Wash. Family May Have Intentionally Driven Off Calif. Cliff

SUV that plunged off cliff killing family may have been intentional act

A sports utility vehicle carrying a large, multiracial family from Washington state drove straight off a scenic cliff on the California coast last week, killing at least six people in what appears to have been an intentional crash, police said. Their other kids, Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15, and Sierra, 12, are still missing and feared dead.

"This specific location is very hard to search because the ocean currents and tides are strong, it's unpredictable, and the murkiness of the water makes it hard to see", police captain Greg Van Patten said.

Authorities in California now say the crash that killed a married couple and at least three of their children may have been intentional. Acting Assistant CHP Chief Greg Baarts said investigators couldn't determine which woman was driving.

But days before the wreck was discovered, neighbours called Washington state child-welfare authorities to say one of the youngsters had been coming to their house nearly daily asking for something to eat and complaining that his parents were withholding food as punishment.

Court records show that in April of 2011, while living in Minnesota, Sarah Hart plead guilty to abusing Abigail Hart and was sentenced to a year of probation for misdemeanor domestic assault.

Taken from the accident were the bodies of parents Jennifer and Sarah Hart, 38, and their three children Markis, 19, Jeremiah, 14, and Abigail, 14.

The court documents revealed a teacher noticed bruises on the child's back and stomach after the child said her mom had hit her.

Devonte drew national attention after the black youngster was photographed in tears, hugging a white police officer during a 2014 protest in Portland, Oregon, over the deadly police shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Missouri.

Meanwhile, those who knew the Harts described them as inspiring and devoted parents who had been unfairly subjected to criticisms and assumptions about their motives for adopting the children. Devonte had been holding a sign offering "Free Hugs".

Two weeks ago, Bruce and Dana DeKalb, next-door neighbors of the Harts in Woodland, Wash., called state Child Protective Services because Devonte had been coming over to their house nearly every day for a week, asking for food.

The Harts' neighbor, Bruce DeKalb, said the family moved in about 10 months ago and was "very private". The boy asked her to leave food in a box by the fence for him, she said.

Deputies from the Clark County Sheriff's Office in Washington executed a search warrant Thursday night at the family's home in Woodland, looking for any evidence in the missing persons case, Sgt. Brent Waddell told media late last week.

The Dekalbs called Child Protective Services, who visited the family 3 times in the days before the crash - but never made contact with the Harts.

"There have been red flags", Baart told USA Today on Monday.

Van Patten said he was not aware of any other evidence of abuse.

Family friend Max Ribner took issue with the notion it was something other than a awful accident. "They transformed these kids' lives".

Allman said there was "every indication" all six of the couple's children were in the auto.

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