that Couple was "incredibly invested in their children."

"They deeply inspired me and just felt like the most incredible people the world needs more," she said.

She said the couple was an activist The children were bookworms who were never on electronic devices, spending time with their chickens and holding their own dance parties.

Lomax said the family was private and guarded after the photo of Devonte, who hugged the policeman, became viral in 2014. The photo was taken at a Portland demonstration after a grand decision The jury, the police officer Darren Wilson at the shooting of 18 -year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo, not to prosecute. The policeman from Portland, Sgt. Bret Barnum, noticed Devonte's cry. When he saw Devontes "Free Hugs" sign, he asked for a hug.

Portland Police Sgt. Bret Barnum and Devonte Hart, age 12, embrace at a 2014 rally in Portland, Oregon, where people gathered to support the protests in Ferguson, Mo. (Johnny Huu Nguyen / AP) [19659035] But the photo also gave the harts a few problems. Lomax said the Harts received death threats and hate mail saying that the photo was fake and Devonte an actor. The Mendocino authorities learned from the Portland Police Bureau that the family might have moved to Woodland from their former home in West Linn, Oregon, because of their intense coverage of Devonte.

Lomax said the Harts often went for adventures in their SUVs for weekends, saying she was not surprised they were making a long drive at the start of the spring break.

On Thursday, rescue workers in Mendocino, where the crash took place, combed the coast, still searching for Devonte and his two missing siblings. Divers over the past four days have been unable to enter the ocean due to their dangerous conditions, said Greg Van Patten, spokesman for the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

"We could not confirm that [the missing children] was in the vehicle, so it's still not final," said Van Patten on Thursday. "But it sounds like a close-knit family." There would be no reason to argue that they are not all together. "

However," not finding the three of them in the scene leaves the possibility that they will be elsewhere are, "he said.

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Julie Tate has contributed to this report. O & # 39; Hagan reported Woodland, Wash. Sullivan and Eltagouri reported from Washington.

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