A California coroner’s jury decided late Thursday that a lesbian couple killed themselves and their six adopted children by driving off a cliff in March 2018.
After a Wednesday coroner’s inquest, the jury found Jennifer and Sarah Hart killed themselves and murdered their family March 26, 2018, when they drove off a cliff in Mendocino County, The Associated Press reported.
Their six adopted children, ages 12 to 19, all died in the crash.
Authorities opened an investigation into the couple’s alleged mistreatment of their children just days before the fatal crash, sending social workers to the house March 23, according to the AP. The Harts left their home in Woodland, Washington, and drove to northern California, where they died.
Records recovered from Sarah Hart’s phone show deleted searches about suicide, Benadryl dosage methods, and whether drowning is painful, according to California Highway Patrol investigator Jake Slates.
After recovering the family’s bodies, authorities determined Sarah Hart had toxic levels of Benadryl in her body, according to Mendocino County Sheriff Deputy Robert Julian. Jennifer Hart also had a blood alcohol level over the legal driving limit, Slates said.
The children had large amounts of sleep-inducing drugs in their bodies, Slates also said.
“They both decided that this was going to be the end,” Slates said. “That if they can’t have their kids that nobody was going to have those kids.”
— Kellee Azar (@KelleeAzar) April 3, 2019
This morning, we expect to learn concluding details in the nearly yearlong investigetion into the #HartFamily SUV crash off a cliff in Northern California. @MendoSheriff says a coroner’s report being presented today will offer answers on the circumstances of the crash & deaths. pic.twitter.com/y34Onlq7V0
— Tyler Dumont (@TylerDumontNews) April 3, 2019
— Mendocino Sheriff (@MendoSheriff) April 5, 2019
The body of 15-year-old adopted Devonte Hart has not been recovered.
“It is my belief that both Jennifer and Sarah succumbed to a lot of pressure,” sheriff’s Lt. Shannon Barney said, the AP reported. “Just a lot of stuff going on in their lives, to the point where they made this conscious decision to end their lives this way and take their children’s lives.”
The suicide-murder comes after a neighbor filed a complaint alleging the Harts deprived their adopted children from eating as a form of punishment.
Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to spanking one of the children in a 2011 domestic assault charge case. Child welfare authorities also investigated the couple in 2013, but did not pursue a case against them, according to the AP.
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