JUST IN: Washington State Dept. of Social Services says it opened Child Protective Services investigation into Hart family on March 23. Children, 3 of which are confirmed dead in a California crash, were identified as potential victims of abuse or neglect. https://t.co/6eDBvVbHFB pic.twitter.com/ve41p3X76V— KATU News (@KATUNews) March 29, 2018
The dubious circumstances revolving around the fatal crash that killed Devonte’s parents and three of his siblings has turned the incident into a criminal investigation.
"I'm to the point where I no longer am calling this an accident; I'm calling it a crime," said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman.
The sheriff said the bodies of Jennifer Hart and her spouse Sarah Hart were found wearing seat belts when their SUV drove off a cliff in California but the three children, found dead, were unbuckled. Devonte and two of his sisters are still missing as search for them goes on, unfortunately, chances of their survival are slim.
The search for the missing siblings still goes on as a tip led the police to send divers to search the water near the coastline but nothing has been found yet.
Allman said the police were looking into a mobile phone found near the accident scene.
The police also released timeline footage of the Hart family leading up to the day of the accident. The family was located around Newport, Oregon before they reached Leggett, California where they met their unfortunate fate.
The police said there were several unanswered questions surrounding the crash that led them to believe it may have been intentional.
There were no skid marks leading up to the final place of contact when the SUV plunged over the cliff.
"At this point in our investigation, that is the direction we are going," said Greg Baarts of the California Highway Patrol's Northern Division. He also mentioned the data from the vehicle's software air bag module hinted the car stopped at the edge of the cliff before driving off to destruction.
Another point of investigation is the parent’s disturbing past. One of the parents, Sarah, was sentenced to community service and one year of probation after she pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault involving one of her children in Oregon, in 2010.
The child reportedly complained of stomach and back pain to her elementary teacher, when bruises were found on his body. The Harts later moved to Washington, where neighbor, Bruce DeKalb said the family was “very private.”
Another neighbor said the children were homeschooled and kept inside all the time. DeKalb also claimed Devonte and one of his sister told him they were being mistreated by their parents.
"One of the girls came to the door at 1:30 in the morning and said that she needed help and the parents were not treating her properly, and (she) wanted us to protect her. We ended up getting her back to her parents ... and then I went over there the next morning and just checked on things, and everything seemed normal, and we let it go from there,” said DeKalb.
In 2014, Devonte was the subject of national attention when he hugged a white police officer amid Black Lives Matter protests in the aftermath of fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer and court’s decision to not indict him.
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: Mendocino County Sheriff Department